John Travolta recently revealed that his new film, The Shepherd, was inspired by a near-death experience he had encountered. The actor opened up about this experience during a discussion with a London audience, explaining how the incident resonated with the storyline of the film, which is an adaptation of Frederick Forsyth’s novella.
Travolta recalled the incident, describing how he faced a total electrical failure while flying in a corporate jet over Washington DC. Although he had two functioning jet engines, he found himself without instruments or any source of electricity. This frightening situation made him genuinely believe that his life was about to end. With his family on board, he felt helpless and thought, “This is it, I can’t believe I’m going to die in this plane.”
However, just as all seemed lost, a miraculous turn of events occurred. The jet descended to a lower altitude, allowing Travolta to spot the Washington DC Monument and identify the nearby Washington National Airport. With what seemed like divine intervention, Travolta managed to make a successful landing. This intense experience left a profound impact on him and served as the catalyst for his connection to The Shepherd’s central theme of facing imminent death.
Interestingly, Travolta had dreamed of adapting Forsyth’s book for the big screen three decades ago, envisioning himself in the role of the young pilot who encounters various challenges. However, the timing was not right, and he had to wait for thirty years before finally taking on the role of The Shepherd himself. Travolta playfully jokes about his younger self, saying, “I was young enough then that I could’ve played that part.”
The Shepherd was predominantly filmed in the UK. Travolta, excitedly sharing his personal journey with the audience, expressed how deeply his own brush with death influenced his portrayal of the character. He also commended actor Ben Radcliffe for his ability to capture the despair and anguish that comes with believing that one’s life is about to end.
John Travolta’s near-death experience served as the driving force behind the creation of The Shepherd. It left a lasting impact on him and resonated deeply with the storyline of the film. Travolta’s personal connection to the book, combined with the opportunity to portray the lead character, allowed him to bring an authentic and emotionally charged performance to the screen.