05/31/2009 03:40 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Do Sony and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 Actually Benefit from Travolta family tragedy?

Note - this post has attracted quite a bit of negative attention from both random readers and trusted colleagues. Although I still believe it is a question worth asking, and was in no way directed at Travolta or his family (but rather at the media), the very last sentence is a bit colder and less sensitive than I intended (even my friends who liked the post condemned the final sentence). Thus, I have slightly altered it (and I have fixed a typo). -- Scott Mendelson

Random disconcerting thought for the morning. The big gossip news today is that John Travolta will not be doing publicity for Sony's upcoming The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. Fair enough. The man lost his sixteen year old son in a freak accident just six months ago, so the idea of doing a junket and/or appearing on the late-night talk shows is probably not very appealing right now (or ever again). But here's the awkward situation. It stands to argue that the news that Travolta is not doing publicity, as revealed by the film's costar (Denzel Washington), makes for a bigger media splash than if Travolta had just gone out and done the traditional publicity tour. Surely if his son had not just died, the footage of Travolta doing this appearance or that appearance wouldn't be the least bit noteworthy. Furthermore, if Travolta had gone the publicity route, so soon after said family tragedy, each appearance and each interview would have been front page fodder for the gossip rags and gossipy news sites. Either he opens up about his grief and every quote becomes a 'must read heart breaker', or he completely focuses on the film, which then is a news story in and of itself ("Why won't he talk about it? Is he in denial?" the tabloids will scream).

Point being, from a purely objective point of view, might we conclude that the death of Jett Travolta is actually a boon for Sony marketing and those who desire that The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3 open well in two weeks? Just as the death of Heath Ledger and the prostitution-related arrest of Hugh Grant gave a token added boost to their respective projects, John Travolta's family tragedy will have the effect of turning an arbitrary publicity tour (by Washington and others involved in the film) into a genuine news story that will place the film in the fore minds of readers and viewers everywhere. Sad to say, but could the obviously tragic death of Travolta's son actually be good news for the financial success of his latest picture?

Scott Mendelson