John Travolta visited Dallas recently on a promotional tour for his new film “Basic,” a convoluted military mystery detailing the investigation that follows the disappearance of a group of Special Ops trainees at a U.S. base in Panama. John McTiernan (“Die Hard”) directed the picture, which takes viewers on a wild ride between fact and fiction and also stars Samuel L. Jackson and Connie Nielsen.
“When I first read it,” Travolta recalled, “I had to read it again to connect the dots. But that’s what I loved about it, because I thought that if you figured it all out, you really wouldn’t even need an audience. So I liked the idea that it challenged me and the audience a bit to figure it all out…not unlike what ‘The Usual Suspects’ did to a degree.”
Travolta’s co-stars also made the project an attractive one. He enthused over the special rapport he has with Jackson, who appeared alongside him in the career-reviving ‘Pulp Fiction.’ “I don’t know what it is or why it is,” he said, “but when Sam and I get together, we’re on the same station, the same wavelength. It’s an interesting thing, because I like Sam with Bruce [Willis] in the movies they did together, but it’s a different thing with Sam and me. Sam and I go to the same school, you know?”
Travolta was equally impressed with Nielsen, who plays the hard-nosed head of base security miffed by the intrusion of DEA agent Travolta into her investigation. “What I love about her performance is that most women who do these kinds of roles become men,” he said. “She’s just trying too hard to be a man, and it’s hilarious. Her earnest attempts crack me up. That’s what I love about it. She’s a smart actress, she was purposely doing that. Normally an actor would take another approach. I appreciated that–it gave us chemistry.”
Doing Basic required Travolta to slim down for the part, losing ten pounds more than those he’d already shed over a two-year health regimen.
“All I wanted two years ago was to be healthy,” he explained. “Then, when I read this script, it said he was an ex-Ranger. And I said, you know, these guys are buff. So, I thought, I didn’t look that yet, so I had to put on the steam and work out extra, extra hard.”
Added inducement came from the fact that Travolta was to appear in a shower in one of the movie’s early scenes.
“The last ten [pounds] I had to do for the movie,” he said with a comic grimace. “Because they were going to expose my body.”
“Basic” is a Columbia Pictures release.