In “The Fanatic,” John Travolta plays a disturbed genre movie buff whose passion for his favorite horror actor goes way too far. But don’t worry, “Grease” and “Pulp Fiction” fans. This performance isn’t based on any of you.
“I didn’t do this film to exorcise anything or blow off some steam on any fanbase,” Travolta said at TheWrap’s Screening Series at The Landmark in Los Angeles. “Fred [Durst, the director], might have had a different history than I have, but I’ve always felt this deep appreciation for my fans. I met this one woman a few days ago that got a tattoo of me. She didn’t know she would ever meet me, she just did it. I appreciate that what I’ve done means that much to people.”
For Moose, Travolta’s character in “The Fanatic,” horror film star Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa) is the Travolta in his life. He longs to get an autograph from his idol and even practices in front of a mirror how he would meet Hunter. But it’s not just an autograph and a handshake he’s looking for: he wants Hunter to be his friend at any cost, even if it means breaking into his house to get his attention.
While he’d never go as far as Moose does, Travolta feels that such a devoted passion is something that everyone could empathize with and was the core aspect of Moose that made him enjoy the role so much that he stayed in character even in between takes.
“When I was a little boy, I dreamed that Jimmy Cagney would love me as much as I loved him. I imagined that Paul McCartney would be my buddy,” he said. “I enjoyed playing my own heartstrings but within a circumference of a person that’s so different from how I move and act and think.”
That desperate need to be liked coalesces in a climax where Moose ties Hunter to his bed, making him the literally captive audience to an audition where Moose tries to earn Hunter’s respect by giving his own performance inspired by the actor’s work. Again, Travolta found a kernel of personal truth inside of that moment, connecting it to how watching others act inspired him to get up and perform himself, albeit on a movie set rather than in a house he sneaked into.
“Whenever I have a little dip of inspiration…I look for someone to spark me up. Recently I watched Sam Rockwell and I got jolted again. He approaches these roles like I do, whether it’s ‘Fosse/Verdon’ or ‘Three Billboards.’ I just got excited about acting again by watching him.”
“Sometimes it’s someone you’d never expect. Three years ago I got into Pitbull, and I’m not kidding! When I become a fan, I become a fan!” he said. “And it got to a point where I got to be in one of his videos and show off my moves, which is what I know how to do. 14 million views later, it’s part of my mosaic and my history. So I definitely believe in fandom.”
“The Fanatic” is available to stream now on Amazon Prime.
For the record: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Devon Sawa’s name.