Before his career-making performances in the late-1970s masterpieces Saturday Night Fever and Grease, John Travolta was a television star that made a name for himself on the series Welcome Back, Kotter. Prior to making his monumental jump to the big screen, John was given the chance to stretch his dramatic chops in the memorable made-for-television feature The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. The film was casted by a man named Joel Thurm, who recently shocked the world with some behind-the-scenes trivia related to John and costar Robert Reed, who was previously known for his role as patriarch Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch. Join Facts Verse as we explore why Robert Reed was miserable working with John Travolta.
John Travolta Was the Boy in the Plastic Bubble
Most audiences members have likely never heard the name Joel Thurm before, but that’s about to change! Joel was a casting director in Hollywood for many years, and he worked on several notable productions. Some of those productions include the hit television series The Golden Girls, as well as the made-for-television feature The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. For those that don’t know, that latter feature was one of the vehicles that helped turn a young John Travolta into a star. At the time, John was making a name for himself on the series Welcome Back, Kotter. He had garnered a good amount of popularity via the series, but The Boy in the Plastic Bubble ended up being the piece of media that showed the world the actor has some serious dramatic chops. Besides starring John in the titular role, the film also starred The Brady Bunch’s Robert Reed as his father.
Casting director Joel Thurm recently came out with a book about his time as a casting director in Hollywood, and the book contains some interesting tales of the making of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. According to Joel, the filming of the made-for-television classic was largely a positive experience. Most of the people involved, including titular star John Travolta, gave their all to the project and kept a chipper attitude during the shoot. However, there was one star that wasn’t very pleasant to be around, and that star was Robert Reed. Whereas John was known for his time on Welcome Back, Kotter, Robert was known for his time on The Brady Bunch. Robert played Brady patriarch Mike on the series, and it remained the actor’s most iconic role until his death.
Robert Reed played an important role in The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, but John Travolta was obviously the film’s focal point. Not only did the made-for-television feature itself revolve around John and his character, but the production also revolved around the actor and his work schedule. John was still filming episodes of Welcome Back, Kotter at the time that he was performing in the film, which meant that there were only a little over two weeks in total that the actor was available. Because of this, the schedule for filming The Boy in the Plastic Bubble ended up being pretty tight. Given that none of the other actors, including Robert Reed, were in as high of a demand as John, they all ended up having to free up time in their own schedules for the bigger star.
John Had Limited Availability During Production
Most of the people working on The Boy in the Plastic Bubble were understanding of the fact that John Travolta had obligations to continue filming Welcome Back, Kotter. During his time on set, John was said to have been as pleasant as possible to all of the other people involved. Still, there was one person who started to hold a grudge against John, and that person was Robert Reed. Robert Reed was no slouch in the entertainment industry, but he was nowhere near being the rising star that John was. Robert apparently grew jealous of all of the attention that John was getting on the set, and he was also upset that he and everybody else on the set of the film had to work around John’s busy schedule.
Hollywood stars having bitter feelings towards one another is nothing new, but Robert Reed took it to another level on the set of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. He let his negative feelings towards John Travolta be known to everybody else on the set. Ironically, Robert’s attitude ended up doing more damage towards his own reputation than it did towards John’s. According to casting director Joel Thurm, things got so bad on the set of the made-for-television feature that, on one occasion, Robert stormed off the set. When this happened, Joel followed the actor to his dressing room and ended up performing a decidedly problematic favor in order to keep the Brady Bunch star from quitting the feature.
According to Joel Thurm, Robert Reed’s biggest fit on the set of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble occurred on a day when the actor had to undergo some extensive makeup. The makeup was meant to show the passage of time, and it required Robert to have to sit still for a couple of hours. When Robert stormed off towards his dressing room, Joel knew that he was going to have to do something drastic in order to ensure that all of that makeup didn’t go to waste. What he claims to have done after following Robert into his dressing room is shocking! Some audience members may already be familiar with the fact that Robert was a closeted homosexual. However, they likely won’t be prepared for the story of what Joel did to ensure that Robert finished performing his role.
Did Joel Thurm Perform Sexual Favors for Robert Reed?
According to Joel Thurm, things got pretty heated after he followed Robert Reed into his dressing room. Joel offered to give the actor a backrub in order to calm him down, which was an offer that Robert allegedly accepted. During the backrub, though, things ended up getting a bit more adult than Joel had expected. Joel claims that the backrub ended with him giving the former Brady Bunch patriarch a happy ending, and Robert subsequently came back to the set of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble and finished up his work no questions asked. One might imagine that Joel was sickened by the experience of having to perform a sexual favor for a Hollywood star. However, it seems like Joel considered the event to be business as usual. Joel was able to keep his performer from leaving the set of the picture, though the fact that the casting director was willing to perform such an intimate favor for the actor shouldn’t suggest any amount of respect. Joel maintains negative feelings about the actor in the wake of the experience, with the casting director claiming that Robert was very unprofessional towards John Travolta.
Other Tales from Joel Thurm’s New Tell-All Book
Given the scandalous tale of what Joel Thurm did to keep Robert Reed on the set of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, one might assume that the casting director’s newest book is full of shocking sexual exploits of a similar nature. However, it seems that performing sexual favors for pissed-off actors wasn’t an everyday occurrence for the casting director. Still, there are a few other stories of note from the book. Joel claims that he entered into the entertainment industry as a big fan of famously closeted Golden Age actor Rock Hudson. According to Joel, he had an encounter with Rock early on in his career that almost turned sexual. The incident occurred at a part, when a star-struck Joel noticed Rock from across the room. Rock apparently reciprocated the eye contact, and then gestured upstairs when he saw the eager look on the young casting director’s face. Joel claims he followed the actor upstairs with the intention of hooking up with him, but that he ended up being too nervous to go through with it!
Joel Thurm claims that he ended up running into Rock Hudson one more time before the famous actor’s untimely death from AIDS in the mid-1980s. Rock apparently didn’t recognize Joel from the previous incident, which is something that the casting director was grateful for. The second meeting occurred when Joel was tasked with casting a show by the name of The Devlin Connection. The show came on the air in 1982 and starred Rock Hudson, who would pass in 1985. Towards the end of the decade, Joel became the casting director for a new series by the name of The Golden Girls. The show became a big hit, though it also yielded another interesting behind-the-scenes anecdote for the casting director. According to him, there was a moment during the show’s production when Bea Arthur called Betty White a four-letter word that starts with a “c”.
The Boy in the Plastic Bubble was released in 1976, and John Travolta would go on to star in Saturday Night Fever the following year. The year after that, he starred in Grease. According to Joel Thurm, working with John was one of the most positive experiences of his career. Meanwhile, working with Robert Reed was one of the most negative. Robert had a history of being difficult, as there were also allegedly a few times when he butted head with creative forces behind the scenes of The Brady Bunch. The actor routinely had problems with the show’s writing, and he also had problems performing romantic scenes with his on-screen wife due to his closeted homosexuality. In the early 1990s, Robert would follow in the footsteps of the aforementioned Golden Age legend Rock Hudson by passing away as a result of AIDS.
Robert Reed really hated working with John Travolta on the set of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that The Brady Bunch’s Robert Reed threw a fit on the set of the made-for-television feature The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, and that the fit revolved around costar John Travolta? Comment down below!