In 1985, John Travolta and Princess Diana shared a moment that will forever be remembered when they danced together at a White House state dinner hosted by then-President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan. In a new interview with Esquire Mexico more than 30 years later, the Grease star reflected on the "fairytale" moment, which he called "very special" and "magical."
In the interview, which PEOPLE translated, Travolta admitted that he did not anticipate having the opportunity to dance with the royal when he attended the dinner. He went on to say he "had the great privilege and honor of doing so" and recalled at the moment thinking to himself, "'There must be a reason for doing this and I better give it my all.' That meant, lead the dance well and make sure we had fun." Travolta said, "that was the easy part" of their dance, but "just the fact of greeting Diana appropriately, being confident and asking her to dance was a complicated task." He went on to liken the moment, which was captured in now-iconic photographs, to a "fairytale."
"Think of the setting. We were at the White House. It's midnight. The stage is like a dream. I approach her, touch her elbow, invite her to dance. She spins around and gives me that captivating smile, just a little sad, and accepts my invitation. And there we were, dancing together as if it were a fairytale," he said. "Who could ever imagine something like that would happen to them someday? I was smart enough to stamp it in my memory as a very special, magical moment."
The moment, which Travolta previously told Good Morning America in 2015 was "one of the highlights" of his life, came about after the former first lady told him Diana wanted to join him for a dance. He told Dutch TV station Één in a 2007 interview that Nancy "said, 'It is her wish,'" and that "at midnight, I had to tap her on her shoulder, and I had to say, 'Would you care to dance?'" According to the actor, the late princess "turned around and dipped her head in that Lady Diana way, and we were off for 15 minutes dancing." He told the outlet he was "so honored that I was able to experience this," adding, "I know for a fact that it was her highlight of being in the United States; it was her favorite moment. So I feel I made her life better, she made my life better, and I'm very sorry that she's not here."
When the dance occurred, Diana would have been four years into her marriage with Prince Charles. Just 11 years later, the couple, who share sons Prince William and Prince Harry, would divorce. Diana died one year later in a Paris car crash in August 1997 at the age of 36. Her sons are set to reunite in the U.K. this summer to honor their mother at a statue unveiling on what would have been her 60th birthday.