Travolta, Thurman Chill Out for ‘Be Cool’
LOS ANGELES – They went on one of the coolest movie dates ever, at least until she OD’d and he rammed an adrenaline needle through her breast to jump-start her heart. Eleven years after “Pulp Fiction,” John Travolta and Uma Thurman are back on the dance floor in “Be Cool,” a follow-up to Travolta’s 1995 crime caper “Get Shorty.”
Travolta returns as super-smooth loan-shark-turned-producer Chili Palmer, this time abandoning the fickle movie industry to try his hand in the music business.
Thurman plays Edie, owner of a small record label where Chili brings his latest discovery, a singer-songwriter with the voice of an angel and the face of a cover-girl pop diva.
While Chili’s not the wholly respectable type and Edie’s record company has its shadier sides, the two are model citizens compared to addict and hit man Vincent and coke-head Mia, whom Travolta and Thurman played in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.”
Vincent and Mia’s evening out progressed from cozy dinner at a kitschy restaurant, to an off-kilter take on “The Twist” in a dance contest, to Mia’s misstep in snorting Vincent’s heroin, believing it’s cocaine.
A more conventional romance develops between Chili and Edie, who do share some time on the dance floor, spinning to the Black Eyed Peas’ cover of a 1960s tune by Brazilian songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Travolta, 51, and Thurman, 34, sat down together with The Associated Press to discuss the new flick and reminisce about old times.
AP: What was it about Vincent and Mia that made them work so well together?
Travolta: Certainly, Quentin’s imagination.
Thurman: And she is a speed freak and he is a junkie, so there’s no conflict. Nobody’s trying to take up anybody else’s space.
Travolta: Those characters, I say they were hellbent for death, and these characters are hellbent for life. I think these guys really want to survive. And the difference is, we’re both higher than a kite during the whole film in “Pulp Fiction,” and when we went up to dance, we’re doing novelty dances, gimmick dances from the ’60s. Here, we’re doing something much more traditional, which kind of adds to that.
AP: Did the two of you find you had instant chemistry?
Thurman: I wouldn’t even have thought sitting with John when we met, I was kind of a gnarly little 23-year-old, I wouldn’t have known that we had such screen chemistry.
Travolta: I don’t think it’s something you can even predict. It’s innate.
Thurman: And a lot of times, people have intense chemistry in life, like people who are infatuated with each other and become lovers, and they end up not having screen chemistry at all. They’re dead to watch, in a way. Couples often are very boring to watch.
AP: Were you able to fall right back into your old chemistry when you started “Be Cool”?
Travolta: I have to say, I wasn’t aware. I have such innate affinity for Uma. I get happy when I’m around Uma. I can’t wait to talk to her, I can’t wait to catch up. I’m comfortable. So what the effect of that is on others while watching, I don’t know how to explain that, but I know how I feel ó that I’m just excited to be with Uma, whether we’re acting or talking. A lot of the time, the takes were interrupting our conversations.
Thurman: It’s absolutely true. What was really a lovely thing about getting to step into this movie was to start from a place of so much more trust, a sense of the bond and time. Someone who really did know you 10 years ago. Something about it I find very touching, and it reaffirms life for me in a way to reconnect.
AP: Uma, dancing with the guy who did “Saturday Night Fever,” were you intimidated?
Thurman: Always. When I’m luckiest, I spend the best part of my time being intimidated and inspired. That’s when I’m doing good. It means I’m picking the right partners in life. … I never had any advanced level of dance training. I’m just a huge fan and always fantasized about dancing, though I’m very shy about it. I don’t really like to dance socially, but whenever I get a chance to dance where I feel like it’s my job, gotta dance, I’m so happy, and the fear factor as soon as I start to dance goes away.
AP: You’re co-starring with Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane in the remake of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.” Do you get to sing and dance?
Thurman: I’m dancing every day now. I’m in heaven. I’m in absolute hog-pig heaven. I’m really, literally having the best experience.
Travolta: Are you dancing alone or with people?
Thurman: I have a big sort of Ginger Rogers number with Matthew, which is kind of like the whole shebang.
Travolta: Is that a movie-within-the-movie dance number?
Thurman: It’s kind of a love-scene dance number. He kind of sings the song to himself, and she, the big, dumb Swedish bimbo, is trying to get his attention. She’s very comfortable, she knows who she likes, and she likes him, and so she’s trying to get his attention, and they have this sort of big, magical dance sequence.
Travolta: I’m envious. I would love to be doing that.
Thurman: It’s to die. You’ve done it, so you know.
AP: Chili’s warned that music is a tougher business than movies. John, you’ve recorded albums. Which is harder?
Travolta: Music is tougher. It’s more fleeting. You can be here for one hit. I think that everybody in the movie industry, if they have a hit, gets about two more chances. I think in the music industry, that’s it.
Thurman: You have a hit, and what they say is, thank you, really. Right?
AP: And show you the door?
Travolta: Yeah, it’s always been that way. So I think it’s a tougher business, and it is more gangster, it’s more Mafioso. We exaggerate it in this movie for entertainment’s sake, but there is a truth to that. I think the movie industry is much more white collar. It’s much more mainstream, Wall Street.
Thurman: Corporate, in a way. You feel its corporateness, whereas you feel a maverick quality in the music business more.
Travolta: Because it’s everybody’s game.
Thurman: Kind of lawless.
Travolta: It is lawless.
Travolta, Thurman Chill Out for ‘Be Cool’