EW.com caught up with John Travolta backstage at ShoWest in Las Vegas, where the star had just finished pitching his big summer musical, Hairspray (you know, the one in which he dresses up like doughy dame Edna Turnblad), to the nation’s theater owners. Smiling from his warm Vegas reception and his recent box office hit, Wild Hogs, Travolta shared some thoughts on Hairspray, a Wild Hogs sequel — and what the heck’s going on with that Dallas movie.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So why did you decide to do Hairspray? You’ve never really done anything like it before.
JOHN TRAVOLTA: I always said the best parts in musicals are women’s parts. And here I am, thinking, well, if that’s true, why don’t you just see if you can make this gimmick work but differently from how it’s been done before? But it was really [director] Adam Shankman’s vision. And [producers] Neil Meron and Craig Zadan, they had offered me Chicago and I turned them down because I had never investigated their vision. But I really did take my time on this, I took months to decide, and I wasn’t convinced until I saw all the musical numbers and I saw how I was going to look. Then I was convinced.
It’s been two years since your last big movie, Be Cool. I’m wondering if between Hairspray and Wild Hogs you’re trying to do a different thing, maybe move in a more family-friendly direction with your work?
Oh, no no. Not particularly. Well, yes and no, yes and no. Be Cool was a comedy, and that was my biggest opening — all of my biggest openings have been in the last five years. [Chuckles] It’s been awesome. But comedy I’ve always been attracted to, I’ve always been successful at it. It’s just that in all fairness it just came up this way, by nature. Wild Hogs, Hairspray, and Dallas all came up together — they were all offered within one week.
So it wasn’t some sort of concerted effort on your part to move in that direction?
No. And the dramas nowadays that I’m more attracted to are the independent dramas. You know, there’s a big studio drama like Domestic Disturbance. But A Love Song for Bobby Long and Lonely Hearts, these are dark, interesting character pieces. There’s another one that I really like that Sydney Pollack wants to do — but, again, it’s an independent movie, I’m more attracted to that. Balancing it with these commercial films is fun, but that middle-of-the-road drama is not as interesting as the extreme.
Were you surprised by Wild Hogs’ big opening?
Oh my, I went to bed thinking, ”Okay, a $25 million opening is fine, you’re going to do $25 million and that’s a million and a half more than you’ve ever done. You worked very hard for 35 days, go to bed and feel good about it.” I wake up to $39.7 million, and I said, ”My God! I’m getting older and my weekends are going up — it doesn’t make sense!” And then the second weekend we did $27.6 million and that was more than what I’d expected from the first weekend. So it took over just like wildfire.
Is there going to be a sequel?
They’ve already proposed a sequel.
So you’re mulling it now?
Well, I’d want to see the script. I think they want it to be set in Europe, and I think that’s a funny idea. Us in Europe would be funny, there’d be so many things that could happen.
And what’s going on with the Dallas movie, where you’ll play J.R. Ewing?
Well, Dallas is still very much [in the works]. I think it’ll happen. But they’ve gotta get a more comic angle on it.
Dallas was supposed to be your next project, right?
Do you think it will still happen?
It won’t happen till next year. But it will happen. I’m under contract, actually. [Smiles] I’m signed, sealed, and delivered.
So, whenever it happens…
Whenever it happens…