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Travolta back as bad guy after groping charge scandal

JOHN Travolta will soon be back on the big screen, but weeks of negative headlines have focused on his personal life and not on his return.

Travolta plays a corrupt Drug Enforcement Administration agent in Savages, an Oliver Stone film about a war between marijuana growers and a Mexican drug cartel.

It's the charismatic bad guy role that has kept Travolta popular in his later career, although he is not considered one of the film's lead actors.

Travolta's first film since 2010 comes less than two months after the actor was accused in a lawsuit of groping two masseurs. The case quickly unravelled after Travolta's lawyer discredited one of the anonymous accusers by showing the actor was across the country on the day of one of the alleged incidents.

Robert Marich, author of Marketing to Moviegoers, said the murky nature of the allegations against Travolta means he'll probably get the benefit of the doubt. "In those situations, the public is very forgiving to stars," Marich said.

The situation is not unique. Mel Gibson's last film, The Beaver, was released while he was embroiled in a custody battle. Veteran Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman said Travolta's supporting role gives him cover. "You let other people do more of the heavy lifting," Bragman said.