'Saturday Night Fever' (1977)
Travolta earned his first Oscar nomination — and proved he was more than Vinnie Barbarino on TV's "Welcome Back, Kotter" — as the Brooklyn teenager who becomes a big man on the disco dance floor.
"It was a great beginning. I was grateful for it."
Travolta was the first choice to play Danny, who falls in love with Olivia Newton-John's good girl, Sandy, and frets over whether his tough-guy image can survive their romance. Five years earlier, he'd spent nearly a year in a roadshow version of the Broadway hit, albeit playing a different character.
"I kind of grew into Danny. By the time the movie was done, I looked old enough. I actually looked too young to play Danny when I was 18.
I was really comfortable in my skin with that story."
'Urban Cowboy' (1980)
Travolta and Debra Winger were down-on-their-luck newlyweds struggling to stay together in this movie, which for a time made mechanical bulls all the rage. It was released on the heels of the critically panned "Moment by Moment."
"I had to recover, and I recovered with a beautiful movie. … One of my best, and one of my favorites."
'Pulp Fiction' (1994)
Travolta revived his career with his turn as a stone-hearted assassin who pontificates on how the French refer to American fast-food burgers in Quentin Tarantino's fractured adrenaline-rush of a gangster flick. He earned his second Best Actor Oscar nomination.
"In all the choices I've made … the best were those that allowed me to be free to act, to have fun, whether it was 'Pulp Fiction' or any of the big ones. I was always free to express myself and explore in those characters."
'Ladder 49' (2004)
Released as an homage to the firefighters who lost their lives during 9/11, as well as all those who risk their lives daily, the movie featured Travolta as the squad captain of a Baltimore fire station.
"We put our best foot forward. We were partaking in a bigger-than-ourselves moment. It was the first time I had seen a group of actors come together for something that was bigger than themselves, that had a bigger purpose."
Travolta plays a corrupt DEA agent in this frenetic Oliver Stone saga of drug dealers in dangerously over their heads.
"I'm always looking for an incredible script or an incredible director, or both. In this case, it was both."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times