Battlefield Box Office

Excerpts from "Facts" magzine on "Battlefield Earth"

Zurich, Switzerland
November 30, 2000

In "Battlefield Earth" Scientologist John Travolta produced the "worst film of the century." Now the Swiss film distributors have tossed him out. Pity.

by Andre Grieder

The New York Times judged "Battlefield Earth" to be the worst movie of the century. The Denver Post reported that people did not look at this flick, they survived it. The Seattle Post wrote the film had the most ridiculous, most inane plot ever thought up by a sentient race. "Battlefield Earth" should only be shown to prisoners in solitary confinement of the high security wing, advised In Welschland [???] the science fiction epic ran for three weeks and only attracted 8,550 curiosity-seekers. German-speaking Switzerland had to forego "Battlefield Earth." The distributor, Warner Brothers, took pity on it and dumped it before it started.

Pity! Some theater-goers would have liked to have seen with their own eyes how the Scientologist John Travolta stumbled around as a green-eyed giant with dreadlocks and a goatee in a setting thought up by Ron L. Hubbard, the Founder of the Scientology Church. The film is based on Hubbard's bestseller "Battlefield Earth" which is said to have sold six million copies, which is 1,000 pages long and which Travolta has wanted to put on the silver screen since the book was published in 1982.

John Travolta has been a Scientologist since 1975. He believes Hubbard's teachings could bestow upon humankind a world without insanity, crime and war. Sect analysts say Scientology is an inhuman, totalist community. No wonder some informed spirit thought "Battlefield Earth," cleverly filmed, could have driven unstable comrades into the expensive courses of the psychosect.

The fear was unjustified. "Battlefield Earth" unfolded as a gigantic anti-advertisement. The movie cost about 140 million franks and has taken in something over 40 million. And this money, judge experts in the area, came mainly from Scientologists and their relatives. The Swiss branch of the Scientology Church didn't like the idea of stating why German-speaking Swiss would not be able to enjoy the movie in their own movie theaters. "This movie is not a religious matter and has nothing to do with our church," said Scientology spokeswoman Gabriela Arm, "the movie is solely the business of John Travolta and the distributor, Warner Brothers."

[portion snipped]

"Battlefield Earth" saved its most horrible moment for the end, jibed the Washington Post, in that now it is clear that a sequel is in the works. So it is. John Travolta brought only 300 pages of Hubbard's bestseller into the script. The rest is to follow.

John Travolta's Story
and short commentary

"I don't feel like somebody who is cool.
I feel more like a stupid kind of guy."


From: "Sonntagszeitung Zurich"
June 21, 1998

In the USA his presentation of Bill Clinton in "Primary Colors" caused a stir; in Switzerland "Grease" is back in the movie theaters starting this weekend. Since his comeback with "Pulp Fiction", not even the members of Scientology can have anything against John Travolta's image.

"Grease" is once again showing great success in the USA. This 50's style musical was made about twenty years ago. What memories do you have of it?

John Travolta: I was really happy. I appeared on Broadway with the musical "Grease," and I was on tour. Everybody dreams "God, if they would only make a movie of this, that would be beautiful to be there." In any case, I secretly dreamed of that."

And how was it?

John Travolta: Very good. I was able to use all the abilities I had. I acted, I danced, and I sang. That is what I liked so much about the role. You had to do five things at once. You had to change your voice, you had to change your attitude, you had to change your gait, you had to change the appearance of your face.

Did you have fun in making "Grease"?

John Travolta: Yes. I had a terrific summer with Olivia Newton-John. And I knew the material from Broadway as good as I know myself.

Which musical number did you like the best?

John Travolta: I liked "You're The One That I Want" the best. That had something like . . . wow! A new song! It was not part of the Broadway show. Olivia and I would have preferred something more contemporary, but in the style of the Fifties. It was a great challenge. I had to sing higher than I was used to. They twisted my arm in the studio so that I could sing high enough.

Are you lying to us now?

John Travolta: No, no. Olivia stood with the producers, near me, and they said, "Go on, John, you can do it, John~"

It took physical pain to do it?

John Travolta: Or support.

Besides "Grease", one recalls the draw of the Disco Revival in "Saturday Night Fever." The suit you wore in that has brought a high price.

John Travolta: $140,000. Amazing.

You have to make another episode of "Saturday Night Fever."

John Travolta: That is not necessary. "Grease," "Urban Cowboy" and "Saturday Night Fever" are wonderful films. They were terrific when they came out, and they are still terrific today. Today, however, new films are created, like "Pulp Fiction", which will then be shown again in twenty years.

When you think back on "Saturday Night Fever," what do you recall?

John Travolta: I liked the solo dance numbers. I liked the scene in the cafe or the scene on the bridge. I don't have the luxury now of looking from the perspective of society and saying, "Hey, I'm going to a night club and doing there what I saw in the film." I have only seen "Saturday Night Fever" from the perspective of an actor.

"Saturday Night Fever" was your first international success. How did you get a part in it?

John Travolta: It appeared in an article in a magazine. My manager showed it to me and said, "If they make a film out of that, then that would be an interesting role for you." Three months later a film was being made from it. And I have an instinct for things which I can do. And also for things which I can't do. That is why I called off another film project.

Dustin Hoffman said he does not believe that films last. Most of today's youth have never seen any of the three films by James Dean. Nevertheless, we are talking about "Saturday Night Fever" and "Grease." Are you an exception?

John Travolta: Would I be in trouble if I were to say yes? I think in this regard I have had an exceptional career. Some of my films have defined their decade or history or moment. Whether it was "Saturday Night Fever," "Grease" or "Pulp Fiction," they have all defined something for society. My career is different from that of Marlon Brando or James Dean in that, for three decades, I have always been able to be a voice of the nation or a voice of the world or of something else. I do not know why that is.

How have you changed since "Grease"?

John Travolta: I feel as though I have lived four or five lives. In these twenty years, I have seen four American presidents. I was single, I have married, and I became a father. My parents died. I feel as though more than twenty years have passed since "Grease." And I am excited that the four generations which have never seen "Grease" on the silver screen can now do that.

Who has influenced you the most in your life and your career?

John Travolta: My family. My mother and my sisters with their appearances in show business. My mother was an actress, instructor and director.

Did she give you any advice which has always helped you?

John Travolta: The confidence that she and my father had in me as an actor has helped me. That has always stayed with me. I am often asked whether I would lose my self-confidence. Never, as far as my acting abilities are concerned. At times I have lost confidence in my career, but never in my ability.

Do you recall a specific moment in which your parents supported you?

John Travolta: My parents were somewhat older when they had me. I remember the support that I received from my mother when my girl friend died. She said, "I have seen many people come and go. I can help you get over it."

After that your mother died, too.

John Travolta: About a year later.

Both died of cancer.

John Travolta: Yes.

How did you get over it?

John Travolta: With Scientology.

You've been doing that all this time?

John Travolta: Yes, I began with them twenty years ago, and two years later the two were . . . but Scientology does not only help you to get over sad things, but also helps you in the good.

Scientology has a considerably bad reputation.

John Travolta: Not really, not any more. I think in recent times the reputation of Scientology is rather good. (Pulls a page of a newspaper out of his pocket.) Look at this article. This journalist had gone to a Scientology session, and her commentary is glowing.

Have you become tougher or wiser during the course of your career?

John Travolta: Today I have more possibilities. Nobody can force you to quit. Back in the times when I was not so hot, I had really wished that I could work more. I had wanted to work in as many films as I had time for. But business is business, and they wanted an actor that got them good reviews and good acting results. If they would not have thought that they could get that, then there would simply have been fewer possibilities. That how simple it is.

Did you ever think of giving up before you made a comeback with "Pulp Fiction"?

John Travolta: No. I like to act, I like acting, and I have acted since I was a child. It would be very hard for me to give up. Even if I could not act up to today's standards, I would still make it somehow. In theater, on television, wherever.

You were a star, you disappeared, and became a star again. Has age made you more complacent about your star status?

John Travolta: One hundred percent. I think that nothing can surprise, frighten or shock me anymore. The rug has been pulled out from under me too many times. You fall down, then you stand up. You brush the dust off, then you're back again.

You came back with Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction," which made you into a cult star and gave you the image of a cool, tough guy. Does somebody need this facade to make it in Hollywood?

John Travolta: I don't think it works in the long run if somebody builds everything on a facade.

In every film about Hollywood, we see the dark side of the film business. How bad is it in Hollywood, really?

John Travolta: Let's talk in plain English. It is much more funny and amusing when you see cynics who are colliding with each other in a clever story on the silver screen. The negative part of the film industry is more entertaining than showing the good people who make films.

There are people who say that the worst stereotypes are par for the course in Hollywood.

John Travolta: I'll have to agree with that. A stereotype, that is true: famous actors send their food back in the restaurant, or change the menus. That is fact, not fiction. I do that myself all the time, I've always done that. Now I do it since I have been famous. There are no famous actors who do not do that. As a famous person you always find somebody who will do you the favor of changing the menu for you, although it is someone in the kitchen. As a film star you often get preferential treatment. But sometimes not. That happens with the people who want to prove to you that you are no better than all the rest.

Can you define what a film star is?

John Travolta: That is difficult. I think that people believe that film stars are cool, don't they? I don't feel like someone who is cool. I feel more like a stupid kind of guy.

You don't feel cool when you drive around in your Rolls Royce.

John Travolta: Sure, there are times when I feel cool.

Were you cool in high school?

John Travolta: People say I was cool, but I don't know. I liked how I dressed. I paid careful attention to my looks, so that people would think that I was probably cool. For me being respectably dressed was part of good manners.

Did your wife think you were cool when she met you for the first time?

John Travolta: Anybody who knows me would not say that "cool" is one of my strong sides. The characters that I play on the screen are cool. But if you think for a second that that is the way I am in real life, then you're mistaken.

You smoked a lot in your films, like "Pulp Fiction."

John Travolta: Right. I have always chosen a different style of smoking. I have a good time portraying different types of smokers.

What about the anti-smoking movement?

John Travolta: Now believe you me, I would not be a good example for a non-smoker on the screen. You have to play your role right. That's part of the fun.

What are your methods of acting?

John Travolta: I have two characteristics. I have the gift of lucidity. If I have a thought, then that is very easy to read on the screen. And I love to observe people. I love the various types, how they run, I love how they talk, how they eat and drink. Half of my life is spent observing people. I try to note what I have seen when and where, and whether it could be a component for the development of a role.

Do you also observe feelings?

John Travolta: I observe everything. I believe that a feeling is behind some bodily characteristics. There is a reason for someone smoking in a specific way. One doesn't just do it that way. Behind it is a feeling such as arrogance or self-consciousness.

In the filming of "Primary Colors" you played Governor Jack Stanton. The story is fashioned after Bill Clinton's first election. You even used Clinton's accent.

Travolta: Well, yes. (laughs)

Did you study Clinton's behavior before you began to film?

John Travolta: Some. Some I didn't have to study, because I had spent years observing him. I was told that "Primary Colors" was fiction and that I was playing Governor Jack Stanton. And how I would play him was my decision,

All the same, no matter what you tell the public, you could see that your role as Jack Stanton was primarily a take-off of Clinton.

John Travolta: You are under-estimating people's intelligence and their ability to differentiate between film and life. People don't take film at face value. At least not the smart ones. That is like with "Pulp Fiction." There were people who saw force one on one, while other saw force as more of an artistic arrangement. At the time there was a big debate over it. Similar to the discussion about "Primary Colors."

You have a preference for gourmet food. What did you think of Governor Jack Stanton's diet in the film.?

John Travolta: Not exactly my favorite diet. When I gain weight, it comes from gourmet cheeseburgers and from caviar.

Did you gain weight for the role? That is how it appeared.

John Travolta: Yes, I was heavier. I thought that was appropriate.

Did you eat caviar and drink champagne to put it on?

John Travolta: There are many ways of putting on weight.

And you simply take it off again afterwards?

John Travolta: In my more than 20 years I have lost weight that I have had to gain again. I had to gain weight for five roles. It was kind of fun to gain weight, but it was also fun to lose weight again. When you lose weight, you make a game out of it and have a goal in sight. In five or six weeks you're back to your normal weight. And as long as you stay busy, you can stay that way.

How much difference is there between the Travolta in "Grease" and today?

John Travolta: A lot. You see 165 pounds on the screen. Here and now you see a 211 pound man. So, what is that?


John Travolta: 46 pounds. Like a pregnancy.


Letter to the Editor

Travolta the Puppet

June 28, 1998

"I don't feel like somebody who is cool.
I feel more like a stupid kind of guy."
from the Sunday paper of June 21.

Apparently John Travolta has not yet noticed that he is being used as a puppet by the pseudo-church of Scientology. Somehow I feel sorry for him. May he should try taking another IQ test [to see if his IQ has gained as much as his weight]...

Roland Tschappeler, Zurich