John Travolta just opened up about what it was like being an up-and-coming actor in the 1970s. He name-dropped a few actors that he says he lost jobs to in those early days.
Travolta has found an unlikely friend in Kevin Hart. The two starred in the ill-fated Quibi series Die Hart. The Saturday Night Fever star sat down with Hart this week on his talk show Hart to Heart. The two started discussing the early days of Travolta’s film career.
After a few years of kicking around in bit roles, Travolta’s big break came in 1975 with Welcome Back, Kotter. He followed that hit series up with two film roles in 1976: The Boy in the Plastic Bubble and Carrie, all while still on the series. As Travolta explained to Hart, he could have had a third big-screen hit in the Terrence Malick film Days of Heaven.
Travolta says, “I got the role and I couldn’t do it because [producers] wouldn’t let me out of “Kotter”. It was such a significant role and Richard Gere ended up doing it which ended up a theme where he did many roles I didn’t do.” Travolta’s loss would be Gere’s gain, as the film launched his career.
Gere followed his lead role with American Gigolo and An Officer and a Gentleman, effectively establishing him as a sex symbol and megastar. Travolta stayed busy with two big hits of his own, Saturday Night Fever and Grease, so he was doing just fine for himself.
Hanks Factors In
Gere wasn’t the only one whose career got a spark from Travolta’s non-availability. The Gotti star tells Hart that 1984’s Splash was written with him in mind, and Gere was also considered for that matter. The role ultimately went to Tom Hanks. This would be Hanks’ first lead role in a film, and it was instrumental in the trajectory of his career.
For what it’s worth, Travolta doesn’t sound bitter at all about what happened. He said most of the major roles either went to himself, Gere, Hanks, or Treat Williams. Travolta jokingly says “I take responsibility for Richard and Tom Hanks… parts shouldn’t be hoarded.” When everyone involved has careers spanning over five decades, you can make jokes like this.
Alls Well That Ends Well
Travolta would go on to work with Malick on The Thin Red Line and even did some voice work with Tom Hanks for NASA’s Magnificent Desolation. Die Hart should get a second season, entitled Die Harter coming someday to The Roku Channel.