How John Travolta Got Into Character to Play Mob Boss John Gotti

Travolta's wife, Kelly Preston, plays Victoria Gotti in the film.

ByABC News
September 26, 2016, 11:15 AM

— -- John Travolta, who TV viewers last saw as Robert Shapiro in “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” is now stepping into the shoes of another iconic character, John Gotti.

Travolta, 62, portrays the notorious mob boss in the new film “The Life and Death of John Gotti." The Oscar-nominated actor revealed he had a very personal way of getting into character.

“It was an evolution,” Travolta told ABC News’ Mara Schiavocampo of portraying such a well-known person. “I got to wear his real jewelry. In several of the scenes I'm wearing his real ties.”

In a case of art imitating life, Gotti’s wife, Victoria Gotti, is played in the movie by Travolta’s real-life wife, Kelly Preston.

Preston described the movie as full of “fabulous fashion” and “big hair.” She said she believes the infamous couple made it through John Gotti’s crime-filled life by compartmentalizing.

“She knew what was going on,” Preston said of her character. “But she said, ‘When he would come in, the door would close and that life would end.’”

The Gottis’ own son, John Gotti Jr., was a frequent visitor to the set and key adviser for the movie, which is directed by “Entourage” star Kevin Connolly.

“There's always two sides to a story,” Travolta said of why he was drawn to portraying Gotti on the big screen. “They had a very human other side of existence, which is their family and their trials and tribulations.”

Travolta and Preston have faced their own tribulations in real-life, most notably the unexpected death of their teenage son, Jett, in 2009. The couple now have a 5-year-old son, Ben, and 16-year-old daughter, Ella.

“We certainly have bonded together,” Travolta said. “And certainly, having little Ben has been a beautiful kind of glue for us to re-bond after tremendous loss.”

Ben and Ella joined their parents in Cincinnati for the filming of the movie which saw parts of the Midwestern town transformed into 1980s New York.

When asked if there was any part of the 1980s that he would like to bring back, Travolta had a quick answer.

“I danced with Princess Diana in 1986 and that was one of the highlights of my life,” he said, referring to their dance at the White House that resulted in an iconic photograph.

"The Life and Death of John Gotti" is scheduled to hit theaters in 2017.