Arts: Five minutes in the starry life of John Travolta

IT WAS WORSE than meeting the Queen. In fact, meeting John Travolta was rather more like checking out the Sun King at Versailles.

Travolta, star of Seventies pop musicals, disco king, chubby darling of Pulp Fiction, was at the Cannes Film Festival for his film Primary Colors. I was therefore offered an interview at his hotel on the Cap D'Antibes. In the old days, stars would stay in the middle of Cannes. Nowadays, only film financiers and journalists stay in town. Celebs breathe a more refined air. After all, they are treated as gods; obviously they must have their own Valhalla.

The hotel looks like a French chateau; but rather than putting up French blue-bloods, it puts up with 20th-century aristos, i.e. film stars. Madonna stayed here, Bruce Willis stays here, Hugh Grant and Liz Hurley check in from time to time. If you find yourself directing your taxi to the Hotel Du Cap, you know you've made it.

Arriving, we swept into the majestic entrance. A press person advanced, waving madly. We swept out of the majestic entrance and turned down something with potholes in it. The tradesman's entrance. By a large iron gate we were stopped by a young man who looked rather like Tom Parker-Bowles. "That's Tom Parker-Bowles," whispered my producer. I wasn't surprised. When you are viewed as royalty, you need the minions of royalty about you. Tom advised us to get out of our taxi and pointed up a long path, which wound through a sort of faux-wilderness.

On the way up we bumped into a Japanese film crew coming the other way. Their faces looked strangely beatific. Clearly they had already had The Meeting. I came across an American woman sitting in the middle of the path on a dining-room chair. "Go up this path and turn left at the green wooden gate," she said. It was like something out of the Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Turning the corner, I spotted the director of Primary Colors, Mike Nichols, taking a stroll amid the fragrant Mexican Orange bushes. Like you do. "Hello," I said. "You guys from the BBC?" he said. I admitted that we were. "Remember when Susan Sontag visited Andy Warhol? She got all the way to his apartment and buzzed the door. `He's not in,' said a man. `Oh shit,' she said. But I'm here with the BBC!' And that was the whole piece! Ha ha ha ha!"

Unsure how to cap this anecdote, I suggested that he might give me a few tips on how I should treat the star. "Be as you are," he said. "He is as he is. You'll like him." And with that he vanished behind a clump of jasmine.

An exclusive interview? Don't make me laugh. We were parked in a hut alongside 20 others. It was boiling hot. After two hours, my moment arrived. "I told you we'd keep to the schedule," enthused one of the PRs, as if he expected me to burst into tears of joy. I was led to a leafy ante-chamber. "Since you're the BBC, we've extended your interview to five minutes." I found myself babbling thanks. A woman with an ear- piece appeared. "You will step forward and meet Mr Travolta." It was his 16th interview that day.

What was he expecting? Another few minutes opposite a hot-looking journalist who would have time for four questions. "I don't mind the press," he said. "If you resist it, it's harder work than being open to it."

What was I expecting? With PR people waving to the decreasing minutes, and the sense that I was receiving a huge favour, there was little hope of getting a balanced interview or interesting discussion. Even if the questions are interesting, how can a person answer them thoughtfully with 20 interviews a day? It's not until you say something surprising that the celeb even looks at you properly.

And so I offered up thanks to the God of Celebrity that a) I had seen Saturday Night Fever on stage in London and that b) Travolta had not. Because when I told him about it his face lit up; he smiled; he turned into a proper person. We were having a proper conversation. Then the publicity person did the wind-up sign and my 300 seconds were up.

Rosie Millard is the BBC's arts correspondent.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Sport
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
i100
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Cover Supervisor

    £75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

    Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

    Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

    SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

    £1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam