Taking of Pelham 1 2 3: Interview with John Travolta

“Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,” directed by Tony Scott and starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta, is being released June 12, 2009 by Columbia Pictures.

In the original film, Ryder, now cast with John Travolta, was played by the excellent British actor Robert Shaw.

Playing the Bad Guy

John Travolta found his character, Ryder, to be loaded with possibilities.  “Playing a bad guy is freeing because good guys restrain themselves,” explains Travolta. “With a bad guy you can create your own moral fiber for him in varying degrees, and usually out of a wide envelope of behavior. I can be wild, calm, nutty, charming, or whatever I want.”

On the Differences Between Old and New

John Travolta says that though the new film has some of the same elements as the first adaptation, the new film is “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 on steroids – very intense, very hyped up, and very contemporary.”

On his Role: Rage at New York City


Ryder aims his rage at New York City as a living, breathing, byzantine entity that destroys lives. “He’s built up resentment toward the city, feeling betrayed and mistreated,” Travolta says. “I decided he was calculated to some degree, but at the same time, he is a stimulus/response type of guy, meaning you can push his buttons. Say the wrong word, and he goes off.”


Working With James Gandolfini


Travolta was also delighted that Gandolfini took on an altogether different role from his seasoned bad-guy persona; their professional relationship dates back to Get Shorty. “I’ve known him for 14 years – this is our fifth movie together,” Travolta says. Travolta sees Gandolfini’s mayor, an independently wealthy businessman plagued by waning popularity, as a departure. “He plays someone who is more aware of self-image, and what he means to his public. I think that was a nice change for James.”


John Travolta has been honored twice with Oscar nominations, the latest for his riveting portrayal of a philosophical hit-man in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.  He also received BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations for this highly acclaimed role and was named Best Actor by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, among other distinguished awards.


Travolta garnered further praise as a Mafioso-turned-movie producer in the comedy sensation Get Shorty, winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy.  In 1998 Travolta was honored by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts with the Britannia Award; and in that same year he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Chicago Film Festival. Travolta also won the prestigious Alan J. Pakula Award from the US Broadcast Critics Association for his performance in A Civil Action, based on the best-selling book and directed by Steve Zailian.  He was nominated again for a Golden Globe for his performance in Primary Colors, directed by Mike Nichols and co-starring Emma Thompson and Billy Bob Thornton, and in 2008, he received his fourth Golden Globe nomination for his role as Edna Turnblad in the big screen, box office hit Hairspray; as a result of this performance, the Chicago Film Critics and the Santa Barbara Film Festival decided to recognize John with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his role in Hairspray.


He previously starred in some of the most monumental films of our generation, including earning his first Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for his role in the blockbuster Saturday Night Fever, which launched the disco phenomenon in the 1970's.  He went on to star in the big screen version of the long-running musical Grease and the wildly successful Urban Cowboy, which also influenced trends in popular culture.  Additional film credits include the Brian DePalma thrillers Carrie and Blowout, as well as Amy Heckerling's hit comedy Look Who's Talking and Nora Ephron’s comic hit Michael.  Travolta starred in Phenomenon and took an equally distinctive turn as an action star in John Woo's top-grossing Broken Arrow.  He also starred in the classic Face/Off opposite Nicolas Cage and The General's Daughter co-starring Madeline Stowe.  Recently, Travolta reprised the role of ultra cool Chili Palmer in the Get Shorty sequel Be Cool. In addition, he starred opposite Scarlett Johansson in the critically acclaimed independent feature film A Love Song for Bobby Long, which was screened at the Venice Film Festival, where both Travolta and the film won rave reviews.


Other recent feature film credits include the hit action-thriller Ladder 49 with Joaquin Phoenix, the movie version of the wildly successful comic book The Punisher, the drama Basic directed by John McTiernan, the psychological thriller Domestic Disturbance directed by Harold Becker, the hit action picture Swordfish with Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman and directed by Dominic Sena, the successful sci-fi movie Battlefield Earth, based upon the best-selling novel by L. Ron Hubbard, and Lonely Hearts co-starring James Gandolfini and Salma Hayek which is based on the true story of the elusive “Lonely Hearts Killers” of the late 1940s. 


Most recently, Travolta starred in the big screen musical sensation Hairspray, for which he received rave reviews and a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of Edna Turnblad.  He also recently provided the voice of the lead character in Disney’s animated hit Bolt.  He also starred in the box office hit comedy Wild Hogs and he will next be seen starring opposite Robin Williams and Kelly Preston in Disney’s Old Dogs.