Travolta shows his true Primary Colors

CANDIDATE John Travolta arrives in American theatres next week. The film version of Primary Colors, the novel that set Washington on fire with its thinly veiled portrayal of the 1992 Clinton campaign, premiered in Los Angeles on Thursday night.

The film's boosters say Travolta's portrayal of Jack Stanton - read Bill Clinton - is uncanny, from the moist eyes and high-rising silver hair to the presidential hug and Arkansas drawl. Travolta is backed by Emma Thompson, aka Hillary, as the politician's wife, and British actor Adrian Lester as the story's narrator and conscience, Henry Burton, closely compared to Clinton campaign glamour boy George Stephanopoulos.

For film buffs, there is the particular pleasure of seeing Billy Bob Thornton, fresh from his role as a half-crazed killer in Slingblade, playing the fictional version of Clinton's political axe man, James Carville.

The huge publicity promises a major Hollywood debut for stage actor Lester, 27. Thompson, he told USA Today, "held my hand because she knew what it was like coming to Los Angeles. She made sure I didn't feel too lonely, and I will never forget that."

The timing could not have been better for its makers, or apparently worse for Bill Clinton, at a time when Monica Lewinsky has at last moved off the front pages. In the film Jack Stanton's "bimbo" arrives as hairdresser Cashmere McLeod, played by Gia Carides, for whom read nightclub singer Gennifer Flowers.

But the film is not as sharp in its portrayal of Clinton as the book, whose anonymous author was finally revealed as Newsweek writer Joe Klein.

Travolta, 44, was paid a reported $17m. But he is a self-proclaimed fan of the President who says he has taken "zero interest" in the Lewinsky affair. "I knew the film was not going to be a cheap shot," he said. "There are other issues, such as ... the truth of politics, and rising above that truth."

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