‘Grease’: The Real Reason Olivia Newton John Nearly Turned Down the Role of Sandy: ‘I Was Very Anxious’
When “Grease” was filming back in the 1970s, nobody on set could have guessed the movie would become as iconic as it is today. The show’s directors even reportedly turned down a sequel before realizing the film’s success. But John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John quickly became one of Hollywood’s most-loved on-screen couples. Still, Newton John nearly didn’t accept the role of Sandy.
The ‘Grease’ cast was much older than the roles they played
It’s hard to believe the directors might have thought people would overlook the ages of the movie’s actors, but those who starred in the movie were nowhere near high school age. Stockard Channing, who played Rizzo in the film, was actually 33 during filming — it had been 15 years since she last took a high school course. Jamie Donnelly, who played Jan, was also in her 30s during filming, as was Michael Tucci, who played Sonny.
The rest of the cast wasn’t quite as old, but they were definitely beyond high school age. John Travolta starred as high school student Danny Zuko, though he was actually 23. Olivia Newton-John, who starred as Sandy, was 29. Most other actors were in their mid-20s for the movie, though there were one or two who were in their late teens.
Olivia Newton John reportedly almost turned down ‘Grease’ because of her age and career
Olivia Newton-John ended up securing the biggest movie role of her career by appearing in “Grease.” Her songs from the film helped pushed her budding music career, and she later released other songs such as “Physical” and “Come on Over.”
Surprisingly, though, there was a time when Newton-John was uncertain of whether she should sign on to do the film. Producers weren’t sure what kind of success the movie would see, and Newton John was skeptical about passing for a teenager when she was actually in her late 20s. Plus, Newton-John’s music career was already going well, and she didn’t want to risk it.
“I was very anxious about making another film, because my music career was going well, and I did not want to mess it up by doing another movie that wasn’t good,” Newton once told Vanity Fair, according to Marie Claire.
Newton-John also wasn’t convinced that her age lent itself to such a movie. Marie Claire reports that Newton-John requested a screen test to make sure she could pass as someone so young. When she saw how she looked, she decided to go for it.
John Travolta was determined to get Newton-John into the film
Though Newton-John eventually agreed on her own to do the film, Travolta wasn’t about to go down without a fight. “There was only one person on this planet who could be Sandy and I was hell-bent on getting [her] in the movie,” Travolta once said of his co-star.
The movie went on to become one of the most iconic films of all time, though nobody could have expected that during filming. Surprisingly, only Travolta and Newton-John still earn money from the production. The other stars reportedly didn’t negotiate their contracts in such a way, so while the film still sees success, Travolta and Newton-John’s co-stars don’t reap the benefits.