John Travolta got mobbed up for a biopic of John Gotti, but the film earned a kiss of death from movie critics and took a hit at the box office.
Travolta and his wife, Kelly Preston – who live in Anthony near Ocala – both co-star in the film “Gotti.” Travolta was executive producer. Critics howled in disgust at the movie, which took nearly a decade to make and opened this month.
The flick earned a highly-publicized score of 0 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes web site after its debut. “The worst mob movie of all time,” ranted the New York Post, echoing other reviews.
That set off a web tirade by the “Gotti” production team, which posted this ad: “Audiences loved ‘Gotti.’ Critics put out the hit. Who would you trust more? Yourself, or a troll behind a keyboard.”
Regardless of the war of words, the film continues to struggle. Forbes reported that “Gotti” ticket revenue dropped 53 percent for an $804,000 second weekend and a $3.245 million 10-day total.
Despite the problems, Travolta, a beloved Academy Award-nominated actor who starred in such hits as “Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever,” did garner some positive notice.
“Travolta is a lively presence in some scenes, talking in a rowdy New Yawka accent,” stated the Hollywood Reporter.
Variety decided to damn with faint praise, saying Travolta’s “performance ain’t lousy, but the movie that surrounds it is, and it’s almost laughable to see this iconic star trying so hard on behalf of a project that is so compromised in its intentions.”
Travolta worked years on the project, which went through a slew of changes with cast members and directors.
John Gotti’s personality swings, from love to hate, drove Travolta to make the film.
“The more I heard about him, the more intriguing he became,” he told Windy City Live.
Here is the trailer for the film, which is playing at The Old Mill Playhouse in Lake Sumter Landing.
Gotti was 61 when he died of cancer in 2002. The film is based on John Gotti Jr.’s autobiographical book, “Shadow of My Father.”
Gotti Sr. worked his way up from hitman to the big boss of the infamous Gambino mob in New York City. Gotti, who lived in Queens, had a passion for fashion, publicity and whacking enemies. He was known as the “Dapper Don.”
Travolta, 64, came of age during Gotti’s rise to power.
“We were kind of paralleling in our fame,” Travolta told Variety. “But by the time he rose to his peak, I was already on my third comeback in movies.”
Travolta said he was chosen by the Gotti family to play the role.
“I was flattered they chose me,” he said in an interview with Windy City Live. He added that unlike many famed gangsters, Gotti was “loved” by people in his neighborhood and others whom Gotti helped.
A turning point in Gotti’s life came when his 12-year old son, Frank, died after being hit by a car in front of his house. The guy who drove the car disappeared and no one ever found him.
In the film, Kelly Preston plays his wife, Victoria Gotti.
“She was completely open to anything I asked,” Preston told Windy City Live. Preston described her as a “very strong, wickedly smart” woman.
Even with the star power of Travolta and Preston, “Gotti” has yet to find an audience.
Tony Violanti covers entertainment for Villages-News.com