Up: Martin Poulter > Scientology Criticism > UK Media Archive

The Big Question: John Travolta

From marcus@ma.man.ac.uk Wed Jan 28 15:07:46 GMT 1998

The following is a full transcript of JT's interview on British TV 
yesterday morning. I won't comment on it yet, though folk have already
pointed out one blatant lie. The places in the transcript marked * are
where there is an obvious cut, though I can't promise these were all
the edit points. All you archivers out there, feel free to put this
on your sites.

"THE BIG QUESTION" BBC1 Sun 25/01/98 9.30am

MARK LAWSON (to camera): Hello, and welcome to another in the series
in which well known people talk about what keeps them awake at night
and what keeps them going through the day. My gues today is one of the
world's most famous movie stars. His success in the seventies was
followed by a period of relative obscurity before a second spell of
superstardom in recent years which has been described as the biggest
comeback since Lazarus.

(Scenes from "Face/Off" and behind the scenes footage of filming with
VO from ML)
John Travolta was born into an Italian/Irish family in New Jersey in
1954. He acted on stage and in the TV series "Welcome back,
Cotter(sp?)" before becoming the hippest star in Hollywood in the
dance movies "Saturday Noght Fever" and "Grease". He had a remarkable
return to popularity in Quentin Tarrantino's "Pulp Fiction" and is now
Hollywood's top paid star in films like "Get Shory" and "Face/Off".
(VO over caricature of JT)
Travolta is a high profile member of the Church of Scientology and has
several times intervened publically to defend Scientology against its

(Studio, ML sitting face to face with JT)
ML: John Travolta, you've had two spells of being really hot in
Holywood. When you were growing up, was it something you wanted very
much, to be famous?

JT: Oh, I never looked at it that way. I think what I wanted very much
was to become an actor and a performer - even at age six, seven, eight
it was very much part of my agenda. Uh, I enjoyed tremendously
entertaining people.

ML: It was a big Italian/Irish family - it was a Catholic family. What
impression has that made on you?

JT: Um... I have to be honest with you, although I was brought up a
Catholic, I wasn't sure I understood it. * I felt the confession
aspects of it were good, but I didn't know you were actually supposed
to confess things you did - I think... I thought you were supposed to
make up things (both laugh) that you did, just so you could get
through confession, you know. So, um, now, I realise that that's
probably a really good thing, you know, that if somebody really wanted
to unload their heart and their mind they should go and do it.

ML: But were your parents strict about Italian mass, and so on?

JT: We did go every week, every Sunday.

ML: But you, you seem - it doesn't seem to have made a big impression
on you, you seem to have grown out of it quite quickly.

JT: Well, um, what happened to me was when I was about, um... 20,
turning 21, I met an actress who introduced, uh,... something new to
me, called Scientology, and she introduced me to the works of L. Ron
Hubbard, and I was so impressed with those works * I suddenly had a
sense that I wasn't just a body - that I was actually a spirit in a
body. And my life changed from that moment.* I knew I was going to
live forever.

ML: And obviously, the question of all conversions is: what did it
give you that Catholicism, for example, did not?

JT: I have never compared the two, to be honest, because, as I said, I
don't think I grew up understanding enough about um... Catholicism. *
I think I got a sense of, of, ... um, of clarity on what makes people
tick. I get a sense of - I had a... I got a sense of clarity on being
a spiritual being.

ML: Now, what is your attitude to the figure of L. Ron Hubbard? Do you
think of him as someone who was supernatural, who was divine? *
Because, for example, Christians would believe that the Bible is the
word of God, Muslims would believe the same about their sacred books...

JT: Uhuh

ML: Now when you read a Dianetics book, a work of L. Ron Hubbard...

JT: Right...

ML: Do you believe it's the work of a human being, or of something
beyond that?

JT: I believe it's the work of a, of a human being that did a lot of
research on human beings, and found out certain things worked,
uh... and only gives you what works the best on planet Earth here, do
you know what I mean? Uh,... the components of understanding people,
the components of, uh... being in good communication with them, and
where that takes you, and surviving well, being happy, healthy,
that's, I think, what his goals were.

ML: And the question we always ask on this series is whether people
believe in God - now is that an appropriate question to (JT: "Sure") a

JT: Sure. Let's put it this way - I think the whole idea in
Scientology is to think for yourself, you know, and that's really what
Mr. Hubbard wanted, it's not for you to think necessarily like anyone
else, but what you think is right for you, and what you think is
appropriate for you. If you ask me personally, I, I think yes, there's
God, but each day, uh, as a matter of fact, through a lot of the
studying I do, I get to understand, possibly, what God is, is about,
but I don't think I fully get the picture yet.

ML: Do you pray?

JT: Um... yes, I have prayed. Not, um, it's not a very regular habit,
but if I'm really, um, concentrating on something that I really want
to have, uh, go well, or whatever, I probably do my own version of
it. It's not anything to do with, uh, Scientology, you know, it's just
something I like and enjoy - maybe it's a carryover from Catholicism,
but, uh, it's - I like it.

ML: And who, or what, would you be praying to, when you do pray?

JT: To, uh, the yet not fully understood God concept.

ML: I've read , um, in terms of Scientology, accounts of, of healing
experiences that you've been involved in - is that right?

JT: Yeah, there are uh, several, uh, assists - that is the name of the
programme - and these are, um... they're different, depending on
what's wrong with the person, you know, and, uh, they just help the
person heal quicker, you know, by helping them get in communication
with their body. I do use them, because I can, and I know how they
work, and I know they do work, and, uh, to date, I have never failed
helping a person feel better, at least.

ML: You healed a British rock star, according to some accounts.

JT: Oh, Sting, that's right - uh, where was that, that was in Canada,
and he was, he was under the weather, he had, um, I think he had a
sore throat and, um, 'flu symptoms or something, and I did, uh, I
think I did two or three different types of assists, and he felt

ML: Do you feel it's your role to... do you try to convert people to
Scientology in your daily life?

JT: I try to help people, and if that... I try to help them, whether
they want to become a Scientologist or not. It's not about that, it's
about that when I know something can help someone, I have to use it -
I can't sleep if I don't use it, so, uh, I don't necessarily think
it'll turn you into a Scientologist, but I know you'll feel better.

ML: As a high profile Scientologist, you've appeared before Congress,
you've taken part in a legal case, you've written to a television
executive in Britain...

JT: Yes.

ML: Now, if you were an Episcopelian or a Catholic, you wouldn't have
to do that - what do you think it is about Scientology that creates so
much controversy, that creates these doubts?

JT: I think it's a new religion, and that's always controversial, and,
and... *you know, the longer that something is around, the less, uh,
the more it's understood, often, and the less controversial it, it is,
um, and I think that's why I always urge people to read, you know,
something and, again, think for themselves and make their own mind up
about what they've read and understood.

ML: * And when people talk about Scientology as a cult, which you'r
aware that they do, that kind of language - how do you react to that?

JT: It, it, it, it's annoying, uh, it's, uh, something to fight for,
because it's incorrect, uh, you know, uh... From the 22 years that
I've been involved, I can only observe the good that's been
done. People do better, they survive better, they'r ehappier, uh,

ML: Have there been periods of doubt? It, it's said that, for example,
in the 1980s you, you were doubtful about the management of the church.

JT: No, uh, there was a moment where, uh, some people had ill
intentions, uh, and they were weeded out quickly, and it, uh, it got
right back into good keeping, and I was very proud of how that all
went down, 'cause it could have been not good, * and I never suffered
>from  it at all, but there was a moment of, you know, there was an
enemy within, if you will, that maybe didn't want us to, uh, survive
so well.

ML: And you've never had doubts about the structure, about the

JT: Never, ever. It's... it's something that I just have such a
certainty on, and such, uh, confidence in, and I apply it every day, I
use it as much as I can on everyone I know, whether they're even aware.

ML: How has it changed you as a person, because sometimes people look
at your films - for example, "Face/Off" and "Pulp Fiction", wonderful
films, but fantastically violent...

JT: Yes.

ML: Is that a problem for you? 

JT: No. 'Cause it's art, and you're, you're welcome to, to communicate
whatever you want, in the arts, the fields of art. * No one can
guarantee taste in art, you know, but then it's all so subjective -
what is taste? And what is good art? * I would like, from my
perspective, yes, to ban all things that I think are tasteless - you
can't do it, it's not the way it works - you see, if you... it's
subjective. * Who's to judge? Then someone has to play God over the
arts, and I don't - I mean, some people try to, but I don't know if
that's possible.

ML: But "Pulp Fiction" must have raised a particular question for you,
because Scientology has a specific stance against drugs, now you were
playing a drug addict - now that must have been a...

JT: Yes, but they didn't survive in that movie. Everyone who did drugs
or did that died - you see, I don't have a problem with that! (both

ML: So you regard that, that as a moral lesson, as it were?

JT: No, I just regard it as a truth that, that, uh, happened within
that story, you know, uh... I don't know. If the, if the drug addict
was a winner, or the, uh, murderer was a winner, I don't know if I'd
want to portray that, but, again, that's my right.

ML: Now, the question that constantly recurs in this series is how
peoples' beliefs help them to deal with the bad things that happen,
particularly death and bereavement. What does Scientology say about
what happens after death?

JT: Um, I think that, uh, you, uh, that the body, uh, ends off, and
that you, as a spirit, go on and it's, uh, up to you, kind of, what
you're going to do.

ML: And this is reincarnation we're talking about?

JT: Well, it could be, if that's what you choose to do, you know, you
wanna get back into another body, y'know, or if you wanna just hang
out and, you know, hang around the studio without one (both laugh), I
dunno, whatever you feel like.

ML: Do you believe in reincarnation?

JT: Yes, I do. Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I mean, it's not even believe, I
just kind of know that it's, uh, it's the truth.

ML: And do you think you have lived before?

JT: (Nods) Uhuh.

ML: Do you have any sense of what those live were?

JT: Oh, no - and I wouldn't tell you. No, I mean, I, I think that's so
personal that it's not something... I also think that you have to be
very careful when you talk about concepts like this, because it's not
real for everybody.

ML: But when you cease to be John Travolta the movie star, what is it
that carries on beyond that?

JT: Well, uh, you know, uh, what is your definition of your, yourself
as a spiritual uh, uh, person, I mean, being?

ML: A term that comes up is a, a thetan (he pronounces it "theetan") -
now, now what does that...

JT: A thetan ("thaytan")

ML: Thetan.

JT: ...is a spirit.

ML: And that's - that's what you are, what we all are, ...

JT: Yes.

ML: That's what Scientology would say.

JT: Yes, I guess that, minus your body, that's what you'd be (laughs).

ML: Well, Christianity would talk about a soul, wouldn't it, so...

JT: There you go - a thetan would be a soul.

ML: I've no idea if this is true, it's been written, people talk about
thee... thetans as being aliens, or...

JT: Oh, no, no, no, I don't know about that, I think that it's soul...
(laughs)... I don't have any idea what, uh, you're talking about, but
I do know that it's you and it's me.

ML: Uh, actors get an afterlife anyway, because you're there in videos
and, uh...

JT: Yeah, whether you like it or not! (laughs)

ML: Does that give you any comfort?

JT: Well, yeah, I mean, I like the idea that actors' contributions
will always be there, yeah, I think it's wonderful. * I don't wanna be
forgotten, you know, uh, I'd, I'd like to think that I did something
that contributed to somebody's life, and I'd like to be missed, you

ML: John Travolta, thank you very much.

JT: You're very welcome.

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