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'From Paris with Love' sees John Travolta get his Irish up with Jonathan Rhys Meyers

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“Wax enjoys Reese’s naivety,” says Rhys Meyers. “He enjoys seeing him get a punch. He enjoys seeing him shocked by all the shooting. There’s only one way to train somebody and that’s to throw him in at the deep end.”

Travolta’s dramatic new look in the film -- bald headed with a Village People-style goatee -- was the result of a lot of experiments on Photoshopping. The director tried the character with hair, then without it, then scarred and then not, until they found the final look.

“He’s a rogue,” says Travolta. “Even though he does things that we don’t agree with he’s so good at getting the job. You can take that liberty when you’re that good.”

When Travolta looks back now at Saturday Night Fever, the film that first made his name, he sees a little boy.

“I thought I was very advanced and mature in those days, and maybe I was, but I look so young. I’m proud of myself. I had a great start in this industry,” he says.

“Saturday Night Fever and Grease back to back and I got my first Academy Award nomination. I couldn’t have had a better start at 23 years old. As my Irish mother, who was very dramatic, said about my acting abilities to a reporter one night, ‘Porter House, darling, Porter House.’ Meaning top notch, meaning I did well.”

Asked about the tragic passing of his 16-year-old son Jett, who died after suffering a seizure while vacationing with Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston last year, Travolta pauses for a long time. Jett’s death occurred in the midst of filming From Paris With Love. “

It’s been a rough year. I’m not going to say it’s not. But we’ve been doing a lot of healing. We’ve worked with our church and with each other and our friends and our family,” he says.

Now Travolta is taking time to promote his new film and commit to other projects, like flying in aid relief to tragedy torn Haiti (Travolta is a pilot and owns his own 747). Working on the film, and on such an extreme character, helped to direct his attention, which turned out to be a relief.

“I’m a comedian, and my instinct when acting is to be over the top, and the director (Pierre Morel) would always pull me back from that. Meryl Streep told me she called her approach the Chinese menu. What that means is you play a whole range of approaches and then you trust the director and editor to pick the right ones,” he says.

It’s not an acting approach that appeals to Rhys Meyers, who has his own ideas about how to create a compelling character.

“I don’t give Chinese menu,” he says, “I give the Blue Plate special.”

From Paris With Love opens nationwide this Friday.

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