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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Hawai'i still on Kelly Preston's mind

 •  For actress Cheung, success comes with ups and downs

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

It only seems like Kelly Preston is everywhere these days.

Kelly Preston, a Punahou grad, says husband John Travolta and their kids are her priority.

Advertiser library photo • April 13, 2004

This year alone, the former Hawai'i resident has played an attorney fighting to save a death- row inmate in the new Bille August film "Return to Sender," and a lesbian returning home for her father's funeral in the black comedy "Eulogy," which premieres in Hawai'i Friday as the Hawaii International Film Festival's Closing Night Gala screening.

She's also set to appear on two episodes of the NBC sitcom "Joey," as Matt LeBlanc's dream girl.

Sadly, the only place she won't be is at the Hawai'i premiere of "Eulogy" at the Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival on Friday.

"I wanted desperately to come, but I just couldn't get free," said Preston in a phone interview from Florida.

That's because Preston is working on yet another film, "Sky High," in which she and Kurt Russell play a pair of superhero parents.


Closing Night Gala screening of the Hawaii International Film Festival

Despite the heavy workload, Preston, who has two children with husband John Travolta, says her home life is surprisingly manageable and that her priorities have remained unchanged since the birth of her son, Jett, 12 years ago.

"My kids and my family will always come first," she said. "Whatever project I take on has to fit in to the rest of my life."

Preston recently sold her Honolulu home but still manages to make it back to the Islands twice a year with her son and 4-year-old daughter Ella Bleu.

"I have my favorites when I'm back home," Preston says. "We go eat shave ice, go to the North Shore, go to Zippy's for plate lunch, go to Ono's for Hawaiian food, go get manapua. Basically, I just eat my way around the island."

Preston, 42, got her start in acting back when she was still Kelly Kamalelehua Palzis as an extra on the NBC sitcom "The Little People," shot in Hawai'i and starring Brian Keith. She also appeared on an episode of "Hawaii Five-0" as a wayward girl who gets caught shoplifting.

Since then, the Punahou graduate has gone on to appear in more than 40 films, including "Secret Admirer," "Twins," "From Dusk Til Dawn," "Jerry Maguire," and last year's "The Cat in the Hat."

Preston said she hopes Hawai'i will embrace "Eulogy" as much as critics and test audiences have. The film — which also stars Ray Romano, Hank Azaria, Debra Winger, Famke Janssen, Zooey Deschanel, Rip Torn and Piper Laurie — centers on the conflicts that arise when three generations of a family reunite for the funeral of their patriarch.

"They're a totally eclectic, dysfunctional, whacked family," Preston says. "And when they get together, all hell breaks loose."

The film got a standing ovation when it was screened at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.

"It was also screened in Salt Lake City, where the audience was older and more conservative, and they laughed so loud you couldn't hear some of the dialogue," Preston said.

"Sky High" figures to generate laughs from a decidedly different audience. In that film, Preston plays Josie "Jetstream" Stronghold, mother to a superpowered teenage boy struggling to find normalcy in a world where everybody is a superhero.

"This film is the one that's gone over the best with my kids," Preston says. "Ella runs around the house yelling 'Jooooosie Jetstreeeeam!' "

While Preston won't be around for this week's film festival, she will be here next month for a drug prevention conference in association with Narconon, the drug-abuse prevention and rehabilitation program started by Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Preston and Travolta both are members of the church.

Preston, an outspoken advocate for children's health issues, said she's been shocked and saddened by Hawai'i's continuing drug-abuse problems, particularly those associated with crystal methamphetamine. She said the extent of the problem hit home a couple of years ago when her home on O'ahu was burglarized by a suspected ice user.

Preston is herself a former user. She says she spent 10 years abusing marijuana, Quaaludes, mushrooms and cocaine before stopping completely.

"The most tragic thing is how drugs are tearing families apart in Hawai'i," Preston said. "There has always been pakalolo available. In fact, all the drugs you can think of are in Hawai'i, but the problem with crystal meth seems to have gotten worse and worse."

Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2461.