John Travolta is earning his racing stripes!
In the new movie Trading Paint, Travolta, 63, stars as a dirt track racing legend who is down on his luck and reluctantly drawn back into the sport when his son joins a competitor’s racing team.
PEOPLE has an exclusive first look at photos of the Grease star in all his racing gear glory — including a shot of him in the driver’s seat, as well as the film’s leading lady, music icon Shania Twain.
“This was John’s first time racing on a dirt track,” producer Andrea Iervolino tells PEOPLE. “He put in the time to train and proved he was a natural. We put him out there with other professional dirt track racers as well for some of the scenes and he really held his own. Talladega is an inspiring location to film and you can feel the history and grit of the track. It’ll inspire any driver who gets out on it.”
Twain plays Travolta’s girlfriend in the film and Iervolino says she brought a lot of heart to the project. “I couldn’t imagine anyone else up there next to him now and she’s made the role her own,” he says. “Movies today need more prominent female roles and Shania really outperforms in this role.”
Iervolino also praised Travolta’s talent and demeanor on set: “Having someone as talented and driven as John on set really lends itself to the story,” he says. “He’s very powerful in his scenes and his chemistry with the other actors is so natural and effortless. It really makes this story come to life in ways we couldn’t have predicted.”
Directed by Karzan Kader, Trading Paint also stars Michael Madsen (Kill Bill), Toby Sebastian (Game of Thrones), Kevin Dunn (Warrior).
It’s scheduled to open in theaters in 2018.