John Travolta turns 70: ‘Grease’ star’s loves, losses and the moment he ‘thought it was over’

John Travolta is celebrating a milestone birthday.

The actor, who turned 70 Sunday, has stayed busy over the past year filming a series of upcoming projects. Travolta also recently made headlines when he honored Prince Harry at the 21st Annual Living Legends of Aviation Awards last month.

The “Grease” star later shared a photo in which he posed with the 39-year-old Duke of Sussex, who was inducted as a living legend of aviation, as well as honoree Lauren Sánchez and past honoree Jeff Bezos at the event in Beverly Hills.

“I was so proud to host Prince Harry, Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sánchez at Living Legends of Aviation awards event Friday night. Congrats to both Prince Harry and Lauren on their awards!!” Travolta wrote in the caption of an Instagram post.

john travolta smiling on red carpet

John Travolta is celebrating a milestone birthday. (Cosimo Martemucci/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Harry was recognized for his years as a helicopter pilot while serving in the British Army. During his decade of military service, Harry trained on missions in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. The younger son of King Charles III also flew combat missions during his two tours in Afghanistan.

A source told the U.K.’s Mirror Travolta was the “driving force” behind Harry’s selection as an honoree. Travolta reportedly maintains a “strong emotional link and connection” to Harry through his friendship with his late mother, Princess Diana, per the outlet.

At the awards ceremony, Travolta presented Harry with the award before the two hugged and posed for a photo on stage.

“This is nice,” said Harry, who was not accompanied to the event by his wife Meghan Markle.

“Thanks very much, Captain John,” he added.

“I was 1 year old when you danced with my mum. As you’ve told everybody here and continue to dine out on that probably every single night,” Harry joked.

“But look at us now. It’s great. So, if we’re not going to dance together, we’ll fly together.”

Travolta, who has been a licensed pilot since he was 22, was previously named a Living Legend of Aviation and received the Ambassador of Aviation Award in 2007. Travolta owns several planes, including a Boeing 707-138 he parks in the backyard of his Florida home, per Business Insider.

“That’s how crazy I am about it. If I can look out the bedroom and see the planes, I am happy,” he told CBS in 2008. “I rest easy.”

Travolta in plane

Travolta and Harry share a love of flying. (Gregg DeGuire)

The “Saturday Night Fever” star also shared how his love of flying has helped him cope with difficult times in his life.

“Aviation has always bailed me out of anything in my mind that is blue,” Travolta said. “I can look through an airline schedule and brochure and cheer up.”

There was one plane incident, however, Travolta thought he was “going to die.”

“I actually experienced a total electrical failure, not in a Vampire, but in a corporate jet over Washington D.C.,” Travolta said at the London premiere for the Disney+ short “The Shepherd” in November, according to Variety.

“So, when I read [Frederick Forsyth’s book of the same name], it resonated even more because of this experience I had personally had.

“I knew what it felt like to absolutely think you’re going to die,” he added. “I had two good jet engines, but I had no instruments, no electric, nothing. And I thought it was over.”

Since skyrocketing to fame in the 1970s, Travolta has cemented his status as one of Hollywood’s top actors. However, the New Jersey native has also experienced a number of personal heartbreaks over the years.

As Travolta marks his 70th birthday, here’s a look at his loves, losses and storied career.

‘The Boy in the Plastic Bubble’

Travolta dated Diana Hyland until she died in 1977. (Fotos International)

Prior to meeting his late wife Kelly Preston, Travolta was in a serious relationship with actress Diana Hyland.

The actor’s romance with Hyland ended in tragedy after the “Eight Is Enough” star died of breast cancer in 1977. The same disease would claim the life of Preston 43 years later.

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Travolta and Hyland had dated for a year before her death. The two met in 1976 on the set of the TV movie “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble,” when she was 41 and he was 23. Though Hyland played the mother of Travolta’s character in the film, the pair immediately felt a romantic connection.

“I have never been more in love with anyone in my life,” Travolta told People magazine in 1977. “I thought I was in love before, but I wasn’t. From the moment I met her, I was attracted. We were like two maniacs talking all the time on the set of ‘Bubble.’ After a month, it became romantic.”

According to the outlet, the couple became inseparable while filming.

“I had more fun with Diana than I ever had in my life,” said Travolta at the time. “And the odd thing is, just before we met, I thought I would never have a successful relationship. She told me that she too had thought the same thing. Then, bam.”

Marilu Henner John Travolta

After Hyland died, Travolta was linked to other stars, including Marilu Henner. (James Andanson/Sygma via Getty Images)

Travolta admitted that before Hyland’s death, the pair had planned on taking their relationship to the next level, and the future seemed bright.

“I picked out a house, and Diana and I were planning on moving in right after this movie,” said Travolta, referring to “Saturday Night Fever,” which premiered months after Hyland’s death.

“If she was alive, it is very possible I would have married her,” he added.

While Hyland had a mastectomy two years prior, Travolta said “she didn’t know she was going to die for sure until two weeks before.”

During the production of “Saturday Night Fever,” Hyland died in Travolta’s arms, the outlet shared.

“I felt the breath go out of her,” he recalled.

After Hyland’s death, Travolta was romantically linked to Brooke Shields, Marilu Henner and Catherine Deneuve before meeting Preston.

Love and loss

Travolta was married to Kelly Preston from 1991 until her death in 2020. (Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP)

Travolta found true love again with Preston, to whom he was married 28 years until her death in 2020.

In 1987, the pair met while filming the 1989 comedy “The Experts,” and both later admitted they were instantly attracted to each other, though Preston was married to actor Kevin Gage at the time.

john travolta on red carpet with late wife kelly preston

“I see, no lie, coming across the hall with his two dogs, this really hot guy,” Preston told Us Weekly in 2018 of meeting Travolta for the first time. “Then, he stops and says hello. And I was like, ‘Oh s—. Kill me now.’ You know, like, ‘Oh, my God.’”

“She came in this, this gorgeous woman,” Travolta recalled of meeting Preston during a 2018 interview with Us Weekly.

“We had an immediate chemistry.”

They shared daughter Ella, son Ben and their late son Jett. (Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for The “Gotti” Film)

After Preston and Gage divorced in 1987, the “Jerry Maguire” star dated George Clooney, and she was engaged to Charlie Sheen for a short time in 1990.

After the end of her engagement to Sheen, Preston began dating Travolta, who proposed to her on New Year’s Eve in 1991. The two tied the knot during two ceremonies later that year and remained married until the actress died at the age of 57 after a two-year battle with breast cancer in July 2020.

Travolta announced the news of his wife’s death in an Instagram post.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my beautiful wife Kelly has lost her two-year battle with breast cancer,” he wrote.

“She fought a courageous fight with the love and support of so many,” he added. “My family and I will forever be grateful to her doctors and nurses at MD Anderson Cancer Center, all the medical centers that have helped, as well as her many friends and loved ones who have been by her side.

“Kelly’s love and life will always be remembered. I will be taking some time to be there for my children who have lost their mother, so forgive me in advance if you don’t hear from us for a while. But please know that I will feel your outpouring of love in the weeks and months ahead as we heal. All my love, JT.”

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