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People Top 5
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PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- August 17, 1981
- Vol. 16
- No. 7
Why No Blowups on 'Blow Out'? Because Travolta, Allen and Depalma Are Just Friends
Time does fly. Reunited for the new political thriller Blow Out, the three have played out destinies even more dramatic than their stunning film. DePalma, now 40, with credits like The Fury and last year's hit Dressed to Kill, is a recognized master of the macabre. Allen, 31, has conquered her initial insecurities and squelched inaccurate rumors that she was more than Travolta's pal to emerge as Brian's powerful leading lady onscreen and off. And Travolta, 27, has become, well, Travolta.
Blow Out, which reflects DePalma's fascination with Chappaquiddick, Watergate and John Kennedy's assassination, features Travolta as a movie sound man who rescues Nancy from a sinking car and surfaces with the cover-up of a political murder. Despite mixed reviews and a middling box office, the movie has drawn a worshipful critique from the New Yorker's estimable Pauline Kael. She praises DePalma's "vision," compares Travolta to "the very young Brando," and calls Allen the movie's "soul."
Heady praise for a combo that chance threw together. "I didn't write the role for John, because I thought he was too young," says Brian, "but when we met again I saw he was no longer a boy but a grown man and quite right for it." DePalma had similarly dismissed wife Nancy as having done "too many films with me," but she had other ideas. "When John said I should play the part, logic went out the window, and I reacted emotionally. I love John, and I wanted to work with him."
All went well on the set until Nancy had to film scenes underwater trapped in a car. "Even though it was a five-foot-deep tank at Burbank Studios, I became hysterical. I'm claustrophobic," says Nancy. "I was afraid to ask questions because I didn't want the special effects crew to think I was stupid. Thank God for John. He asked questions for me and taught me buddy breathing." So adroit was John underwater (he did his own aquatic stunts) that the crew presented him with a floating director's chair inscribed "Esther Travolta." DePalma, too, was comfortable in the tank. Perhaps because of the pressures of the $18 million production (his most expensive), Brian would suit up in scuba gear and disappear for hours at the bottom. His gift chair read "Fins DePalma."
The camaraderie didn't wrap with the film. "There was always an affinity there," says Travolta, "but now we're closer than ever, and I know the friendship will last for a long time." John spent a recent summer weekend at the beach house Brian and Nancy rented for $30,000 (they looked at cheaper summer digs, but this one had cable TV) near posh Southampton, Long Island. "We're into heavy eating when we get together," reports John. Besides lobster and ice cream, movies at a local theater or screened at home and post-midnight tête-à-têtes are also on the menu.
Travolta sleeps late, but Brian is often up at 4 a.m. to write. By the time Nancy stumbles down a few hours later her husband frequently collars her to listen to a scene. "They're loyal people to their friends. They support you totally," praises Travolta. "I feel so relaxed with them—like I could say or do anything. There's no strain at all. It's almost like family. Sometimes I think of Brian and Nancy as my parents."
Since the cancer deaths of his lover, Diana Hyland, at 41 in 1977 and of his mother the following year (his father married a private nurse in 1980), Travolta frequently has sought family in friendships. He spent time with James Taylor and Carly Simon and more recently has had lengthy visits with French actor Gerard Depardieu and his wife, Elisabeth. Like the DePalmas, even new pal Brooke Shields has made him almost a member of the family. "As a kid I was a seductive brat," John engagingly admits. "I loved affection, loved to be held, hugged and kissed. I'm still pretty much that way."
He seems to have overcome the losses of recent years. "I might not have had more sadness in my life than another, but it is public. Things happen, it hurts, but you get through it and move on. A lot of people have tragedies in their lives, but look at all the joy I have to counterbalance it," Travolta continues. "I don't pout when I don't get my way, because to be perfectly honest there's not very much I don't get."
A recent acquisition is the jet pilot's license he earned at a Texas school last March. To go with it, of course, Travolta bought a $1.5-million, six-passenger Cessna Citation, a twin-engine jet, to wing from friend to friend around the world. His father and stepmother handle the fan mail at his luxurious 17-acre Santa Barbara estate, where a full-time cook, housekeeper, 24-hour security guard and part-time gardener are also "like family." His day begins at 11, followed by a jazz dance lesson at 1, a light breakfast, a 90-minute French lesson (to better parlez with Depardieu), then dinner, a violin lesson (a new passion) at 8, then a movie or nightlife.
He wears his superstardom comfortably. "I wanted it. Everything," Travolta grins. "Bad reviews don't bother me as much now because I know I'm not going to wake up and have to go back to where I left off in that New Jersey supermarket. I feel that people like me," adds Travolta. "That's why I like to go out in public a lot—to a public restaurant rather than be in seclusion. It confirms their affinity for me. It gives you the confidence that people love you. I need that. If I ever got the feeling that the public didn't like me anymore, that would really hurt."
Travolta's recognizability created some problems for Brian and Nancy when they dined out in the Hamptons. "Just going out with John can be frustrating and imposing at times," says Nancy. "Twenty people queue up for his autograph while you're trying to have a conversation. There is something very touchable, an openness about him." Adds Brian, "He's very sweet to his fans. He's always polite, which would drive me nuts. I couldn't live 10 seconds like that."
Brian and Nancy prefer a quieter life in their Greenwich Village duplex (director Paul Mazursky lives in the same building). It was the more extroverted Travolta who first noticed Brian's interest in Nancy when they were filming Carrie.
"I was insecure and a little intimidated by Brian," remembers Nancy, "but John would always pump me up and say, 'You were terrific in that scene. People are really going to be surprised when they see you.' " The two lived only blocks apart at the time, which caused rumors that they were an item. Travolta and Nancy say they were just a carpool. Together they tried to win Brian's favor. "Even though we had smaller parts, I think Brian liked us best," says Travolta. Nancy adds, "We would go out of our way to entertain him."
Then one night Brian joined the young actors for dinner. Later, Travolta remembers, "I told Nancy, 'He really likes you.' " Three months after Carrie wrapped, Brian asked Nancy out. "We sat and talked for three hours, and it was the first time I'd seen Brian the person," Nancy says. "He appears to be aloof and caustic, but there are always these two big soulful eyes. I saw a sensitive, vulnerable man who needed me." After a long New York-L.A. courtship, they married in 1979.
For her 31st birthday, in June, Brian gave Nancy a pair of diamond earrings, but he kids that she's trying to give him a coronary. "I'll hear him coming up the stairs, and I'll jump out at him from behind the door," she laughs. "I guess my brothers tortured me, so now I'm getting back."
They have their differences. "I'm very emotional, and Brian is very pragmatic," says Nancy. "On the set, he's quiet and his dressing room is like, well, a funeral home while I'm partying in mine because I love to be around the people I'm working with."
The three friends will see less of each other this fall as they try to find their next projects. Brian plans to direct a film based on the murders of United Mine Workers union leader Joseph Yablonski and his family. Nancy hopes to star in a romantic Capraesque comedy, and Travolta also is looking for something comic. "Brian wanted to do Scarface with me and Al Pacino, but things got complicated," Travolta says. Chances are the fellowship they found on Blow Out won't be repeated. "As close as John and Brian and I were, we were just as close to the crew," says Nancy. "If it ever happens again it will be a miracle." Concedes Brian, "I do have a paternal feeling about John. In California everyone is trying to figure out what to put him in next. Our approach is not like that at all," Brian continues. "It goes back to the fact that we all knew each other a long time ago."
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