John Travolta clearly remembers the last time he saw “Saturday Night Fever,” mainly because it was hardly a typical situation.
“I always catch a part of it here or there on TV,” the enduring star tells Zap2it of the disco-crazy 1977 classic that heralded his big-screen career, “but the last time I saw the whole movie was with Oprah Winfrey. For my 50th birthday, she bought a week on a boat for me and my family, and she took another boat.
“And she said, ‘I just want to ask you one thing … that you will sit with me in a theater and watch “Saturday Night Fever.”‘ That was her favorite movie, so we watched it together in a theater on one of the islands in the Caribbean. That was eight or nine years ago.”
About to be seen opposite Robert De Niro when the drama “Killing Season” opens in theaters Friday, July 12, Travolta helps salute casting directors — including industry legend Lynn Stalmaster, who mentored him into the star-making role of “Sweathog” Vinnie Barbarino on the sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter” — in the HBO documentary “Casting By,” premiering Monday, Aug. 5.
Another veteran of finding talent, Shirley Rich, assisted producer Robert Stigwood in casting Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever.” Also a vivid memory for Travolta is filming the sequence in which his Tony Manero performed to the Bee Gees hit “You Should Be Dancing,” on a floor that illuminated in various colors and patterns.
“The irony of that,” Travolta recalls, “was that when I did my sort-of-Russian to-the-knees moves, I didn’t plan it, but it was in sync with the on-and-off lighting of the panels. It was as if my knees were igniting the lights when they touched the floor, and my feet would ‘turn them off’ when I landed. And that was totally by accident.”