“I’m too strong for you.” That’s what Kelly Preston‘s character said to Tom Cruise‘s newly unemployed sports agent in Jerry Maguire right after she kicked his ass. Preston herself was too strong for this world, as she passed away on Sunday night at the age of 57 following a courageous two-year battle with breast cancer.
Though Preston made headlines with her 29-year marriage to John Travolta, she was an accomplished actress in her own right. Not only did she give Cruise a tongue-lashing and more as his cutthroat fiancee in Cameron Crowe‘s Best Picture nominee, but she shared the silver screen with stars such as Kevin Costner (For Love of the Game), Eddie Murphy (Holy Man), and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Twins).
Preston’s acting career took off in the early-to-mid ’80s with roles in films such as John Carpenter‘s Christine, the teen rom-com Mischief and the beloved adventure movie SpaceCamp. Preston once said she had a premonition that she’d marry Travolta when she saw the poster for Grease at age 16, though she didn’t meet her future husband until a 1987 screen test for The Experts. The two married in 1991 and quickly started a family together.
1996 brought Jerry Maguire as well as a lead role in Alexander Payne‘s acclaimed comedy Citizen Ruth, while a string of family films followed, including Jack Frost, The Cat in the Hat and Sky High. More recently, she played Kevin Bacon‘s wife in Death Sentence and Kevin Spacey‘s wife in Casino Jack, and worked with her husband on Old Dogs and Gotti. She also co-starred in the Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Last Song starring Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth.
Travolta paid tribute to his wife on Instagram, writing “It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my beautiful wife Kelly has lost her two-year battle with breast cancer. She fought a courageous fight with the love and support of so many. I will be taking some time to be there for my children who have lost their mother, so forgive me in advance if you don’t hear from us for a while. All my love, JT.”
Preston’s daughter, Ella Bleu Travolta, also remembered her mother on Instagram, writing “I have never met anyone as courageous, strong, beautiful and loving as you. Anyone who is lucky enough to have known you or to have ever been in your presence will agree that you have a glow and a light that never ceases to shine and that makes anyone around you feel instantly happy. Thank you for being there for me no matter what. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your help and thank you for making this world a better place. You have made life so beautiful and I know you will continue to do so always. I love you so much mama.”
My heart goes out to the entire Travolta family today, as I know their pain, having lost my mother to cancer several years ago. That family has already been through so much together — John and Kelly’s eldest son Jett died at the age of 16 following a seizure — and I have no doubt that their past experience will help get them through this terribly sad time.
I’ve already seen numerous tributes on Facebook testifying to Preston’s warmth, kindness and generosity. For a glimpse of her talent as an actress, watch her go toe-to-toe with Cruise below in a hard-hitting scene from Jerry Maguire.