Die-hard fans come with the territory when you are in the public eye. Everyone from professional athletes to musicians, and even famous incarcerated individuals seem to have a fan club. But one avenue that often sees rabid fandom is the movie biz— and that is overly highlighted in John Travolta’s latest film “The Fanatic.”
John Travolta talks tackling obsessive fandom in ‘The Fanatic’
Travolta stars as Moose, a somewhat well-meaning, socially-awkward movie buff who emulates action star Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa) to the point of obsession. Moose takes his obsession to new lengths when he finally gets to meet Dunbar in person, and expectedly, when the interaction doesn’t go over too well, Moose’s admiration turns extreme.
The film came from Limp Bizkit creator Fred Durst, and Travolta was surprised with Durst’s writing— it struck a chord for the seasoned actor. “I know [Fred] was creative with his videos, but I didn’t know what he’d be like as a writer. But [the script] just really got to me– it deeply affected me because I identified with Moose and I identified with the film actor,” says Travolta. “The film actor is a good father, and a good person but not a good celebrity, while my character is a man-child who is on the spectrum. So all of that was intriguing to me and I just saw how I could play it.”
It was the polarizing characteristics of Moose that drew Travolta in, and the 65-year-old says that’s how it’s happened with most of his other over-the-top roles. “Sometimes you have those visions of how you’ll do it— I had that with Shapiro in ‘The People Vs. OJ Simpson,’ and I felt that way with Edna in ‘Hairspray.’ Once in a while, you get these things that are in your back pocket, and I felt that way about this.”
But one point of contention for Travolta is whether or not he can make a character “likable.”
“I don’t want to do something in a movie that’s not going to come off. Sometimes I’m offered roles where I say ‘You know what, I don’t want to do this, it’s too dark for me.’ A lot of people hire me for these dark roles because I can solve them to where they’re still watchable—people can still like them and I understand that. However, sometimes it’s unsolvable— there’s nothing I can find that I even like. So I choose not to do it. I have to have an affinity for playing it and I have to understand it,” says Travolta.
When Moose first hits the screen, it’s honestly difficult to initially feel the warm fuzzies for someone so out of tune with social cues. That is highlighted numerous times throughout the movie; With Moose cutting in on a heated argument between Dunbar and his ex-wife, Moose using a paparazzi app to find Dunbars home, and then stalking his “hero” even after being threatened by Dunbar. But for Travolta, he wanted to discover why his character had such an extreme obsession, and being a veteran in the business himself, he had some ideas.
“There could be varying ideas on why the line between being just a fan and a fanatic can be crossed. There could be something off—like with Moose, he’s on the spectrum and not thinking logically. Or there could be an obsessive affinity where you don’t care, and decide to take the risk and cross over the line of even simple manners and privacy. But let’s say that’s what it is— what’s the measurement of that? How far would you take that in another situation? So I think there are these varying degrees of measuring over the line concepts. Some of it has to do with manners and public relations, and some of it has to do with estimating the state of mind that a person is in before you approach them,” says Travolta.
Figuring out the varying degrees of measurement when it comes to privacy is just one theme the film explores. “The Fanatic” also showcases the harsh reality of emulating anyone famous, the complicated relationships anyone can have when they feel unbalanced and the obsessive lengths fans will reach when pushed.
Travolta certainly served up his dedication to the character of Moose on a silver platter, and went with his gut for the most part when doing so.
“I think a lot of the emotional licks and notes came from surprise feelings at the moment– it happened in a few scenes. I liked the idea of how far will you go to convince the star you love of who you are? You have to tie them up and demonstrate as an actor and with affection, never thinking of the consequence,” says Travolta. “Tragedy and horror only affect Moose to a degree, he always sees the glass as half-full and moves on— that’s my take on it.”
“The Fanatic” hits theaters Aug. 30