Actor talks about working with De Niro for Killing Season.

When asked if he wanted to direct in the future, John Travolta confessed that he doesn’t fancy directing a feature but said he might direct a short based on his 1997 book Propeller One-Way Night Coach.

“The only movie I’ll probably end up directing is a short based on a little book I wrote about a boy who flew across the US when the propeller airliners were turning into jet airliners. It’s an adventure about hte people he meets on airplanes,” he said.

“It’s a semi-autobiographical story, and I’d like my son to play me and my wife to play his mother, and maybe I will play the captain or something,” said Travolta, who is a certified pilot who owns several planes. “If I’m going to direct, that will be what I would direct.”

The actor was speaking today at a press conference at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic, where he received a Crystal Globe for lifetime achievement last night and tonight unveils his latest film Killing Season.

Mark Steven Johnson directs Killing Season, a Belgian-US production from Millennium and Corsan starring Travolta and Robert De Niro as veterans who fought on opposite sides of the Bosnian War, who clash again years later.

Character challenge

Evan Daugherty’s script had been on the Black List of hot US unproduced screenplays, and Travolta said the strength of the writing was one thing that brought him on board.

“I love the message of the movie, and I love the character. I love the challenge of the character,” he said.

He said this kind of project was moving away from the “comic strip” films that Hollywood is favouring which he says are “not really my thing”.

He added: “You have to seek to have more of these kinds of movies that I grew up with.”

Outside studio system

Of working on a film of this scale that was made outside of the studios, he said: “You sacrifice the big release but you did something you believe in. I like doing movies I believe in, so it’s an easy decision for me.” (Travolta earlier this week spoke of similar trends at the BFI in London – see story here.)

He likened Killing Season to an essay on the legacy of war, akin to such films as Coming Home and Born on The Fourth Of July.

Working with Robert De Niro was another draw, Travolta said. He noted that he was influenced by De Niro’s work in New York, New York in 1977 – “He was setting the trend in the US for a new kind of acting,” Travolta said, which inspired his own work in Saturday Night Fever.

“I said, ‘This is the new standard, I need to become a great dancer’…so I dedicated myself for nine months.”

The Hollywood star noted he also likes to watch independent films – noting the last film he watched and loved was Beasts Of The Southern Wild. “It’s a very interesting movie, it made me feel it was possible to make great movies for very little money…It had a billion dollars of warmth and heart and meaning.”

Gandolfini tribute

Travolta also reflected on his friendship and work with the late James Gandolfini.

“My father sold automobile tires to his father when we were young,” Travolta remembered. “He saw my photo in the store window and it inspired him to be an actor.”

The actors worked on five films together including Get Shorty, and Travolta remembered two special moments with him.

“When my son passed away [Jett Travolta died in 2009], he would not leave the city until I was okay. He was worried about me. I felt it was so human and so unusual for an actor to have this depth of feeling about someone.”

Years before that, they were shooting 2006’s Lonely Hearts and Travolta remembered: “He was going through a divorce and he was very sad, and I saw him backstage, and I said, ‘Jim, did I ever tell you something? I loved you the moment I met you.’ He started to cry because he needed to cry. That was a connection that was true.”

Here in Karlovy Vary, Travolta got a warm welcome from legions of fans, and indulged them with plenty of autograph signing and snapshots.