June 5th, 2009
01:09 AM ET

The man who wasn’t there

Just came back from the red carpet premiere of “The Taking of Pelham 123” in Los Angeles.

“The Taking of Pelham 123” is a modern update of the 1974 film and stars John Travolta as New York subway train hijacker who takes hostages for ransom. Denzel Washington plays the subway dispatcher Travolta’s character communicates with throughout the crisis.

The bigger premieres are usually held in Westwood and this was no exception. They pulled out all the stops, recreating the look of an actual Big Apple subway station, complete with giant train facades, route maps, and white-tiled walls. Washington was the first to arrive, which was very unusual. Standard operating procedure is for the biggest stars to get there last, right before the screening.

Turns out there was a reason for that: Washington told me he was hoping to get to the NBA Finals at the Staples Center in time for the third quarter. His wife was already there waiting for him. Behind us, crowds of UCLA college kids were screaming, “We love you, Denzel!! Denzel, you’re a god!!”

But everyone’s thoughts were really with the man who wasn’t there: John Travolta, who is very understandably taking a hiatus from the public eye to mourn the tragic death of his son Jett. Washington said he’d recently talked to Travolta, who was in “a tough situation” that he’s trying to “work through.” Denzel said he really got to know him “over the phone, over the wire” while making the film (their characters spend most of the movie interacting over the phone), and they got along “quite well,” and even sang songs. “He’s a great character and a great man.”

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