John Travolta might not physically resemble John Gotti, but during production of the eponymous biopic about the notorious New York crime boss, he felt like Gotti.
Travolta wore actual clothing and accessories belonging to the late Mafia kingpin known as the “Dapper Don” throughout the film.
“Anything that helps you prepare for a performance is valid,” Travolta said during a recent stop in Dallas. “Borrowing his coats, his jewelry, his scarves — even the cologne that he wore — really helps you become that person easier.”
Based on a memoir by John Gotti Jr., the film presents a more sympathetic portrait of the ruthless head of the Gambino crime family as it recounts the highlights of Gotti’s misdeeds on the streets, as well as his volatile relationships with his wife, Victoria DiGiorgio (Kelly Preston), and eldest son (Spencer LoFranco).
It marks the first time that Travolta has portrayed the on-screen husband of Preston, his real-life spouse of 27 years.
“We view ourselves more as character actors than leading people. Playing characters is more interesting for both of us,” Travolta said. “We had a head start, but the finishing touches were up to us.”
The film has been a passion project for Travolta, 64, for almost a decade, after Gotti’s family told them he was their first choice for the challenging role.
“That flattered me deeply,” he said. “The more I discovered about John Gotti, the more intriguing it got for me. He’s multilayered and had a lot of sides to him.”
Much of the narrative is told in flashbacks, framed by conversations between father and son following Gotti’s incarceration and cancer diagnosis prior to his death in 2002.
“We’re telling the story in his last days, through a memory of his life,” Travolta said. “That’s the John Gotti we don’t know — the one that was dying in prison but still holding on to his integrity and his history with Cosa Nostra, and seeing it destroyed by the RICO Act, and the mob melting away. That was interesting to me.”