August 30th the Wonderfilm produced, “The Fanatic” opens in US theaters. The star, John Travolta, is a refreshing pleasure to work with and a true Hollywood legend. An Artist through and through, over the course of his career John’s cleverly reinvented his on screen persona several times by taking risks. Most of us first met John as his TV character, Vinnie Barbarino. From that success he jumped right into iconic 70s musicals, “Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever.” I remember sitting in the audience, never in my wildest imagination thinking I’d be given an opportunity to work with John years later.
In the 80s and early 90s John reinvented himself as a light comedy actor with “Look Who’s Talking” and its sequels. Then his career took another 180 with his very memorable character from “Pulp Fiction.”
John continues to create memorable characters like his recent portrayal of the crime boss, Gotti and the character Moose in “the Fanatic.” Gotti, a biographical film detailing the life of mobster, has a scene in which Gotti had lost his son. John’s co-star was his real life wife, Kelly Preston. John and Kelly has also lost a son so this emotional scene was not just art imitating life, it was two people expressing on camera a devastating shared life experience. I couldn’t imagine psychologically going to the place these two went both as actors and as a mother and a father feeling loss. It was truly an amazingly intense scene. It’s this fearless expression of character that allows John’s performance to shine in the film.
Roles like Gotti and Moose are not paydays for John. Rather he’s at a point where he is challenging his craft with risky characters he is interested in exploring. John carefully chooses the films he wants to do so I’m very grateful he chose to do “the Fanatic” since you rarely meet actors of his level ready to explore characters that so powerfully challenge the artist and the audience. Although the character of Moose is based on a real person, John delved inside himself, creating a unique interpretation. Moose as a leading character certainly breaks the movie storytelling norm. Travolta seamlessly breathes life into the character’s quirks to create a unique on screen presence. John brings to Moose a likeable quality with an intense personal passion that eventually leads him to cross the line.
The Fanatic at its core is an anti-Hollywood exploration of people existing on the fringes of the glitz and glitter. It’s a film that we knew from the outset would leave some of the audience frustrated while others are enthralled. In fact, the Fanatic script and character had been written with actor Bill Paxon in mind. Bill’s untimely death led to the coincidental meeting of John and Director Fred Durst. This meeting was followed later with discussions that eventually circled back to John being cast as Moose.
John’s career is vast and varied, his depiction of Moose in the Fanatic is the artist in John once again expressing a singular talent for creating memorable characters on screen we all will remember years later. On a personal level, I respect John more each time I see him interact with crew, cast and his fans. During “the Fanatic” shoot, John arrived on set like a refreshing ocean breeze. He acknowledged every single person and then went out of his way to introduce himself to anyone new on set. He was never the star, but always one of the team. As a producer, I admire his talent, but I’m impressed with how he puts his heart completely into promoting small independent movies like The Fanatic. We don’t have a huge budget and I’ve never worked with an actor who put so much effort and time into promotion as John. Whether it’s a spot on the Tonight Show or a private screening, John is an enthusiastic supporter of his films and his fans, including me, love him for it.
Thank you John.