The man who created Edna Turnblad and the actor who brought the zaftig housewife of "Hairspray" to full-throated life on the big screen will be appearing together in Baltimore next month.
Oscar-nominated actor John Travolta, whose film roles have included star turns in "Saturday Night Fever," "Grease," "Pulp Fiction" and the musical version of "Hairspray," will sit down for a public conversation with John Waters, the unregenerate bad-boy director responsible for "Hairspray" in the first place.
The conversation is set for Nov. 10 at the Maryland Institute College of Art, with proceeds going to the Maryland Film Festival.
"John Travolta's career represents an astonishing range of work, right up to his work in Oliver Stone's 2012 release 'Savages,' which should garner Travolta a series of best supporting actor nominations," Maryland Film Festival director Jed Dietz said in a statement.
Travolta, whose fame dates back to his four seasons as Vinnie Barbarino on the ABC sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter," has been nominated for two Best Actor Oscars – in 1978, for "Saturday Night Fever," and in 1995, for "Pulp Fiction." In recent years, he has been featured in a series of action films, including 1997's "Face/Off," opposite Nicolas Cage, 2001's "Swordfish," opposite Halle Berry, and 2009's "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3," opposite Denzel Washington.
Although Travolta starred in the highest-grossing movie musical, 1978's "Grease," more than a quarter-century would pass before he found a role large enough to get him singing before the cameras once again. In 2007, he played reluctant stage mom Edna Turnblad in the musical version of "Hairspray," directed by Adam Shankman. The film, centering on chubby teen Tracy Turnblad and her embrace of both rock and roll and desegregation in early-'60s Baltimore, would climb to third place on the list of highest-grossing musicals (it has since slid to fifth).
The actor's ties to Charm City, however, pre-date his turn in "Hairspray." In 2003, he spent several weeks here, shooting the firefighting drama "Ladder 49." That movie premiered at Baltimore's Senator Theatre in September 2004, with Travolta in attendance.
Waters has been making movies in and about his impossibly quirky hometown for more than 40 years. Besides "Hairspray," released in its non-musical form in 1988 (starring Waters favorite Divine as Edna), his films include 1972's "Pink Flamingos," 1981's "Polyester," 1994's "Serial Mom" and 2004's "A Dirty Shame." He is also a successful author, and in the spring, he hitch-hiked his way across the country as research for his next book.
Ticket prices for the Waters-Travolta appearance, the fifth in an annual series of "open conversations" benefiting the Maryland Film Festival, are set at $75 and $300. Screenings of several of Travolta's films will also be held next month. Information: 410-752-8083 or md-filmfest.com/.