Born: October 13, 1962;

Died: July 12, 2020.

“WHAT was our deal when we first got together? Brutal truth - remember?”, says Kelly Preston’s no-nonsense character, Avery, to her fiancé, played by Tom Cruise, in a key scene in Cameron Crowe’s 1996 film, Jerry Maguire.

Moments later, she is devastated when Maguire tells her that the relationship is over. She turns away, silently – but spins around again and lays out Cruise with three rapid, hefty blows. “I won’t let you hurt me, Jerry”, she tells him triumphantly. “I’m too strong for you, loser”. The scene had women hollering in the cinema aisles.

Kelly Preston, who has died from breast cancer, aged 57, was best-known for her role in that film, but she also appeared in such movies as Twins (1988), with Arnold Schwarzenegger, and For Love of the Game (1999), opposite Kevin Costner.

She was born Kelly Kamalelehua Smith, in Hawaii, in 1962. The family lived for a time in Iraq and she lived in Australia before returning to Hawaii. When she was 15 she was so enthralled with the film of the year, Saturday Night Fever, that she signed up for dance lessons. She confided to her instructor, “I’m going to marry the man in the movie,” one John Travolta. The prophecy turned out to be true.

She graduated from high school along with, her website says, a student named Barack Obama. The road to acting began – as is so often the case with vividly attractive young women – with her being noticed by a modelling talent scout. “When I was 17, I did a chocolate commercial for Japan with ‘the Japanese John Travolta,’” she later said in a magazine article, perhaps not yet entirely convinced she would one day be married to the real deal.

The modelling work paid off. It led to small parts in television such as a 1980 appearance in the police drama, Hawaii Five-O. She went on to build a reputation in films, playing sexy teenagers, such as the 1985 comedy Mischief, in which she was described by the Boston Globe as “the shallow charmer the nerd dreams about.” She also had the chance to reveal she was far from vacuous in films such as Space Camp, where she defied the stereotype to play a genius.

In 1998, she landed the big breakthrough role when she played Schwarzenegger’s love interest in Twins. She revealed her strong sense of humour in a radio interview while talking about filming dance scenes with Schwarzenegger, who had been hitherto known only for action roles in the likes of Conan, the Barbarian. “Sometimes I thought I deserved hazard pay,” she said. “My toes were black and blue.”

Kelly Preston could certainly deal with the bruises life threw at her. She would have to have been bold to even consider becoming engaged to Charlie Sheen, an actor not known for sensibility and restraint. The relationship ended after he (allegedly) tried to shoot her in the arm.

Preston, who also dated George Clooney, married the actor Kevin Gage in 1985, but it ended in divorce two years later. She met John Travolta in 1988, when they worked on the comedy, The Experts. “I saw him snaking sinuously towards me across a lobby, before fixing me with a moody stare,” she said. “That was it – I was smitten.”

So, insisted Travolta, was he. However, one report says the union may not have been entirely coincidental as both Travolta and Preston practised Scientology.

Travolta later said it had been “love at first sight” and he felt “immediate chemistry”, but the couple did not start to see each other romantically until 1990. They married in Paris in 1991, at a midnight ceremony. The relationship was one of the most enduring in Hollywood, lasting almost 29 years.

Preston and Travolta both endured the rollercoaster ride of career success. She was said to be immensely supportive of Travolta during the lean years, before the career renaissance achieved by his imagination-assaulting performance in Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 hit, Pulp Fiction. Her own acting career in the Nineties was rather episodic, though she did make that memorable appearance in Jerry Maguire.”

The couple’s 16-year-old son, Jett, died of a seizure in 2009 at the family’s holiday home in the Bahamas. There was a subsequent court case after two people were accused of trying to extort millions from the couple in exchange for not publicising sensitive information about his death.

The couple later had to deal with box-office disasters they were both involved in, such as Battlefield Earth and the 2018 bio-pic, Gotti.

However, Preston, who was considered by the movement to be the more dedicated Scientologist, credited the religion with helping her positivity throughout her life. “In Scientology, we have what’s called ‘auditing’, and that helps you to address things in your life and to strip them away,” she told one reporter. “It’s a path of spiritual enlightenment. Also, it helps rid the mind of painful experience completely.”

Tributes to Preston came from such stars as Schwarzenegger, who said, “I was lucky enough to star with her and direct her, and her talent was off the charts”, and Olivia Newton-John, who said, “Kelly was a radiant, warm and gentle spirit - a loving, devoted wife, mother and sweet friend”. Preston, who was actively involved in education and drug reform, is survived by her husband and their children, Elle Bleu and Benjamin.