- - Wednesday, May 3, 2017

It’s hard to believe four decades years have passed since John Travolta strutted down a Brooklyn sidewalk in the opening credits of “Saturday Night Fever.” A brand-new director’s cut of the controversial film is now out on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD for viewers to return to the disco streets of yore 40 years on.

“Saturday Night Fever” tells the tale of working-class Brooklynite Tony Manero (Mr. Travolta), who spends his weekends dancing in a disco to compensate for his unhappiness amid a dead-end job and unsupportive parents. The soundtrack sold 40 million records, helping the film make a doubly indelible impact on modern pop culture.

The Washington Times spoke exclusively with “Saturday Night Fever” co-star Donna Pescow, who played Annette, Tony’s former dance partner and would-be girlfriend, about the iconic film.

Question: What is it like revisiting a role you created so long ago?

Answer: It’s surreal! It’s taken me 40 years to really come to terms with the role and the film’s impact.

When I talk about this character now, it’s probably a little more clinical. At the time it was more difficult. I was really young, there was a little bit of an embarrassment — not in terms of what I did in the film, but what people saw.

Q: How did you deal with the scenes where your character is raped?

A: I thought that it was shot so well. I was so protected during the actual filming. The director, John Badham, had tremendous sensitivity about it.

It was a closed set; only people that had to be there were there. The actors were all very respectful. Emotionally we were all going through things that were pretty horrific. I know it sounds crazy, but it was a very supportive situation. You were kinda allowed to do your best work and still feel safe.

Q: Have you been in touch with anyone in the cast?

A: It’s really lovely [that] throughout the years we all have seen each other from time to time and kept in touch. I think everyone bonded because this was their first experience working in film.

I speak to John [Travolta] a few times a year. He is the same person he was — he’s just the most wonderful, sweet man in the world.

Q: Did you take anything from the set?

A: I really should have!

I still have the cross my character wore. John’s disco suit has been auctioned off several times. [Film critic] Gene Siskel ultimately bought it.

Q: Was your character ever going to be in the film’s sequel, “Staying Alive”?

A: That script went through so many changes. At one point in time, there was a scene where Tony goes back to Brooklyn, and I was in that. But then it all changed.

I did one or two days on set. It was really sort of a “sore thumb” the way the rest of the film was constructed. So I ultimately wasn’t in it, but I was OK with that. I was more worried it would end up on the cutting room floor when it was all said and done.

I thought it was better to step away and know that the scene wouldn’t be edited strangely. Then there are no surprises.

Q: Your character is very marriage-oriented versus Stephanie, Karen Lynn Gorney’s character, who is more independent and career-oriented. What do you feel the film says about women, and how has that changed since it first came out?

A: I think things have changed completely. For a woman to have a career at that time was an oddity — at least in the opinions of kids in that neighborhood. Most of them majored in matrimony — I think that’s a line from the film.

If you look at what Stephanie was doing … she tries so desperately to be on her own and has to go through all of the humiliation, trials and tribulations of making that happen. That was a very new thing for women.

Q: This is not the first controversial project you have been in. When you did the soap opera “All My Children,” you played the first gay character on television, yes?

A: It was incredibly gratifying to be able to do such a groundbreaking role. I was really excited to educate people, and I was thrilled to be a part of it. I got so many touching letters from fans who said I had inspired them. I was ready to cry after reading them. It’s a role that I will always treasure.

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