Kelly Preston

Kelly Preston Headshot

Actress

Birth Name: Kelly Kamalelehua Palzis

Birth Date: October 13, 1962

Death Date: July 12, 2020

Birth Place: Honolulu, Hawaii

Spouses: John Travolta

Partners: Charlie Sheen

This bubbly actress and wife of John Travolta began her career as a teen ingénue. Breaking into show business in 1982 under her legal name, Kelly Palzis, Preston landed her first role as a troubled teenager on the CBS daytime serial "Capitol" (CBS, 1982-87) before making her film debut in the Charles Bronson actioner "10 to Midnight" (1983). By 1983, she had adopted the surname Kelly Preston and had made the leap to primetime when cast as a flirtatious teen vamp in the short-lived series "For Love and Honor" (NBC, 1983-84).

Romantically linked to a number of eligible Hollywood bachelors during the 1980s - including Charlie Sheen and George Clooney - Preston married Travolta in 1991, a man with whom she would share both a family and a controversial belief in the religion of Scientology, after meeting the actor on the set of their film, "The Experts," (1989). Ironically, it was her role of the selfish, upwardly mobile girlfriend of fellow real-life Scientologist Tom Cruise in Cameron Crowe's sports agent-skewing romantic comedy, "Jerry Maguire" (1996) that best illustrated her previously untapped skills as a comic force to be reckoned with.

Born Kelly Kamalelehua Smith in Honolulu, HI on Oct. 13, 1962, Preston lost her biological father at an early age. His widow, Kelly's mother, Linda Carlson, remarried a short time later to Peter Palzis, who formally adopted Kelly as his daughter. While living in Australia as a teenager, Preston caught the eye of a fashion photographer who helped her get into modeling, which - as was often the case - led to work in commercials and other small parts. Returning to the U.S., Preston finished out high school in Hawaii, during which time she interned at an advertising agency as part of a career exploration program. After graduating in 1980, Preston decided to attend USC in Los Angeles, CA, but later transferred to nearby UCLA. Unfortunately, due to her budding acting career, Preston failed to receive her diploma.

Within a year of making her television debut, she adopted the surname Kelly Preston and made the leap to primetime. Cast as a flirtatious teen vamp in the short-lived series "For Love and Honor" (NBC, 1983-84), Preston proved herself a more than capable starlet. On the big screen, Preston was the female lead in the low-budget Charles Band fantasy "Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn" (1983) before finding a niche in teen fare like "Secret Admirer" (1985) and "SpaceCamp" (1986).

Later that year, Preston attempted to reposition herself with a key role in "52 Pick-Up" (1986), a gritty, low-budget crime thriller directed by John Frankenheimer. Based on a novel by Elmore Leonard, the film starred Roy Scheider as an oily philanderer whose mistress (Preston) is murdered before his eyes. The actress got a rare opportunity to, for the first time, display her comedic abilities as Arnold Schwarzenegger's trusting girlfriend in the hit comedy "Twins" (1988), but for the most part, the actress spent most of the late 1980s into the early 1990s tapped for unworthy fare.

Preston was especially miscast as a Soviet spy in her follow-up, "The Experts," an espionage-themed comedy which sat on the shelf for two years before it was released in 1989. But it did introduce her to Travolta.

While "The Experts" did precious little for her career, Preston walked away from the experience with one positive - namely, a future husband. Though both were involved in other relationships at the time (Preston was briefly married to actor Kevin Gage from 1987-89,) their off-screen chemistry was palpable. To no one's surprise, the two began dating in 1990. After marrying Travolta in 1991, Preston significantly re-prioritized her life. Stepping out of the spotlight in her early 30s - an especially pivotal time for starlets hoping to break out as serious actresses - Preston consciously took a backseat to husband's career; instead, choosing to focus mostly on motherhood. Nevertheless, Preston never completely left the public eye, becoming an active Scientologist and acting as Travolta's most visible public cheerleader.

Returning to active duty in 1996, Preston broke out with a string of performances that announced her versatility. After a cameo as a newscaster in director Robert Rodriguez's splatterfest "From Dusk to Dawn," Preston popped up - albeit barely recognizably - as a brunette lesbian trying to convince Laura Dern's title character to have an abortion in the black comedy "Citizen Ruth." Preston then closed out her banner year with an all-out turn as ruthless P.R. flak, Avery Bishop, in "Jerry Maguire."

Preston's standout performance led to her next three roles - the first, as Matthew Broderick's straying girlfriend in "Addicted to Love" (1997); then as a savvy media analyst opposite Eddie Murphy and Jeff Goldblum in "Holy Man" (1998); following them all up as the widow of a musician who is reincarnated as a snowman opposite Michael Keaton in "Jack Frost" (1998). The next year, Preston landed leading lady duties to leading man, Kevin Costner in the baseball-themed romantic yarn "For the Love of the Game" (1999) - a role which, along with showing off her well-established sex appeal, allowed Preston to also display a heretofore unexplored vulnerability. Though the movie performed under expectations - and was considered the weakest of Costner's baseball films - a number of critics singled out Preston for her involving on-screen presence.

With her career officially back in high gear, Preston kicked off the new millennium with a clunker cameo as a lusty alien in hubby Travolta's misfortunate vanity project, "Battlefield Earth" (2000). Luckily, she followed this up with a more worthy leading role in the ensemble of writer-director Billy Bob Thornton's little-seen "Daddy & Them" (2001).

Slipping effortlessly from ingénue to MILF territory, Preston played mother to Amanda Bynes in the 'tween- and teen-skewing comedy "What a Girl Wants" (2003) before appearing in one of her most high-profile roles as Joan, mother to Sally and Conrad, in the disappointing live-action adaptation of "The Cat in the Hat" (2003). After appearing in the little-seen indies "Eulogy" (2004) and "Return to Sender" (2004), Preston co-starred with Kurt Russell in the superhero spoof "Sky High" (2005), as the heroic Jetstream, who sends her non-powered son to a special secret academy for the offspring of super-powered crime fighters.

Turning to darker, far more serious fare, Preston won positive notice for her role as Kevin Bacon's conflicted wife in "Death Sentence" (2007), a revenge-drama directed by James Wan of "Saw" (2004) fame. She then made a memorable guest star appearance on "Medium" (NBC, 2004-09; CBS, 2009-11), playing a sexy venture capitalist with ulterior motives.

Then while on vacation with her family in The Bahamas, tragedy struck when her son, Jett, died after suffering a seizure. A caretaker at the hotel where the family was staying found him unconscious on the bathroom floor. Jett was rushed to Rand Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. He was only 16. Both Preston and Travolta had in the past confirmed that Jett had developmental issues they linked to Kawasaki Syndrome, an inflammatory disorder known to cause heart disease.

Preston's work slowed considerably following the tragedy. She appeared in Travolta's road trip comedy "Old Dogs" (2009), Miley Cyrus vehicle "The Last Song" (2010), Jack Abramoff biopic "Casino Jack" (2010) and Travolta's maligned Mafia drama "Gotti" (2018), as well as a brief story arc on the procedural drama "CSI: Cyber" (CBS 2015-16).

Kelly Preston died of breast cancer on July 12, 2020. She was 57.

Credits

Off the Rails

Actor
Cassie
Movie
2021

Gotti

Actor
Victoria Gotti
Movie
2018

Live with Kelly and Ryan

Guest
Talk
2017

CSI: CyberStream

Guest Star
Series
2015
34%

The Conversation With Amanda de Cadenet

Guest
Show
2012

The Last Song

Actor
Kim
Movie
2010

Casino Jack

Actor
Pam Abramoff
Movie
2010

ES.TV

Guest
Show
2009

Watch What Happens Live With Andy CohenStream

Guest
Talk
2009

Old Dogs

Actor
Vicki
Movie
2009

The Doctors

Guest
Talk
2008

The Tenth Circle

Actor
Laura Stone
Movie
2008

Death SentenceStream

Actor
Helen Hume
Movie
2007
20%

Broken Bridges

Actor
Angela
Movie
2006

MediumStream

Guest Star
Series
2005

The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson

Guest
Talk
2005

Sky High

Actor
Josie Jetstream
Movie
2005

Joey

Guest Star
Series
2004
50%

Return to Sender

Actor
Susan Kennan
Movie
2004

Eulogy

Actor
Lucy Collins
Movie
2004

View From the Top

Actor
Sherry
Movie
2003

What a Girl Wants

Actor
Libby Reynolds
Movie
2003

Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat

Actor
Mom
Movie
2003

Live With Regis and Kelly

Guest
Show
2001

Daddy and Them

Actor
Rose
Movie
2001

Battlefield EarthStream

Actor
Chirk
Movie
2000
3%

Bar Hopping

Actor
Bebe
Movie
2000

The Daily Show With Jon StewartStream

Guest
Talk
1999

For Love of the GameStream

Actor
Jane Aubrey
Movie
1999
46%

Kickin' It: With Byron Allen

Guest
Show
1998

Holy Man

Actor
Kate Newell
Movie
1998

Jack FrostStream

Actor
Gabby Frost
Movie
1998
19%

The ViewStream

Guest
Talk
1997

Addicted to Love

Actor
Linda
Movie
1997

Nothing to LoseStream

Actor
Ann Beam
Movie
1997
31%

Access Hollywood

Guest
News
1996

Mrs. Munck

Actor
Young Rose
Movie
1996

From Dusk Till DawnStream

Actor
Newscaster Kelly Houge
Movie
1996
63%

Jerry MaguireStream

Actor
Avery Bishop
Movie
1996
84%

Citizen RuthStream

Actor
Rachel
Movie
1996
81%

Extra

Guest
News
1994

Directed By

Actor
Show
1994

Cheyenne Warrior

Actor
Rebecca Carver
Movie
1994

Double Cross

Actor
Vera Blanchard
Movie
1994

Love Is a Gun

Actor
Jean Starr
Movie
1994

American Clock

Actor
Diana Marley
Movie
1993

Only You

Actor
Amanda Hughes
Movie
1992

Run

Actor
Karen Landers
Movie
1991

The Perfect Bride

Actor
Laura
Movie
1991

Tales From the Crypt

Actor
Series
1989
82%

The Experts

Actor
Bonnie
Movie
1989

Love at Stake

Actor
Sara Lee
Movie
1988

SpellbinderStream

Actor
Miranda Reed
Movie
1988

TwinsStream

Actor
Marnie Mason
Movie
1988
42%

Amor en la Hoguera

Actor
Movie
1988

A Tiger's Tale

Actor
Shirley Butts
Movie
1987

Amazon Women on the Moon

Actor
Violet
Movie
1987

Burnin' Love

Actor
Sara Lee
Movie
1987

Campamento Espacial

Actor
Movie
1986

SpaceCamp

Actor
Tish
Movie
1986

52 Pick-Up

Actor
Cini
Movie
1986

Secret Admirer

Actor
Deborah Anne Fimple
Movie
1985

Mischief

Actor
Marilyn McCauley
Movie
1985

Jeunesse heureuse

Actor
Movie
1985

For Love and Honor

Actor
Mary Lee
Series
1983

Tormentas de Acero

Actor
Movie
1983

Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn

Actor
Dhyana
Movie
1983

ChristineStream

Actor
Roseanne
Movie
1983
69%

Entertainment Tonight

Guest
News
1981

Good Morning America

Guest
News
1975

Today

Guest
News
1952

News aboutKelly Preston