Hollywood glitterati donned black-tie duds Saturday night to watch John Travolta receive the American Cinematheque Award at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
As with all past recipients of the award — Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, Rob Reiner, Michael Douglas, Sean Connery and Martin Scorsese, among others — Travolta was honored for his body of work, which includes performances in some 24 feature pics.
Extended clips from nearly every Travolta film were screened for the more than 1,000 guests. Among them, “Look Who’s Talking,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “Blow Out,” “Broken Arrow,” “Get Shorty” and “Pulp Fiction.”
The Cinematheque staff arranged with Universal to fly in a clip from the rough cut of “Primary Colors,” which displayed a Travolta that one industry attorney termed “very Clintonesque.”
Dustin Hoffman and director Costa-Gavras discussed Travolta’s participation in “Mad City,” and showed a clip from the upcoming Warner Bros. movie. Travolta also received a letter from President Clinton, which prompted host Jay Leno to say it was unlikely that Travolta would be receiving any more correspondence from Clinton after he sees “Primary Colors.”
All the major studios and several production companies bought a table, including Universal, Sony, Paramount, MGM, Warner Bros., DreamWorks, Propaganda and Disney.
In fact, stars, execs, agents, lawyers, producers and directors turned out en masse to pay tribute to the former Sweathog, who now makes more than $20 million per pic.
As one studio exec remarked: “I’m not sure if they’re all here to honor him or out of fear. But everyone’s here.”
Scott Glenn, Renee Russo, Billy Bob Thornton, Sean Penn, Robin Wright Penn, Howie Long, Bobcat Goldthwait, Dennis Franz, Kirstie Alley, Jean Stapleton and country singer Garth Brooks were among the celebs who showed up to honor the thesp.
His wife, actress Kelly Preston, told the crowd “something personal” about Travolta.
She said when they got married six years ago, she expected to be sleeping with all the tough guy characters he’s played in so many pics.
“Instead of those great characters, I get to sleep with that guy from ‘Shine’ and ‘Austin Powers’ and my personal favorite, Barbra Streisand,” Preston joked. “Honey, you can be yourself.”
Lawrence Bender, who produced Travolta’s comeback pic “Pulp Fiction,” said he still had “butterflies just like when I first met John.”
Harvey Weinstein, co-chair of Miramax, sent a video message from New York, saying he was in debt to Travolta for doing “She’s So Lovely,” the new low-budget Travolta pic with co-stars Penn and Wright Penn, “for next to nothing.”
Mike Medavoy, chairman of Phoenix Pictures, said he wanted to explain all the kind, warm, talented elements of Travolta. “But since I just heard Kirstie Alley call you weird, I take it all back. Let’s do a dance movie together.”
The event helped raise money for the American Cinematheque’s new home, the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood.
Medavoy, a co-chair of the event, said more than $8.6 million has been raised so far to help cover the $13.8 million cost of renovation.
Appearing on videotape were Tom Hanks, Marlon Brando, Disney chairman Michael Eisner, “Primary Colors” director Mike Nichols and Travolta’s “Face/Off” co-star Nicolas Cage.