John Travolta's 70th birthday: No role is more tragic than his life

He can dance and sing, act and fly - but has risen from the ashes like Phoenix several times without a plane.

John Travolta's 70th birthday: No role is more tragic than his life

He can dance and sing, act and fly - but has risen from the ashes like Phoenix several times without a plane. Multi-talented John Travolta, who turns 70 on February 18, is not a run-of-the-mill Hollywood star. More remarkable than his professional comebacks, however, is his ability to emerge stronger from any personal tragedy, no matter how great. He had to cope with the first blows of fate when his career was still in its infancy - and recently it hit him twice in 2022.

John Joseph Travolta was born in 1954 in Englewood, New Jersey, the youngest of six children. His father came from Italy and worked as a tire dealer, while his Irish mother passed on her son's passion for acting. She played theater herself, taught her son and gave him his first roles on small stages. At the age of 16, with his parents' blessing, Travolta dropped out of high school and ventured into the exciting world on the other side of the Hudson River - to New York.

After minor appearances in various series and television films, Travolta landed the leading role in the drama "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble" in 1976 - and fell madly in love with actress Diana Hyland, who was 18 years his senior and played his mother in the television film. Only a short time later she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Hyland and Travolta remained a couple until her death on March 27, 1977 at the age of 41. In September of that year, Diana Hyland posthumously won an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. Travolta accepted the award on her behalf. "Wherever you are, Diana, I love you," he said on stage.

The next death from cancer shook John Travolta's life just a year later. His beloved mother, Helen Travolta, née Helen Cecilia-Burke (1912-1978), lost her battle with cancer in December 1978. She was 66 years old.

But the most tragic phase in the star's life up to that point also turned out to be his most successful. The reason: the entire world was suddenly dancing disco with him. In "Saturday Night Fever" (1977), Travolta as New Yorker Tony Manero gyrated his hips to songs by the Bee Gees - it earned him his first Oscar nomination. His dancing skills helped him to another hit: in the musical film "Grease" (1978) he played the casual teenager Danny Zuko, who hangs out with his gang "T-Birds" and has an eye on the Australian beauty Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton- John) threw.

But just as platform shoes and floral patterns were unable to survive in the sometimes dark pop culture of the 80s, Travolta's career also stalled. Instead of demanding roles, there were flops, and instead of prestigious awards, the Anti-Oscars aka the Golden Raspberry took notice. His greatest successes during this time were the two parts of the comedy "Look Who's Talking!", the acquisition of his pilot's license and the realization that he had found the love of his life in the person of actress Kelly Preston on the set of the film "The Experts". have.

Travolta would probably have sacrificed his professional happiness for his personal happiness without hesitation. At first it looked that way: in 1991 he married Preston, and a year later their son Jett was born. Meanwhile, the former "Grease" star was no longer on screen - until a director came around the corner who turned out to be a specialist in reactivating supposedly obsolete Hollywood greats.

Quentin Tarantino (60) put his trust in Travolta and offered him a role in “Pulp Fiction”. In the film he transformed himself into the cool gangster Vincent Vega with a heart for good milkshakes and a still impressive hip swing. This was followed by his second Oscar nomination and a creative phase in which he appeared in at least two major productions per year. These include the wonderfully overdriven "In the Body of the Enemy" in a clinch with Nicolas Cage (60) or the gangster comedy "Schnappt Shorty", for which Travolta won a Golden Globe.

However, everything didn't turn out to be gold: in 2000 he failed as a producer and leading actor with the film adaptation of "Battlefield Earth", a book by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and "won" three Golden Raspberries for it. Travolta himself has been part of the controversial movement for a long time.

The worst shock that can befall parents struck Travolta and Preston in 2009. Their son Jett died at the age of 16 while on a family vacation in the Bahamas. The exact circumstances of his death are not yet fully known. It is said that he probably died as a result of a seizure.

Travolta and his wife were only granted eleven more years together after this stroke of fate. She fought “courageously” against cancer for two years before succumbing to the disease on July 12, 2020. "Kelly's love and her life will always be remembered," the actor wrote on Instagram at the time and stated that he wanted to take a step back for the time being for the sake of his two other children, daughter Ella (23) and son Benjamin (13).

With a few exceptions, Travolta stuck to this vow and turned his back on the dream factory. However, even that didn't protect him from having to say goodbye again to two beloved Hollywood companions in 2022. Both his “Grease” love Olivia Newton-John and his “Look Who’s Talking!” lady Kirstie Alley succumbed to cancer in August and December respectively.

Two of his favorite things on earth have recently received public attention from Travolta: In November of last year, the star, who has been completely bald for some time, congratulated his son Benjamin on his 13th birthday with the words "I love you, my boy."

His last notable official act to date came last January: Travolta moderated a gala at which, among others, Prince Harry (39) was honored as a “Living Legend of Aviation”. Two things unite them: the love of flying and the pain of losing it too soon.