TORONTO — The moves he showed off in “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease” are the stuff of cinematic legend, but who knew John Travolta was also pretty handy with a paintbrush?
The star seems to have even surprised himself with the canvas he produced while prepping for his new art-heist film “The Forger.”
“I actually created my own Monet … and I was pretty proud of it,” Travolta said during an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, adding that the piece now hangs in his Maine home. “I put a nice frame on it.”
“The Forger” features Travolta as a criminal who bribes his way out of jail so he can spend time with his dying son (Tye Sheridan). To pay off his debt, he’s forced to take part in a museum break-in, ultimately enlisting the help of his petty crook father (Christopher Plummer) to do so.
To prepare for the role, Travolta took painting lessons and made a replica of the masterpiece his character produces — Monet’s “Woman with a Parasol.” Clearly happy with the result, he takes a minute during an interview to show a reporter a photo of his creation on his phone.
Painting, it seems, runs in the family.
“My grandfather was a wonderful painter, my father was good and my brother is good,” said Travolta, 60. “I studied a little bit — watercolours. But I really needed to get rebooted for this (movie) because it was oil paints.”
In addition to his studies, Travolta also met with actual forgers to get a sense of how they worked.
“I mostly did it not for accuracy, I did it to see what it would feel like to be under the gun,” he said of the art lessons. “(I wanted to see) how an artist would feel if his life were at stake.”
He added: “I loved having the professional obligation of painting.”
While the onscreen tension in “The Forger” is thick at times, the cast clearly had time for some off-camera fun during the shoot, which partly took place at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
“Shooting in the museum was awesome because we were doing night shoots and no one was allowed to be in that museum after 9 o’clock except us,” said Sheridan, whose other screen credits include “Mud” and “Tree of Life.” “And they let us come in and … shoot criminals stealing a piece out of their museum and they were OK with it!”
“That was so great,” added Travolta. “It’s such a beautiful museum. Oh my God is that a beautiful museum.”
The shoot also coincided with the Red Sox World Series run last year and the “Pulp Fiction” actor became a familiar figure at Fenway Park.
“I don’t readily follow (baseball) but the World Series, come on!” enthused Travolta. “That’s like going to the Super Bowl, everybody’s interested in that.”
Sheridan said he received some sage career advice from his cast mates during the shoot. But was the 17-year-old up-and-comer fully schooled in the astounding movie resumes of both Plummer and Travolta?
Not really, as it turns out.
“A lot of their films are rated R and I was 16 when we made the film,” said Sheridan. “I think I had seen ‘Pulp Fiction’ or ‘The Sound of Music.’ I was never a big movie watcher. I was always outside doing things and playing sports.”
On his viewing to-do list is Plummer’s Oscar-winning turn in “Beginners” and Travolta’s iconic turn in “Saturday Night Fever.”
Said the youngster: “I knew who they both were but I was a little unfamiliar with some of their (work).”
The Toronto International Film Festival wraps Sunday.