In your new flick, Be Cool, was it your idea to feel up Uma Thurman on the dance floor?
Well yes, it wasn’t in the script. That’s the first time, whether it’s been Grease or Saturday Night Fever or whatever where I’ve suggested a dance scene. I love the part where she asks, “Can you dance?” And I say, “I’m from Brooklyn,” which is the opposite reaction I had in Pulp Fiction, which is, “No, no, no, no. Please don’t make me dance.”
Do you ever get sick of dancing?
Never. I’ll always dance, I love it. It’s a simple expression of life. You should never be embarrassed to express yourself and have a good time.
Hmm, perhaps reserve judgement on that until you see FHM’s lager-fueled efforts. Moving on, do you worship every day at the altar of Tarantino for him resurrecting your career?
No. I don’t know if I owe him. Quentin hired me because of what he saw in my earlier movies – like the coolness of Saturday Night Fever or Grease. Those films were his inspiration to put me in Pulp Fiction.
You must have thought it was all over though, before Pulp Fiction landed on your doorstep?
Not literally, but there was a moment when I was in the middle of Look Who’s Talking 3, and there were no new offers. I just felt that I was kind of done for the quality projects, like the high end things. I thought I could always do television or something but that I was done at the level I entered in and was used to. And then the funny thing was, shortly after having those thoughts, Pulp Fiction arrived on my doorstep and as soon as I read it I said, “This is it.”
Did you ever wear that Saturday Night Fever suit out on the town?
No, I never did.
That’s a shame. You’re a hotshot pilot as well as an actor – so is it the coolest thing in the world to have a landing strip in your backyard?
Yeah, it is. It’s beyond cool. It’s just space-aged. The generation I grew up with, The Jetsons – everything the 21st century promised – the landing strip is that, and I felt someone had to do it. Why not me? It’s the coolest thing to get out of your plane and be right at your doorstep.
You must get quite a view up in the sky, so what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen from the cockpit?
Hmm. Well, the Northern Lights were pretty amazing, but I don’t know if anything’s been strange really.
Ever seen a UFO ?
No, I haven’t. I remember something my friend pointed out. He said it was a UFO, but I just thought it was a reflection of a planet. I haven’t had the good fortune of seeing one. I think they are out there. Why not? It would be naïve and limited to think we’re the only ones in the universe.
Tell us about the time when you lost the electrics from your plane in a storm and you crash-landed…
Well we didn’t crash-land. We landed. Crash-landing is a little bit different! It was really bad weather. It was a pretty interesting evening to say the least and something I wouldn’t like to happen again.
For those nervous flyers amongst us – is losing the electrics usually a “crashing and dying” thing?
It’s up there as one of the worst things that can happen to your plane. It was scary, but fortunately my G2 Gulfstream has Rolls-Royce engines which are fabulous. They kept us going, because if there had been anything less strong or tough or unproven, I might not be here talking to you. I always knew we were going to make it. We had plenty of fuel. It was just that weather could ruin the day. We got a patch of good enough weather to get down. We were lucky.
Is that the closest you’ve ever come to death?
In a plane, yeah. I didn’t know if we were going to make it. But outside of that there was this one time when, right after Grease, this stuntman took me to the top of a mountain to a place called Suicide Ridge. I’d never skied before and he wanted me to get down it. I said, “You’re kidding, right?” and he shot off and left me to it. I rolled down the hill and got frostbite. It was just the most horrendous experience anyone ever put me through. I remember crying. There was no option. I think he was trying to prove his machismo so he could get a job with me, and I said, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Do you think I would hire you on a movie to protect me after you put me through that?”
What a knob. So back to the planes for a second, what’s the upkeep on a 747 – how much is a tyre?
I don’t know, but it’s not as much as you would think. As far as a tyre goes, it’s probably the equivalent of one for a big truck – everything isn’t as crazy as you might think.
If you had your own airline, Travolta Airlines, what would be the in-flight entertainment?
Only John Travolta movies, naturally. I’m pretty fancy with food and drinks too, so my passengers would never be disappointed even if they hated my movies. I would go high end on food and beverage.
Have you ever worn your pilot officer’s uniform in the bedroom?
Yeah, I’m sure it’s been worn there. Kelly [Preston, his wife] and I have done better than that. In my Lear jet days, we even joined the club. I just shut off the cockpit, let someone else fly, and we had our day. No more details necessary.
Respect! Does being in uniform help with the chicks?
Well, certainly most women love uniforms. Men in uniform are always confident, and women dig confident men. That’s the key.
By the way, how did you convince Kelly to name your firstborn “Jett”?
It took a little bit of convincing, but it was her grandmother who came to the rescue. She said let the men choose the male names and the women choose the female names. So she had no say with Jett, but you know, I was respectful enough to at least consult. It’s a great name. I think I did a good job.
Is it true that you go everywhere with a loaded .38?
Well, I’ve never, ever heard that story. I’ve never had a loaded .38 in my life! But I like it, it’s kind of cool – it makes me sound tough…
So then what’s the craziest rumour you’ve ever heard about yourself?
That I bought a blimp for Christmas. What the hell am I going to do with that? An $11 million balloon? At least make up a story that’s not stupid, do you know what I mean?
Given that you’re a petrol head, what’s the one thing you’re still dying to race?
I’d have loved to have flown Concorde, and I would love to fly any supersonic jet. That’s probably my next thing. I almost bought two different supersonic jets recently.
Us too. Christina Milian told us you turned her on to older men – how does that feel?
Between Scarlett Johansson and Christina I’m in a good place! I love it, but I think what they’re responding to is their memory of me in Grease. I’m flattered that they get excited over me. Whatever it is that they like, I’m all for it. Young, gorgeous girls like these two are so much fun to be around because they’re lighthearted, very healthy and uncomplicated, meaning they don’t have a lot of baggage, so there’s a purity to them.
We’re sure there is. Okay then, who’s the most famous person you’ve peed next to?
You know, I don’t think I’ve had the honour, ha ha!
We’ll take your word for it. Have you ever been mistaken for anyone else?
No, but I have a hilarious story about my sister. So this is 25 years ago, and my sister had a body like Sophia Loren in her prime and we’re in Las Vegas. This guy from New York comes up to her, and she’s wearing a T-shirt that says “Travolta”, because we’re there for a charity ball game. He sees the name “Travolta” across her breasts, looks up and says, “You’re John Travolta.” And she says, “Yes I am. I’ve been having a lot of difficulty lately.” Ha ha, my sister! I guess he thought I had a lot of work done.
Original interview by Matthew Graham in the May 2005 issue of FHM UK magazine