Be Cool (2005) – Q&A with John Travolta, The Rock, Cedric The Entertainer, Christina Milian and director F Gary Gray

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Movie Interview by Neils Hesse

John Travolta is Chili Palmer, The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) is Elliot Wilhelm, Cedric The Entertainer is Sin LaSalle, Christina Milian is Linda Moon and F Gary Gray is the director of Be Cool.


Travolta walks in immaculately dressed and stands behind a chair whilst saying “Hello everyone, I’m sure that you are all wondering why we have asked you all to come here”. [Everyone laughs]

Gary, considering that this was a sequel to a very successful film, GET SHORTY, did you feel any pressure or anxiety coming on board to direct the sequel?

F GARY GRAY: The script was so funny and Chili Palmer is one of my favourite characters, also John Travolta is one of my favourite actors so I was not really worried at all.

Christina, this must have been a perfect role for you, how did you feel about it?

CHRISTINA MILIAN: Yes in many ways I have kinda lived Linda Moon’s life in my own way with all the struggles at the start of my career. The film was great to work on especially with such a great cast and with a director like F Gary Gray – he is really helpful and understanding.

Cedric, was the attraction the fact that you would be playing a “heavy” character capable of so much violence?

CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: Yes, to combine the laughs with the violence was a good stretch for me and to play someone who would beat up someone else with a spatula was right up my alley. [He pulls out a spatula and flips it around – everybody laughs]

The Rock, your character minces about in this movie was that the main attraction to play someone so far from what people would expect from you?

THE ROCK: The material was very good, the actors involved were also very good and yes also the opportunity to mince about, all that appealed to me.

John, what do you have to say about the link that Chili Palmer has with Sean Connery?

JOHN TRAVOLTA: Sean called me after he saw the first one and he said [John impersonates Sean Connery] “John I loved what you did in the film”, and then he said that he was going back to the theatre to see it again. I told him that I thought that the reason why he liked it so much was that it reminded him of himself. We don’t have someone as cool as James Bond in the States so I thought that it would be cool to have a character like that, a street version of Bond.

The Rock, I was thrilled by your new musical direction. Whose idea was it to use that song in your music video in the film and where did the idea for the Samoan dance sequence towards the end of the film come from?

THE ROCK: [He grins] It was my idea to use that song. I was having breakfast with Gary and I asked him what if Elliot were to sing a song, and he said what song so I suggested that song and I sang a few lines and he loved it, he especially liked the title. I like some of those old cowboy songs and THE COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER is one of my favourite films, Sissy Spacek did all her own songs perfectly in that film. The dance at the end is Elliot fulfilling his dream to be up there in front of all those people and to show Chili that he was doing it. I was lucky in that my cousins who happen to be professional Samoan dancers flew down to do that sequence with me.

JOHN TRAVOLTA: Wow, those guys are your cousins?

THE ROCK: Yes they are.


John, the dance that you share with Uma Thurman was that always in the script?

JOHN TRAVOLTA: Interestingly enough I actually wanted to dance in the first one but Barry Sonnenfield was not too keen on the idea and this time around we agreed that if we could make it hip we would do it and then the Black Eyed Peas did a remake of an old classic song with a mambo twist to it so they were sold on the idea. Even in PULP FICTION I told Quentin that back in my day it wasn’t only the “twist” that we danced there were other dances as well so that’s how we ended up mixing it up and this time as well it was all about getting the right mix.

John, apparently the dance floor from SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER is up for auction would you be putting a bid on it by any chance?

JOHN TRAVOLTA: If I was clever I probably would, I gave everything else away. The suit that I wore in that film was bought by Jane Fonda who then sold it to another celebrity who then eventually sold it for $150,000 and used the money to buy a cabin.

John, are you able to be so cool with your family?

JOHN TRAVOLTA: There is an element to being cool, nowadays it’s kinda like being hip with confidence. At home my planes are cool. Two days ago I kissed my kids goodbye and walked about twenty steps to my plane and flew off, that’s cool!

John, do your kids ever think that you are being silly?

JOHN TRAVOLTA: Yes of course, my 4 year-old daughter always tells me to “stop it” when I dance or sing, so I can be a very silly dad.

John, would you be tempted to do a musical again?

JOHN TRAVOLTA: I have been offered the role of the mother in HAIRSPRAY.

Are you going to do it?

JOHN TRAVOLTA: I’m asking your opinion, what do you think?

John, is there any truth in the story that you and Olivia Newton John are doing another GREASE?

JOHN TRAVOLTA: No we have decided to leave it alone, it must be left alone.

The Rock, were you worried that your old wrestling buddies would not like the idea of you playing a character like Elliot?

THE ROCK: No, they are all very supportive.

The Rock, apparently some of your old wrestling buddies are also about to launch movie careers, Steve Austin is one of them, are you involved in any of those projects?

THE ROCK: No, I am not involved in any of those projects.

Cedric, would you be interested in doing something like HAIRSPRAY?

CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: No, that’s not really my kind of gig.

Gary, how hard was it to convince Vince Vaughn to do the part?

F GARY GRAY: Not much, we had dinner and I explained the role to him and he liked the concept. We all figured that if we stayed smart it would all turn out cool.

Christina, what has your experience in the pop industry been like?

CHRISTINA MILIAN: When I started out I met a lot of characters like Sin La Salle and Raji in the film, and I have seen a lot of those kind of contracts and that’s one of the reasons that it’s taken me so long. I started when I was thirteen and only really made it when I was eighteen. Fortunately I read a lot of books on the music industry when I was in college, so by the time I got into it, I kinda knew a bit about it, but I’m constantly learning more.

For all of you, what would you choose about your characters in the film that you identify with and also what wouldn’t you identify with?

CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: The dual morality of my character highlights the fine line that we all walk between good and evil. We are all good until some guy cuts through our lane on the freeway and then we wanna smoke him and the difference is that my character in The film would definitely be able to smoke him also I don’t like the idea of carrying big guns around, at least not anymore!

CHRISTINA MILIAN: The moments that my character has as she begins to succeed, and the fact that she had to be really talented for someone like Chili Palmer to give up the movie business to promote her all that I can relate to. I really pushed myself to do as best as I could, there were two songs written especially for my character, one by Alicia Keys and another by The Black Eyed Peas.

THE ROCK: I liked my character’s ability to deal with all the negativity surrounding him and to still be able to see a brass ring amongst all that. Also to be gay but to be able to maintain that earnestness. I didn’t agree with the choice of red boots for the blue suit, that’s not my style.

JOHN TRAVOLTA: My character’s reaction and admiration of stars is something I do as a person. I admire other people’s work – I’m a fan. Also Chili’s response to Elliot’s monologue, I’m very kind to people that aren’t really good and I would have probably responded in the same way by picking out what was okay about it and advising them to go about it in another way. Also the way that my character, Chili Palmer, would rather kick Elliot’s ass than hurt his feelings, I can relate to that.

Gary how long did it take you to get all the musicians together for this film?

F GARY GRAY: Maybe about 4 months, rearranging with The Black Eyed peas to suit their schedule and also Aerosmith.

Gary, what did they think about the film?

F GARY GRAY: They all loved it. Steven Tyler was initially very nervous about it he has never been on film in this way, but eventually he relaxed and got into it.

The Rock, are you expecting a call from Nicole and did you at any point worry that the clothes you wore in the film were too extreme?

THE ROCK: Gary was very happy to let us go to great lengths to establish our characters and if he thought it was too much he would see it through the lens. We were trying to not let the audience know that we’re trying to make them laugh, like the earnest way in which I deliver my two sided monologue from BRING IT ON to John Travolta, that’s what we were trying to achieve.

F GARY GRAY: I’m sorry you guys but I have to say this, when I was in the cutting room I was laughing all the time there was so much good stuff that I had to cut and ended up on the floor, like that scene with the monologue, originally we had The Rock do it with all the movements and it was hilarious. If anybody is to blame it’s me for trying to cram as much as possible into the final product.