Pop Culture

Happy 60th birthday to John Travolta

Etienne Laurent / Today
John Travolta in France in September.

John Travolta played a couple of the more memorable high-school aged roles in film and television. But the actor and his career were a long way from Vinny Barbarino and Danny Zuko as he marked his 60th birthday on Tuesday.

Whether "Grease" was your thing or "Welcome Back Kotter," Travolta had already attracted a major fan base in the disco-crazed 1970s with his role as Tony Manero in "Saturday Night Fever." It's impossible to hear the Bee Gees 35 years later and not picture Travolta strutting down the street or across the dance floor in that film — and on his way to an Academy Award nomination.

After "Urban Cowboy" scratched another decade's itch with a film about trendy cowboy bars and mechanical bull riding, Travolta seemingly fell off the radar for a period ... known as the rest of the '80s.

Quentin Tarantino did us all a favor and reminded us what a great actor with great material could really do on the big screen, and Travolta secured another Oscar nomination, this time as Vincent Vega in 1994's "Pulp Fiction." He followed that with more critical acclaim as loan shark Chili Palmer in 1995's "Get Shorty."

We'll leave "Battlefield Earth" and "Wild Hogs" for future generations to debate. In the meantime, let's just wish Travolta a happy 60th, and remind Tarantino to give him another call. Or, perhaps even better, let's hope the keepers of the James Bond franchise take him seriously on his one career wish.

"I would love to be a villain to Daniel Craig’s hero. I hope it will happen," Travolta said Sunday during an appearance in London. "It’s the first time I’ve ever asked for a role, but I bumped into Barbara Broccoli at the Oscars last year and she offered it to me — mind you we’d both had a few drinks!"

While we wait for that, take a look back on Travolta's life and career in our slideshow.

  • Slideshow Photos

    Etienne Laurent / EPA FILE

    Image: John Travolta turns 60 years of age

    John Travolta

    From his dancing days in “Saturday Night Fever” to his dramatic turns in “Primary Colors” and “Face/Off,” this actor thrives on versatility.

  • Image: John Travolta turns 60 years of age

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    Still has the moves -

    Actor John Travolta poses as he received a tribute for his career at the premiere of "Killing Season" during the 39th annual Deauville American Film Festival, in Deauville, France, on Sept. 6, 2013. Travolta turned 60 on Feb. 18, 2014.

    EPA / EPA
  • Image: 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - Roaming Arrivals

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    Longtime love -

    Travolta and his actress wife Kelly Preston arrive for the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party at Sunset Tower in West Hollywood, Calif., on Feb. 24, 2013. The two married in 1991.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: John Travolta, Miranda Kerr, Kelly Preston

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    Aussie appearances -

    Travolta, an ambassador for the airline Qantas, is joined by his wife Kelly Preston, right, and model Australian Miranda Kerr at a Qantas Gala dinner in Sydney, Australia, on April 18, 2013.

    AP / AP
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    Hollywood hotshot -

    Travolta speaks at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Aug. 9, 2012, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

    AP / AP
  • Image: John Travolta Opens Scientology Mission At Time Of Global Expansion For The Church

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    On a mission -

    Travolta and daughter Ella Bleu, left, and wife Kelly Preston applaud speakers at the opening of a Scientology Mission in Ocala, Fla., on May 29, 2011.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Premiere Of Walt Disney Pictures' "Old Dogs" - Arrivals

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    A family affair -

    Travolta, Kelly Preston and daughter Ella Bleu arrive at the premiere of Walt Disney Pictures' "Old Dogs" held at the El Capitan Theatre on Monday, Nov. 9, 2009, in Hollywood, Calif. It was the Travoltas' first public appearance was since the death of their son, Jett.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • Image: Scene from holiday movie "Old Dogs" undated publicity photograph

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    A laughing scene -

    John Travolta and Robin Williams, stars of the new film "Old Dogs", are shown in a scene from the film, which hits theaters Nov. 25.

    Disney Enterprises / Disney Enterprises
  • Image: John Travolta, Kelly Preston

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    A day in court -

    Travolta and Preston leave the court building in Nassau, Bahamas, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009. Travolta described the moments before his son's death in the Bahamas as he testified against two people accused of trying to blackmail him with private information about the rescue effort.

    AP / AP
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    Johnny's got a gun -

    Travolta holds a subway car full of passengers hostage in the 2009 thriller "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3." Denzel Washington co-stars as the subway dispatcher who is determined to stop him. The film is a remake of the 1974 thriller that starred Walter Matthau.

    AP / AP
  • Ella Bleu, Jett Travolta, Kelly Preston, John Travolta

    John Travolta

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    Happier days -

    Travolta, second left, with his daughter Ella Bleu, left, Preston, right, and son Jett. Jett died on Jan. 2, while the family was on vacation in the Bahamas.

    AP / AP
  • Premiere Of Walt Disney Animation Studios' "Bolt" - Arrivals

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    Getting animated -

    Miley Cyrus and Travolta both provided voices for the 2008 animated film, "Bolt." The film told the story of a TV dog who doesn't realize that his superpowers are created by special effects until he is out on his own.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
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    Good old boys -

    Travolta (from left), Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy and Tim Allen starred together in 2007's "Wild Hogs." The film tells the story of a group of middle-aged friends who decide to rev up their routine suburban lives with a freewheeling motorcycle trip.

    Touchstone Pictures / Touchstone Pictures
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    What a drag -

    Travolta played Edna Turnblad in the 2007 big screen adaptation of the Broadway musical, "Hairspray." The film tells the story of Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) who lands a spot on a local TV dance show in 1962, and becomes determined to make sure the show is racially integrated.

    New Line Cinema / New Line Cinema
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    Holding out for a hero -

    Travolta starred as veteran firefighter Captain Mike Kennedy in 2004's "Ladder 49." In the film he mentors Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) and then must save him when he gets trapped in a fire.

    Touchstone Pictures / Touchstone Pictures
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    A kind of love story -

    Scarlett Johansson starred as a woman who returned home after her mother's death in 2004's "A Love Song for Bobby Long." Travolta co-starred as Bobby Long, an old friend of her mother's who is living in her mother's house with his protege (Gabriel Macht). Since they have no intention of leaving, the three of them begin to make a home together.

    Screen Gems / Screen Gems
  • Actor John Travolta arrives in Sydney on his "Spirit of Freindship" tour

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    Flying high -

    Travolta poses as he exits his ex-Qantas Boeing 707 jet after landing at Sydney International Airport on July 12, 2002. Travolta arrived in the Australian city as part of his "Spirit of Friendship" tour, which took him to 13 cities across the globe.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
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    Fishy story -

    Travolta starred with Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry in 2001's "Swordfish." The film tells the story of a plot to hack into a complicated computer system that contains government secrets and a lot of money.

    Warner Bros. / Warner Bros.
  • John Travolta

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    Razzie dazzle -

    In 2000, Travolta made the movie "Battlefield Earth," based on the novel by Scientologist founder L. Ron Hubbard. In the film, an alien race tries to exterminate humanity in the year 3000. The film won seven Razzie Awards, including worst actor, worst director and worst picture.

    Warner Bros. / Warner Bros.
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    Presidential pose -

    Emma Thompson and Travolta starred as a Southern governor and his wife contending for the White House in 1998's "Primary Colors." The story was a loose retelling of President Bill Clinton's own run for the presidency.

    Universal Pictures / Universal Pictures
  • US actor John Travolta listens as Claudia Engel (R

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    Asserting his faith -

    Travolta listens as Claudia Engel, right, from Germany discusses religious persecution she has suffered during hearings before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe on Capitol Hill in Washington. Travolta, a Scientologist, and several other celebrities joined in discussing Germany's discrimination and harassment of members of the church of Scientology.

    AFP/Getty Images / AFP/Getty Images
  • Nicolas Cage And John Travolta  In 'Face Off'

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    Something about his face -

    Travolta starred opposite Nicholas Cage in 1997's "Face/Off." John Woo directed this story of an FBI agent who has his face surgerically switched with a terrorist in order to get his brother to confess to crimes. But when the terrorist wakes up with the FBI agent's face, a game of cat and mouse begins.

    Paramount Pictures / Paramount Pictures
  • John Travolta

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    Heavenly performance -

    Travolta starred as the archangel Michael in the 1996 movie "Michael." In the film, Michael returns to Earth one last time to help a washed-up tabloid journalist find love.

    New Line Cinema / New Line Cinema
  • Australian actress Nicole Kidman (L) and US actor

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    Award-worthy -

    Nicole Kidman and Travolta toast with their Golden Globe Awards for best actress and best actor on Jan. 21, 1996 in Beverly Hills. Kidman received her award for her role in "To Die For" and Travolta received his award for "Get Shorty."

    AFP - Getty Images / AFP - Getty Images
  • John Travolta

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    All mobbed up -

    Travolta played loan shark Chili Palmer in the 1996 film, "Get Shorty." When he comes to Los Angeles to collect a debt from a movie producer, he decides to trade his nefarious career for a chance to be in the film business. Renee Russo co-stars as a former scream queen who takes an interest in Chili.

    MGM / MGM
  • John Travolta

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    Men in black -

    Travolta starred with Samuel L. Jackson in Quentin Tarantino's 1994 film, "Pulp Fiction." In the film, Travolta plays Vincent Vega, a hit man who makes the mistake of agreeing to entertain a mobster's wife for the night only to have her almost overdose right in front of him.

    Miramax Films / Miramax Films
  • John Travolta

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    Baby daddy -

    In 1989's "Look Who's Talking," Travolta played a cab driver who meets a pregnant woman (Kirstie Alley) on the way to the emergency room just as her son (the voice of Bruce Willis) is being born, and ends up becoming part of her life. The film spawned two sequels.

    TriStar Pictures / TriStar Pictures
  • John Travolta

    John Travolta

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    Ride 'em -

    In 1980, Travolta starred with Debra Winger in "Urban Cowboy." Travolta plays Bud, a young country farmer who moves to the city to find work at an oil refinery and finds love with Sissy (Winger), a cowgirl of easy virtue and spirit.

    Getty Images / Getty Images
  • John Travolta

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    He's the one that she wants -

    Travolta showed he could both dance and sing when he starred opposite Olivia Newton John in 1978's "Grease." An adaptation of the popular Broadway musical, the film told the story of two 1950s high schoolers, one a good girl and one a greaser. The duo fights peer pressure and their differences and even make some personal changes in order to be together.

    Paramount Pictures / Paramount Pictures
  • Saturday Night Fever

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    All the right moves -

    Travolta's life changed when he starred in 1977's "Saturday Night Fever." The film tells the story of a working-class young Brooklyn man who finds an escape from his mundane neighborhood existence at the local discotheque, where he is the "king of the dance floor."

    Paramount Pictures / Paramount Pictures
  • Travolta and Allen in 'Carrie'

    John Travolta

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    Bad boy -

    In the 1976 adaptation of Stephen King's novel, "Carrie," Travolta played one the teens who planned to humiliate a young girl at the prom, not realizing that she was telekinetic and that her vengeance would be swift and deadly.

    United Artists Films / United Artists Films
  • Travolta & O'Connor in 'The Boy in the Plastic Bubble'

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    Bubble boy -

    John Travolta and Glynnis O'Connor kiss through a vinyl membrane in the 1976 TV movie, "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble." The movie tells the story of a man who was born with a deficient immune system and must spend his life apart from others in a plastic bubble.

    ABC via Getty Images / ABC via Getty Images
  • 'Welcome Back Kotter' Cast Pictures

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    'What? Where?' -

    Travolta looks up at colleague, compatriot and professional poker player Gabe Kaplan in the 1970s TV series "Welcome Back Kotter." Travolta played ladies' man Vinnie Barbarino.

    Getty Images / Getty Images





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