John Travolta is back as smooth-talking, tough-acting Chili Palmer in a sequel to the 1995 comedy hit Get Shorty. Alan Silverman has a look at Be Cool.
Chili Palmer has a way of getting his way and in Get Shorty the former shylock or loan shark muscled his way into Hollywood; but now it's 10 years later.
So where does he turn next? To the music business, perhaps the only trade more riddled with egos, shady deals and untrustworthy characters.
Like Get Shorty, Be Cool is adapted from a novel by Elmore Leonard and John Travolta says that's why he agreed to make his first sequel since the Guess Who's Talking comedies of the 1980's.
"Normally I resist sequels because I think they're arbitrary," Travolta says, "but it was Elmore Leonard that really seduced me into this, because he wrote a book called Be Cool as an homage to the movie Get Shorty, even though Get Shorty was based on his book. This was an inspiration he didn't expect to have. Then they adapted it quite well and it was that adaptation that took me. That was really why."
As a bonus, Travolta gets to dance with co-star Uma Thurman, but it's a totally different turn from their steps together back in 1994's Pulp Fiction.
"Uma is one of those joys to dance with," he says. "It was my idea to do the dance in this movie, because I wasn't allowed to do it in Get Shorty. I was okay with that because I thought 'I didn't get to dance in Broken Arrow, so I don't have to dance in Get Shorty. But I did want that character to dance because there was an image of how I wanted him and thought if Sean Connery as James Bond had to dance with one of his Bond Girls, what would it be? I always imagined it would be a 1960's Brazilian Jobim-type samba or cha-cha ... something cool and easy. So when I imagined Uma and me dancing to that, it was just too good."
"Working with John was sort of like putting on a perfectly broken in old glove," Uma Thurman says. " It's just so comfortable for me and I really like him as a person and as a movie star and as a dancer and as an actor and as a friend. "
Thurman plays a widowed record label owner who becomes Chili's new business partner ... and then some.
"Edie is kind of a tough, slightly 'street,' but vulnerable, fun, brave chick. I like all of those qualities in a woman," she explains.
Also tapping into a feminine side is pro wrestler-turned-actor 'The Rock.'
Rock, whose real name is Dwayne Johnson, swaggers and sashays as a gay, country music-singing bodyguard whose dream is to be an actor.
"Elliot Wilhelm is an aspiring actor. That was me five years ago when I first broke in with The Mummy Returns," he recalls. "He doesn't have a lot of money at all; that was me eight or nine years ago. I didn't have anything, really. Not only that, but he's a proud gay man. I'm not a gay man. Let me confirm that, but especially with a character like this, you could easily play over the top ... and I think once you start playing the character over the top, it's really not that funny. So it was important to be honest with the character; and, I've got to say, we could go outside right now and that is a reality. There are Elliots out there who are aspiring actors ... I run into them every day. That's a reality of Hollywood."
Director F. Gary Gray, whose most recent hit was the caper comedy remake The Italian Job, says he wanted Be Cool to be different from Get Shorty; but he does borrow from the original.
"There are definitely a few 'Chili-isms' that you recognize. You don't shy away them because it's just good writing and Chili Palmer is the reason we're doing the movie," he says. "The best thing about Get Shorty was Chili Palmer, so you had to bring some of those details to Be Cool. Because it was so long ago, there are a few nods to the original and if you had a chance to see the original, it's an inside joke that you can enjoy."
Be Cool also features Christina Milian as the talented young singer Chili takes under his wing. The ensemble also features Vince Vaughn, Harvey Keitel, Cedric the Entertainer and several music stars including 'Outkast's' Andre 3000 and Steven Tyler of 'Aerosmith.'