Film returns Travolta to spotlight amid bad press

By Anthony McCartney, AP

LOS ANGELES–John Travolta will soon be back on the big screen, but weeks of negative headlines have focused on his personal life and not on the return of one of Hollywood’s top stars.

Travolta plays a corrupt Drug Enforcement Administration agent in “Savages,” an Oliver Stone film about a war between marijuana growers and a Mexican drug cartel. It’s the charismatic bad guy role that has kept Travolta popular in his later career, although he is not considered one of the film’s lead actors.

This weekend, the two-time Oscar nominee is expected to face the media for the first time since the headlines broke as he begins doing publicity for the movie with selected TV outlets. A source familiar with the production of “Savages” told The Associated Press that Travolta’s recent PR difficulties have not altered his publicity schedule or marketing of the film. The source, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said Travolta was doing the same amount of interviews as the film’s other stars, which include Benicio del Toro and Salma Hayek.

Travolta’s first film since 2010 comes less than two months after the actor was accused in a lawsuit of groping two masseurs. The case quickly unraveled after Travolta’s attorney discredited one of the anonymous accusers by showing the actor was across the country on the day of one of the alleged incidents.

Yet the suit was widely reported by both mainstream and tabloid media and subsequent stories have focused on Travolta’s sexuality. The actor hasn’t directly addressed the claims, but his representatives have steadfastly denied them.

Whether any of this impacts “Savages” remains to be seen, but several experts said the allegations are unlikely to hurt the film or Travolta’s career.

Robert Marich, author of “Marketing to Moviegoers,” said the murky nature of the allegations against Travolta means he’ll probably get the benefit of the doubt. “In those situations the public is very forgiving to stars,” Marich said. “I don’t see any negative reaction.”

He said the film’s publicity may be fragmented as a result of the allegations, which doesn’t benefit the studio, but he noted publicity is a film’s most unpredictable element.

News outlets “can go off the studio script,” he said, creating a difficult situation. “Savages” is being distributed by Universal Pictures, which, like most studios, seeks to closely manage media coverage of its debuting films.