Those who flood the halls of Toronto’s FanExpo Canada might not be the same that sang along to hit tunes of Grease, but John Travolta brought us all together as he popped by the convention to promote his new movie, The Fanatic.
You can check out my thoughts on his portrayal of a superfan in Fred Durst’s film here, but to put it briefly, Travolta stars as Moose, an obsessed fan whose obsession turns sinister when he is rejected by the object of his desire, Hunter. Travolta plays the most toxic version of fandom, one of obsession and entitlement and ultimately, violence. But that didn’t stop Travolta from boasting that “for the first time in film history, I’ve captured the actual heart of a fan.” He then recalled the beauty of fandom, something he identifies with, and how he hoped to have portrayed that in the film.
On discussing the creator, Fred Durst, Travolta chatted about how he had come across Durst and what Durst had done to break the ice to get into film making. “Fred is a great film maker, he is a visionary,” Travolta gushed.
Travolta then went on to recall some of his most memorable fans, including a woman who changed her name to Sharon Travolta, something he found very sweet, and the couple of people who had broken into his house to meet him, which he found “touching, in a way.” Sounds like Travolta’s version of the beauty of fandom might not be what we had assumed.
John Travolta has had an impressive career, from Grease and Saturday Night Fever through Faceoff and American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson, a project he produced and was extremely proud of. Fans in attendance at the panel were treated to some of his better anecdotes, including his campaign for Olivia Newton-John as Sandy in Grease and his insistence on the keeping of the master shot of his choreography in Saturday Night Fever.
Travolta was asked what he found easier, playing heroes and villains, and his answer gave tidbits and a glimpse into the great work he has given us. He said, “any role is easy to play when it is well written. If a villain is well written, there is more freedom.” With villains, he feels there is freedom to do a lot with the character, improvise offbeat comedy, and change lines and delivery in a way that is fantastical and out of the reach of a hero. He recalled working on Faceoff and how he thought it would be funny for his villain character to be gazing at ‘his own face’ and comment on it being good looking. With Nic Cage’s permission, he improvised “oooweeee you good lookin,” and licked Nic’s face. “Wouldn’t it be hysterical if he just missed his own face?” He also recalled his work in Pulp Fiction, and how, while not a traditional villain, his character was bad. So he improvised “I shot Marvin in the face,” delivering it as if “I had just stepped on his toe.” Recalling the decision, he said it was “so wildly out of the realm of logic, that it has humour to it. Those are the kinds of things that bad guys allow you to do if they’re well-conceived.”
Travolta was a warm panel of fandom and friendship that almost convinced me that all fandom is beautiful and mutually beneficial. But then, I’ve seen The Fanatic.