John Travolta Talks About 'Hairspray'

John Travolta shows off his singing and dancing chops in "Hairspray."

ByABC News via logo
February 9, 2009, 9:44 AM

July 17, 2007 — -- In his new movie, "Hairspray," actor John Travolta takes on one of Broadway's greatest roles as Edna Turnbald.

The seamstress and unlikely dance star is the mother of a pudgy little girl with an unstoppable sense of joy who ends up cracking racial barriers in 1960s Baltimore.

The movie-musical is based on the hit Broadway play, which was based on a movie from the 1980s. It is the true story of a television dance show that decided to integrate.

While Travolta has danced and sung in movies like "Grease" and "Saturday Night Fever," it is the first time he's ever done it in heels.

He said he did it for every woman who is a little embarrassed about a few extra curves. Growing up, the women he admired on screen were shapely like Sophia Loren, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.

"Instead of going the Vegas way with it, I decided to go that kind of real, kind of sexual woman, as opposed to a grandma," Travolta said. "That's what half of what sells it as a woman are those curvaceous thighs, breasts and butt and you would be amazed what that attracts."

He said many people didn't recognize him in the costume.

"You wouldn't imagine growing that large would get the kind of attention I did and people forgot I was underneath it," Travolta said. "I would get gropes and feels and of course I was a little slutty about how I handled it. You know, I kind of didn't care."

Travolta donned a 30-pound fat suit and five hours of makeup daily for the role.

"Fortunately it was skin tight to my actual frame," Travolta said. "Anytime I moved, it moved, and that was quintessential because if there had been any lag or you know, any other kind of thing happening that would be awful."

Travolta said each day when the filming wrapped, he left Edna at work.

"Being groped, having scenes, dancing, singing, I was ready to let her go at the end of the day," he said.

Even though the yet-to-be-released movie already has buzz and good reviews, Travolta has his next project lined up.