John Travolta lawsuits: How much of a career hit does he take?
Comedy writers have had a field day as the text of a civil complaint filed against John Travolta has recently made the Web rounds. In tawdry, TMZ-friendly detail, the complaint lays out allegations of the actor attempting to coerce a masseur into sexual activity, with plenty of salacious nuggets tossed in.
Travolta’s lawyer has strongly denied that complaint's claim, along with another, similar lawsuit filed against the actor shortly thereafter. But regardless of how a judge winds up ruling, the court of public opinion could yet pronounce its own verdict, and in a venue where it really counts for an actor: the box office.
We won’t have to wait long for that ruling. Travolta has a movie coming out in just about six weeks, the Oliver Stone drug-cartel drama “Savages.” And while it’s hard to know what kind of legs the lawsuits will have, the complaints’ depiction of Travolta — mainly as a man petulant and naked — doesn’t exactly square with the smooth-talking federal agent he asks moviegoers to buy in the film.
The actor could have a similar issue when the undated “Killing Season,” a film he recently completed shooting with Robert De Niro, hits theaters. Travolta tackles another heavy dramatic role in that one, incarnating a tortured Bosnian soldier.
It may prove a blessing for the producers of the Gotti family drama “Gotti: In the Shadow of My Father” that the film is on indefinite hold because of financing issues. Travolta is slated to play John Gotti Sr., one of the most feared gangsters of the 21st century -- and a character that will be tough for some filmgoers to accept after reading the complaint.
Sensational as this all is, the lawsuits probably won’t prove as damaging to Travolta’s career as Mel Gibson’s racist and anti-Semitic rants have been to his. Even if the facts bear out the complaints, we’ve demonstrated a surprising propensity to forgive entertainers on the subject of sexual harassment or sexual battery; witness the let-bygones-be-bygones attitude many music consumers took toward Chris Brown when he released a new album this spring. And Travolta has bounced back before, surging back to the A-list with “Pulp Fiction” after a decade at the bottom of the heap.
Then again, that period didn't see him field anything close to these allegations. And there was certainly no TMZ back then, either.
Photo: John Travolta at a press conference for Quantas Airlines in Santiago, Chile. Credit: Mario Ruiz/EPA