Travolta, the youngest of six children, was born and raised in Englewood, New Jersey, an inner-ring suburb of New York City. His father, Salvatore Travolta, was a semi-professional football player turned tire salesman and partner in a tire company. His mother, Helen Cecilia (née Burke), who was 42 when Travolta was born, was an actress and singer who had appeared in The Sunshine Sisters, a radio vocal group, and acted and directed before becoming a high school drama and English teacher. His father was a second-generation Italian American and his mother was Irish American;. His other siblings are Joey, Ellen, Ann, Margaret, and Sam Travolta. He grew up in an Irish-American neighborhood and has said that his household was predominantly Irish in culture. His family was Roman Catholic.

Early career

After attending Dwight Morrow High School, Travolta moved across the Hudson River to New York City and landed a role in the touring company of the musical Grease and on Broadway in Over Here! singing the Sherman Brothers’ song “Dream Drummin'”. He then moved to Los Angeles to further his career in show business.

Travolta’s first California-filmed television role was as a fall victim in, Emergency! (S2E2), in September 1972,but his first significant movie role was as Billy Nolan, a bully who was goaded into playing a prank on Sissy Spacek’s character in the horror film, Carrie (1976). Around the same time, he landed his star-making role as Vinnie Barbarino in the TV sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter (1975–1979), in which his sister, Ellen, also occasionally appeared (as Arnold Horshack’s mother).’70s stardom

Travolta in one of his earliest roles, in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976)

Around this time, Travolta had a hit single entitled “Let Her In” peaking at number ten on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In the next few years, he appeared in some of his most memorable screen roles: Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever (1977) and as Danny Zuko in Grease (1978). These two films were among the most commercially successful pictures of the decade and catapulted Travolta to international stardom. Saturday Night Fever earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. At age 24, Travolta became one of the youngest performers ever nominated for the Best Actor Oscar. His mother and his sister Ann appeared as extras in Saturday Night Fever and his sister Ellen appeared as a waitress in Grease. Travolta performed several of the songs on the Grease soundtrack album, In 1980, Travolta inspired a nationwide country music craze that followed on the heels of his hit film, Urban Cowboy, in which he starred with Debra Winger.

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Travolta in 1983

After Urban Cowboy came a string of flops that sidelined his acting career. Staying Alive, the sequel to Saturday Night Fever, Perfect, co-starring Jamie Lee Curtis, and Two of a Kind, a romantic comedy reteaming him with Olivia Newton-John. During that time he was offered, but turned down, lead roles in what would become box office hits, including American Gigolo and An Officer and a Gentleman, both of which went to Richard Gere. His only hit film was Look Who’s Talking with Kirstie Alley and a baby voiced by Bruce Willis.

Resurgence

It was not until he played Vincent Vega in Quentin Tarantino’s hit Pulp Fiction (1994), for which he received an Academy Award nomination, that his career was revived.[22][23] The movie shifted him back onto the A-list, and he was inundated with offers. Notable roles following Pulp Fiction include a movie-buff loan shark in Get Shorty (1995), an FBI agent and terrorist in Face/Off (1997), a desperate attorney in A Civil Action (1998), a Bill Clinton-esque presidential candidate in Primary Colors (1998) and a military detective in The General’s Daughter (1999).

2000-present

Travolta also starred in Battlefield Earth (2000) based on a work of science fiction by L. Ron Hubbard, in which he played the leader of a group of aliens that enslaves humanity on a bleak future Earth. The film received almost universally negative reviews and did very poorly at the box office.[24] The film won a Razzie Award for Worst Film of the Year at the 2000 awards. Travolta, who became a Scientologist in 1975 and endorses Hubbard’s teachings, had hoped that the film would be well received and be the first in a series of Hubbard film adaptations. In 2004, Travolta played Deputy Chief Mike Kennedy in the Ladder 49. This film was notable for being the first post-9/11 film that focused on the life of a crew of firefighters. Travolta starred as a once successful businessman gone broke and divorced who takes to the road on a motorcycle road-trip with his friends in 2007’s Wild Hogs. Travolta played Mrs. Edna Turnblad in the remake of Hairspray, his first musical since Grease

He was the lead voice role of the Disney film Bolt (2008), where he played a lost canine actor trying to get home and also sang “I Thought I Lost You,’ the duet for the ending credits of the film with co-star Miley Cyrus. In 2009, he appeared in The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, a remake of the 1974 film, and Old Dogs, a live-action comedy, co-starring with Robin Williams and Bernie Mac. His next film was 2010’s From Paris with Love.

Personal life

Travolta married actress Kelly Preston in 1991. The couple had two children: Jett, born on April 13, 1992, and Ella Bleu, born on April 3, 2000.

The couple has regularly attended marriage counselling, and Travolta admits that therapy has helped the marriage.

Travolta was previously involved with actress Diana Hyland, whom he met while filming The Boy in the Plastic Bubble; Hyland died of breast cancer in 1977.

Travolta is a certified pilot and owns five aircraft, including an ex-Australian Boeing 707-138 airliner. The plane bears the name Jett Clipper Ella in honor of his children. Pan American World Airways was a large operator of the Boeing 707 and used Clipper in its names. The 707 aircraft bears the marks of Qantas, as Travolta acts as an official goodwill ambassador for the airline wherever he flies. His $4.9 million estate in the Jumbolair subdivision in Ocala, Florida, is situated on Greystone Airport with its own runway and taxiway right to his front door.

Travolta has been a practitioner of Scientology since 1975 when he was given the book Dianetics while filming the movie The Devil’s Rain in Durango, Mexico.

Joining in the effort with other celebrities in helping with the relief efforts, Travolta flew his 707 full of supplies, doctors, and Scientologist healers into the disaster area in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

Son’s death

Their son, Jett died on January 2, 2009 while the family was on holiday in The Bahamas.[31][32] A Bahamian death certificate was issued, attributing the cause of death to a seizure.[33] Jett, who had a history of seizures, reportedly suffered from Kawasaki disease in early childhood.

Long a source of speculation, in September 2009, Travolta testified that his son had autism and suffered regular seizures, as part of his testimony in a trial which resulted after an extortion attempt following Jett Travolta’s death.