How Playing Sandy In Grease Would Change Olivia’s Life Forever Detail Explored

August 9, 2022 0 By Cypher9ja


How playing Sandy in Grease would change Olivia’s life forever
– #playing #Sandy #Grease #change #Olivias #life

There’s few actors who are lucky enough to star in a role that spans generations and defies time, but Olivia Newton-John was one of them.

Her turn as Sandy Olsson in Grease would propel the rising star to extraordinary heights, changing not only Newton-John’s life but that of millions of people around the world.

The 1978 film and its iconic music became the soundtrack to so many of our lives and its leading lady will forever be remembered as the fresh-faced Australian girl who falls for the bad boy Danny Zuko.

READ MORE: John Travolta’s touching tribute to Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton-John auctions iconic Grease costumes
Olivia Newton-John as Sandy and John Travolta as Danny in Grease. (AAP)

Women, and little girls, wanted to be Olivia – and Sandy – and men wanted to be with her.

But it was a role that she initially said no to.

Olivia’s transformation to ‘Sandy’

Thanks to a string of country and soft-rock hits, Newton-John was already a popular singer by the late 1970s.

But her co-starring role opposite John Travolta in Greasearguably the most popular movie musical of all time, lifted her to a new level of stardom.

She famously declined the part, at first turning down producer Alan Carr because she thought she was too old for the role of a high school teen at the age of 27.

During filming, Newton-John celebrated her 29th birthday but despite her age she gave an indelible performance as Sandy, a sweet-natured Australian transfer student who romances Travolta’s alpha greaser Danny at a Southern California high school in the 1950s.

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Olivia Newton-John initially declined the role of Sandy. (Getty)

“I don’t think anyone could have imagined a movie would go on almost 40 years and would still be popular and people would still be talking to me about it all the time and loving it,” Newton-John told CNN in 2017.

“It’s just one of those movies. I’m very lucky to have been a part of it. It’s given so many people pleasure.”

READ MORE: Chloe Lattanzi shares moving tribute to her mum Olivia

Her co-star Stockard Channing, who played Rizzo, was 33 during filming.

Grease was 1978’s top-grossing movie and became an enduring cultural phenomenon.

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Olivia Newton-John wears her iconic outfit in the 1978 film Grease. (Supplied)

Up until the success of the movie, Newton-John had not gained much recognition in Britain (where she had been born), but had topped the American music charts, with songs including Let Me Be There and Come on Over.

The movie gave Newton-John an opportunity to change her squeaky-clean image.

The cover of her next album, Totally Hot, featured the singer in black leather, while its songs had an edgier, more contemporary pop sound.

The song that was almost cut

Newton-John sang on three of the movie’s biggest hits: the duets You’re The One That I Want and Summer Nights with Travolta, and her solo ballad, Hopelessly Devoted To You.

But that solo ballad, which comes at a pivotal moment for Sandy, almost didn’t happen.

Hopelessly Devoted to You was written and recorded after the movie had wrapped.

Newton-John’s contract for Grease stipulated that she should have a solo song.

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Olivia Newton-John in Grease. (Paramount Pictures)

However, nobody had any ideas for what her character should sing until a Newton-John’s long-time producer and songwriter John Farrar came up with Hopelessly Devoted To You halfway through the shoot.

Director Randal Kleiser wasn’t convinced by the song at first and had to come up with an entirely new scene to fit it in.

It was eventually filmed and recorded after the movie had finished filming and it earned the film’s only Oscar nomination.

Filming the movie

When Newton-John was cast as Sandy, her character’s background had to be changed to accommodate the actor’s nationality.

In the original Broadway musical, Sandy was an all-American girl and her last name was Dumbrowski.

In the movie, she became Sandy Olsson from Australia.

Newton-John also requested to have a screentest before she accepted the role.

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Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in Grease. (Getty)

The director agreed and they shot the drive-in movie scene with Danny and Sandy as a trial.

Originally, Sandy was not meant to take part in the school’s dance contest and was meant to be side-tracked and subdued by Sonny before the competition even started.

READ MORE: Tributes flow for Olivia Newton-John after brave breast cancer fight

But Newton-John keen to dance in the film and convinced the director to let her dance alongside Travolta, who was professionally trained and had just finished filming for Saturday Night Fever.

Newton John insisted on a screentest with Travolta, eventually nabbing the role of Sandy.
Newton-John wasn’t meant to take part in the dance contest. (AP)

The dance contest was filmed during the summer when the school was closed. The gym had no air conditioning and the doors had to be kept closed to control lighting, so the building became stifling hot. On more than one occasion, an extra had to be taken out due to heat-related illness.

That costume

At the start of the film, Sandy’s image is that of a clean-cut wholesome teenager.

But she famously changes her look to win the heart of Danny, the leader of the T-Birds and lover of leather, denim and biker boots.

With the help of beauty school drop out Frenchy, Sandy puts on a pair of skin-tight leather pants, leather jacket and cigarette.

Her hair is curled and her lips painted red.

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Olivia Newton-John as Sandy and John Travolta as Danny Zuko singing ‘You’re the One That I Want.’ in Grease (CBS via Getty Images)

When she walked onto the set after finishing in hair and makeup, many of the crew didn’t recognise her.

Newton-John wore a pair of red-leather wooden heels which were her own, but the rest of the iconic costume was brought in for the scene.

“I was weeny,” Newton-John told Nine’s Tracy Grimshaw in 2019.

“[The leather pant] were 20 years old when I tried them on – we made the movie in the ’70s and these are from the ’50s and the zip was broken and they didn’t want to replace it because they were worried it might make the fabric, they didn’t know what would happen with the fabric.”

The figure-hugging shiny high-waisted pants were so tight she had to be sewn into them.

READ MORE: From country singer to global star, Olivia Newton John’s incredible rise to fame

Olivia Newton-John auctions iconic Grease costumes
The final scene of Grease. (Getty)

The makeover made Newton-John a sex symbol, something she found strange.

“That was kind of weird for me. But this whole look, Sandy 2 as I call her, was a sexy image and it was really fun to do.”

Grimshaw asked Newton-John whether she was “more like Sandy 1 or Sandy 2?”

“I’m not telling you,” Newton-John laughed.

“I think I’m a bit of both. I think as women we have a little bit of both.”

The charity auction

The four-time Grammy award-winning singer originally wanted to part with the costume to coincide with the movie’s 40th anniversary in 2018.

But Newton-John was forced to postpone the sale when she ended up in hospital after suffering a fractured pelvis, a side effect of her most recent cancer treatment.

Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time in May 2017, after beating the disease in 2013 and 1992. Doctors said the cancer was incurable but could be managed through treatment.

Olivia Newton-John, Grease jacket
Olivia Newton-John wearing her famous leather jacket. (Paramount Pictures)

In 2019, Newton-John decided to auction the outfit along with 200 other costumes, ensembles, gowns, personal items and accessories.

“I’ve been wanting to auction them off for many years, and now is the perfect time,” she told Fox 5 news in Las Vegas.

“We were going to do it on the 40th anniversary but I spent most of that in hospital, so now it’s the following year and that’s fine.”

A portion of the money raised from the sale through Julien’s Auctions went towards the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre in her hometown of Melbourne.

The black leather jacket and pants sold for $580,000 ($405,700 US) – more than double the auction estimate.

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Olivia Newton-John’s outfit sold at auction to benefit her cancer research centre. (Supplied)

Her custom Pink Ladies jacket monogrammed with the name Sandy sold for $$70,000.

The sale raised more than $3.5 million.

“These two items changed my life, really,” Newton-John told Grimshaw.

“This scene at the end of the movie that everyone seems to remember.”

The memorabilia was returned to Newton-John to go on permanent display research centre in Victoria, which she founded in 1992 after first being diagnosed.

Friends forever

Newton-John’s on-screen performance alongside Travolta would be the beginning of an enduring friendship that would last until the very end.

They reunited over the years to perform together, including most recently in December 2019 in Florida where they dressed up as their famous characters.

Travolta described it as a “glorious experience” in front of 20,000 people.

“It was one of the highlights of our lives to see the joy of people unrequited love happening from 40 years of people waiting to be with us,” he said at the time.

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta attend the 2013 G'Day USA Los Angeles Black Tie Gala at JW Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE on January 12, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
Olivia Newton-John Travolta in 2013 at the G’Day LA gala. (Getty)

“It was my idea, the key was we got to look like Sandy and Danny.”

Newton-John added: “That movie is still loved…The excitement from the people, it was amazing, I couldn’t believe it, people still love it.”

In paying tribute following Newton-John’s death Travolta wrote: “My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better.

“Your impact was incredible. I love you so much. We will see you down the road and we will all be together again. Yours from the first moment I saw you and forever! Your Danny, your John!”

From co-stars to real-life family

Jeff Conaway, who played Kenickie in Greasebecame more than just a co-star to Newton-John.

He married into her family in 1980, after Newton-John introduced him to her sister, Rona.

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Jeff Conaway as Kenickie in Grease. (CBS via Getty Images)

Rona and Conaway, who have a son together, went on to divorce five years later.

When he passed away in 2011, Newton-John described the loss as “so very sad”.

“Jeff had a good heart and was so very talented. He was a big part of our family for many years and he will be missed.”

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Olivia Newton-John: Her extraordinary life remembered

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