John Travolta reportedly hoped Gotti would make him a contender for Best Actor at next year's Academy Awards. It's apparently the impetus for the critically panned John Gotti biopic eventually getting a larger-scale theatrical release, which would theoretically increase its chances of Oscar consideration. But as it turns out, Travolta couldn't have saved the production if he turned in the best performance of his career as the infamous "Teflon Don". Despite favorable audience reactions, Gotti instantly entered Hollywood infamy upon its release with a rare zero percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Furthermore, Gotti limped out of the gate at the box office with just $1.7 million in its opening weekend. However, that was at just 503 locations in 25 cities and the movie cost $10 million to make, so perhaps there's an outside chance of positive word-of-mouth rescuing it in the end. But it's clear that the arduous process of making Gotti and getting it to theaters doomed it at the box office, and it's the end product of another great disappointment for the Oscar-hopeful Travolta.
As reported by THR on Monday, several insiders who worked closely to the project say Travolta believed Gotti "would make him a player" for Best Actor at the Academy Awards. Presumably, he felt that other nominations could have followed for the movie, which was apparently a "passion project" of his. There's plenty of evidence that Travolta had high hopes for Gotti. He joined Facebook and Instagram for the first time to help promote the movie; he spearheaded the charge to drop it from Lionsgate, which intended for a limited release and wider on-demand distribution; and he participated in a variety of events at Cannes, which didn't officially select Gotti for screenings.
Travolta also personally met with investors from MoviePass, which sank an investment in the "low seven-figure range" into distribution for Gotti, according to THR. Additionally, Travolta traveled to seven cities to promote the movie: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Miami. Gotti exceeded expectations in those markets, but "fell flat" everywhere else.
As the THR story noted, Gotti's ultimate failure underscores the extreme risk that comes along with "passion projects". Another infamous Travolta flop, Battlefield Earth, is known as another one for the actor. It's also a statement on the power that Rotten Tomatoes and the critical consensus still hold, especially considering that the movie holds a 70 percent user rating on RT as of this writing. Gotti may eventually see some success when it reaches homes, but it's clear that Travolta isn't going to get the awards campaign that he hoped for and worked tirelessly to make a reality.
Ironically enough, Travolta himself ended up relatively low on the list of critics' problems with Gotti. He wasn't universally praised, but he did get some good marks in otherwise scathing reviews. The Los Angeles Times' Gary Goldstein called his performance in the title role "terrific" and noted it as the only reason to see the movie. EW's Chris Nashawaty describes Travolta as "ferocious and committed." But unfortunately, the rest of the movie ended up too messy for the lead performance to carry it beyond the dismal reception it got from critics. And it almost certainly didn't turn out good enough to get Travolta the award recognition he wanted - and arguably may have even deserved.