Family & Companions
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 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 a developmental issues they linked to Kawasaki Syndrome, an inflammatory disorder known to cause heart disease.
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Moved to Los Angeles to study at USC
First regular TV appearance in the CBS daytime serial, "Capitol" (billed as Kelly Palzis)
Made film debut in "10 to Midnight" (billed as Kelly Palzis)
Cast as a series regular on NBC's "For Love and Honor" (first billing as Kelly Preston)
Co-starred in "SpaceCamp"; met future husband Kevin Gage (since divorced)
Met future husband John Travolta while starring in "The Experts" (released in 1989)
Displayed comedic talents in "Twins"
TV-movie debut, "The Perfect Bride" (USA Network)
Had featured role in Showtime's "Mrs. Munck"; written and directed by Diane Ladd; played Ladd's titular character as a young woman
Had breakthrough role in "Jerry Maguire"
Appeared as Matthew Broderick's ex-girlfriend in "Addicted to Love"
Co-starred with Eddie Murphy and Jeff Goldblum in "Holy Man"
Played the female lead in "Jack Frost"
Cast as Kevin Costner's leading lady in "For Love of the Game"
Co-starred in Billy Bob Thornton's "Daddy and Me"
Played the girlfriend of her husband's character in "Battlefield Earth"
Along with Gwyneth Paltrow, co-starred in the feature "View From The Top"
Played the mother to Amanda Bynes' character in "What a Girl Wants"
Cast in a two-episode story arc on NBC's "Joey" playing the best friend of Joey's sister (Drea de Matteo)
Starred in the black comedy "Eulogy" which follows three generations of a family, who come together for the funeral of the patriarch
Co-starred with Kurt Russell in Walt Disney's teen comedy "Sky High" as the flying superhero mom Josie Jetstream
Played Kevin Bacon's wife in the psychological thriller "Death Sentence"
Had a recurring role on NBC's "Medium"
Co-starred with Robin Williams and husband John Travolta in the comedy, "Old Dogs"
Played the wife of lobbyist and businessman Jack Abramoff (played by Kevin Spacey) in "Casino Jack"