Two weeks ago, I couldn’t believe that I was walking into a fancy hotel on my way to interview John Travolta for his new film THE FANATIC, written and directed by Fred Durst. I have been a fan of Travolta’s since I was a kid. Unbeknownst to him, we have had many a duet… me as Sandy and he as Danny. So given our :ahem: long history together, I was really hoping we would have a nice conversation.
I am happy to report that Travolta is as kind, authentic, and engaging as you could hope for… plus some. From the moment he met me at the door for our interview, to when we took a picture, I knew this was going to be a good chat, especially because he is so enthusiastic about THE FANATIC. Below you will read me trying to play it Danny Zuko cool as I try not to nerd out about his filmography.
They always say don’t meet your heroes, and while Travolta proved the exact opposite of this saying in my interview, his character Moose didn’t get so lucky in THE FANATIC. Moose is a super fan (something I may know a thing or two about), who is dying to meet his favorite actor, action-hero Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa). When the opportunity finally presents itself, Moose is disappointed after Hunter rudely refuses to sign an autograph for him. But while this encounter may leave most fans dejected, Moose instead becomes even more determined to get Hunter’s autograph and have the fan experience he was hoping for; privacy laws be damned. And thus begins an at times uncomfortable thrill ride that tackles difficult subjects of bullying, privacy, and celebrity.
Off the bat, I was excited to talk to Travolta about Moose. I have never seen him take on a role like this before and I thought the character he built was complicated, memorable, and incredibly sympathetic. I was really interested in hearing how he built his character, especially his unique mannerisms, like not looking at the other characters in the eye and a shuffling walk.
“Walking on my toes was integral to the performance,” Travolta said, “and [Moose] would rock back and fort a bit and sometimes walk in circles, grabbing his ear and smelling it. Those are little ticks that once he gets excited, he gets overloaded. There were serious things that [Moose] wasn’t really registering; he wasn’t clocking that there were serious things he was doing.”
Where as “stalker” films usually go the easy way out and make the character a villain at the end, THE FANATIC actually makes audiences feel compassion for the “stalker” character. Travolta’s performance as Moose, creates a conflicting dichotomy between understanding his actions are completely inappropriate and over the line, but also rooting for him to be okay in the end.
Travolta elaborated, “You have two people going over the line. The movie star is not clocking that this guy is special. He is only seeing that he is an intruder and that he is nuking the privacy line. But [Hunter] could have signed [an autograph] and sent [Moose] on his way or called the police. But instead [Hunter] machoed out and bullied [Moose]. And unfortunately my character has been bullied and he’s used to it. However, he’s not used to the idea that the person he loves most in the world would dare do that. In his fantasy, Moose thinks the movie star will love him as much as he loves him. As far as empathy is concerned, Moose’s love is so pure all the time; it’s not a twisted love. It’s a very exaggerated, pure love.”
Without giving too much away, I can say that a defining element about Moose is his love of horror movies. And with Travolta starring in one of the most iconic horror movies of all time, CARRIE, I had to find out if he is also a fan of the genre. “I like horror pictures, but I’m a purist when it comes to horror. I like THE EXORCIST and CARRIE. I like films that have an intellectual aspect of them. I like them to really lore you in. CARRIE really lored you in and now you’re in the room and ready to be scared.” We tied this back to how THE FANATIC also lores the audience in, making you cringe at some of Moose’s outlandish activities while also feeling sympathy for the character too.
As our conversation came to a close, Travolta and I discussed the most heartbreaking scene in the movie. “The price [Moose] pays to get what he wants is extraordinary. To me, the most tragic scene in the movie is on Hollywood Boulevard. He has been the British police officer who never received attention, and now it takes some really awful circumstances for him to get authentic attention.” I told him that when the credits started to scroll, I found myself wondering what Moose is up to now and hope that he is doing okay.
Listen, I understand the message in the movie and am not trying to support celebrity stalkers… but if Moose is still hanging out somewhere on Hollywood Boulevard and didn’t learn his lesson (and I’m pretty sure he didn’t) here’s to hoping he found a nice actor more willing to sign an autograph. Perhaps an actor who has starred in FACE-OFF, PULP FICTION, and GREASE? Just sayin’.