Editor’s note: The following article was written by Ebert Fellow Shalayne Pulia of The Daily Illini.
“Blow Out,” the 1981 thriller starring John Travolta and Nancy Allen, was presented at Ebertfest on Saturday night. After the film, Allen was in attendance to answer questions from esteemed critic Leonard Maltin and the audience. I spoke with the actress backstage after her Q&A about what it was like to work with John Travolta and to be a woman in the film industry in the 1980s.
How do you know when a film you’re working on is going to be good?
You can almost tell right away because there’s a vibe on the set. The energy in the air’s very exciting because people in all departments generally know when they’re working on a good piece. And they’re very passionate. Everything seems to be working like a well-oiled machine. And when a script is not working, it’s like you’re bumping into walls trying to get it done. But then you have situations like this when you know you’re working on something good--like with “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” we knew we were making a good movie. But then it doesn’t perform at the box office. But the movie doesn’t change. And eventually, over time, it becomes more and more loved by more people.
Why do you think “Blow Out” is still popular 35 years after its release despite not doing well initially at the box office?
I think we’re all curious about conspiracy, and that goes on even today. But I think the characters work … and what [John Travolta] brought to the film was heart, because that that character is a very cold character on paper. And just because of the nature of who [Travolta] is, it adds a whole other color to it.
Q: You spoke at the Women in Film panel on Friday about some of the challenges you faced starting out in the film industry. Many women in Hollywood today are speaking out about these issues. Do you think Hollywood is changing for women?
A: I think that I do see a change. When I was working, you didn’t have those opportunities. You look at [Jennifer Lawrence or Charlize Theron], and I think that women have learned to speak up more. When I was working, people just wanted to work. And they thought, ‘well, women have to take a certain position.’ And these women today are powerhouses. That’s the future. It’s different because Jennifer Lawrence has really spoken out a lot and no one has said, ‘Oh, what a bitch she is’ or ‘Oh, what a jerk.’ When I was doing it, she would have been shut up. A PR person would have taken her aside and said, ‘Don’t say it. Keep your mouth shut and just take the money and do your work.’ Women are not going to be held down anymore. There’s still a long way to go, but [this generation] will be part of the change, hopefully.
Q: What advice can you offer to young women trying to make a career in film?
A: Don’t let anyone tell you ‘No.’ You teach people how to treat you. If I had stopped when people started telling me ‘No,’ I wouldn’t have had a career. If you look at it as an adventure of where you’re supposed to be, if they say ‘No,’ just keep going until you end up where you’re supposed to be. Follow your bliss; the money will follow.