Travolta talks up Ocala and Oliver
Published: Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 5:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 5:38 p.m.
John Travolta calls it a battle plan.
He arrived back in Marion County Thursday night after more than a week of coast-to-coast appearances and premieres for Oliver Stone's new thriller "Savages."
Travolta plays a corrupt DEA agent, and the publicity battle plan for the film is "100 percent" more exhausting than the filming itself.
"I did four days total of press in L.A. They collapsed everything into New York in one day, but that takes three days to get there, a day of press and a day of departure," he said Friday. "I'm going to Mexico City. Then in September, I go for two full weeks all over Europe to promote 'Savages,' and then . . ." he said, rattling off more stops with rapid precision before the "Savages" battle plan started to blur: "Then, oh gosh, I'll get you the name of the other one. It came in so fast it didn't register."
But the actor contends movie premieres in Ocala, like the one Saturday night, feel more like home than a battle plan.
"First of all, you feel the affection for my family and myself, and I love that," he said. "I get excited reactions all over the world, but the excitement in Ocala is more like family and friends. It's so warm and so specific to my living here. I just enjoy doing this, and I love bringing something that is so rare here."
Make no mistake, securing "Savages" to show locals who paid $150 per ticket Saturday was indeed rare. The movie opens nationally on Friday. Thus Ocala joined only Los Angeles and New York in showing previews so early.
"It's a very big deal to get a studio to allow a film a week before to be shown ANYWHERE," Travolta said. "I could not believe, honestly, that Universal was so kind to let me show 'Savages' a week before (in Ocala). It blew me away.
"I mean New York was happy to get it early. At first New York wasn't going to get it ... They let it happen in New York, and I'm glad they did because there was a tremendous response."
Travolta said, in fact, audiences in NYC and L.A. "freaked out" - in a good way - over screenings.
"I think it surprised everybody in what a wide scope it covers. Yes, it's romantic. Yes, it's violent. Yes, it's current. Yes, it's sexy. It's scary. It's so many things. Unless you've read the book 'Savages,' you would not know the depths it goes."
Saturday night's "Savages" event was the sixth movie premiere party that Travolta and wife Kelly Preston have anchored in Ocala.
"My idea here is to give Ocala a taste of what it's like to be at a premiere in Hollywood," Travolta said. "But I find the premieres in Ocala have a spirit of enjoyment that goes beyond your average New York or California situation. There's just this beautiful excitement that builds up about having a bit of Hollywood, with the same criteria that L.A. and New York have."
The fervor comes not just from the formal charity proceedings among paid guests, but also from the hundreds who gather along the red carpet to meet Travolta and Preston as they head into the theater. The two take their time to sign autographs and chat with fans. Then, before the movies starts, they address the crowd and present checks to charities.
Proceeds from Saturday's event helped the Boys & Girls Clubs of Marion County, the College of Central Florida Foundation's Jett Travolta Scholarship, the Munroe Regional Medical Center Foundation and Ocala Police Department's drug-prevention programs. But funds raised through the gala's high-end auction will be donated to Ocala-based Never Say Never, which helps disabled people - particularly amputees - compete in sports, attend camps and obtain prosthetics.
A friend Travolta plays racquetball with told him about Never Say Never, urging him to watch a video on the organization.
"It blew me away," Travolta said. "It touched me. It made me believe anything was possible."
He has been helping Never Say Never with travel and other expenses ever since.
"This is the real deal, and I think people should know about this because they are under-financed," he said. "They are really exemplifying what this kind of charity should be. What's the product of a charity? Here you see the product of this charity, and it's marvelous."
As for the actor's work on screen, "Savages" gave Travolta a chance to work with Stone, the acclaimed and sometimes controversial director behind "Natural Born Killers," "Wall Street" and "Born on the Fourth of July."
"With Oliver, it's always an intense experience. But at the end of the day, you know if he hired you, he loves you. He likes your work," Travolta said. "Two, he pushes you to get you to third base, but, then, in order to get a home run, you have to come up with why he hired you. His good writing and his tips and his research and all the support he gives you as an actor, he'll get you to third base, but it's your job to get it home. And I love that. It makes you responsible for your outcome. It inspires your best work by far."
Is it hard to please Stone?
"Let's put it this way, when you get it right, nobody celebrates it more than he does. He's like a little kid in a candy store," Travolta said laughing. "And he runs around. He runs that enthusiasm for the next half hour. I appreciate that because if it were only intensity and payoff, you wouldn't be motivated as much, but when you really feel like Dad's happy, it's great."
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