Just A Minute With: John Travolta on music, movies, misses

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - After 35 years in showbusiness, John Travolta has taken his first stab at animation as the voice of an adorable puppy in Walt Disney’s “Bolt”.

Actors Miley Cyrus and John Travolta (R) pose at the premiere of their animated film "Bolt" from Walt Disney Animation Studios in Hollywood November 17, 2008. Cyrus and Travolta provide the voices for two of the characters in the film. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

The movie, which debuted in U.S. theaters one week ago, was a leap of faith for Travolta after a film career that started with musicals like “Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever” and went on to embrace surprises like “Pulp Fiction” and stingers like “Battlefield Earth.”

Travolta, 54, talked to Reuters about how his career has changed over the years, some of his regrets and how he chooses new projects.

Q: “Bolt” is your first animated feature. How did you find the process?

A: “It was mysterious. It is the reverse of normal movie protocol. You are doing it out of context. You’re really letting the director completely lead you. In a live action movie, I know the kind of take the directors want before they know. In this, the animators know what kind of take they want, and then later, after about 30 takes. I discover what they should want.”

Q: The song, with Miley Cyrus, for the “Bolt” theme tune is the first original song you’ve done in about 20 years. Why don’t we hear you singing more often?

A; “Because I’ve had such great success in film I haven’t ventured out separately in music in a very long time. I feel like I invite music into my life rather than solicit it. I like peppering my career with very successful music as opposed to going out in a very highly competitive field and missing a lot to get the occasional hit. I have the luxury of doing that because film is my primary career.”

Q; But you started out in musical theater. Don’t you miss that?

A: “I prefer doing musicals on film, like ‘Grease’ and ‘Hairspray’. I did 16 years on stage and I enjoyed the first eight years, but I don’t know how much I enjoyed the second eight because of the long runs. They became problematic after three months because I started to not want to do the same show again, eight shows-a-week. All you want is a long run, and when you get it you realize that’s the very thing that makes you not want to do theater again.”

Q: You have four more movies coming out in 2009. Is quality or quantity most important to you?

A: “You can’t control the quality of projects that are coming to you, so if you get several in a row that are quality you take them. The money has been made. I just need to do good work now. You put as many positive eggs in the basket and hope for the best and that the basket doesn’t fall. I was offered several big movies recently that I just couldn’t do anything with, so I turned them down. And I was proud of myself.”

Q: Which parts do you most regret turning down?

A; “‘Chicago’ probably (Travolta was offered the role of Billy Flynn). I wasn’t all that into the stage show. It was a lot of women who hated men and I like women who like men. (laughs) The stage show was kind of vicious but the movie had a heart. ‘Green Mile’ I probably should have said yes to and ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’. But I gave Richard Gere and Tom Hanks a career! What you turn down can be a gift to someone else. There is enough to go around.”