‘Grease’: The Surprising Age Difference Between John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John Went Unnoticed in the Film

John Travolta was already a superstar when he played Danny Zuko in the 1978 blockbuster Grease. Convincing Australian singer Olivia Newton-John to portray his love interest Sandy Olsson, Travolta apparently knew the two would create unrivaled chemistry. 

Fans may be surprised to know that Newton-John is a bit older than Travolta, though they both had the masses convinced they could pass as high school students.

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta of 'Grease'
Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta of ‘Grease’ | Paramount/Getty Images

‘Grease’ star John Travolta persuaded Olivia Newton-John to play Sandy

According to the Sunday Post, Newton-John met Grease producer John Carr at a dinner party when he tried to recruit her for the role of Sandy. Already known in the U.S. for her hit songs including “I Honestly Love You,” the native Australian was hesitant to take on another acting opportunity after appearing in two box office bombs. Newton-John was also skeptical that fans would believe she looked young enough to be in high school.

“I could not play a high school student at 28,” she wrote in her 2019 book Don’t Stop Believin’. Her doubts were doubled by the fact that Travolta was only 23 years old.

Since Carr couldn’t sell her on the idea, he asked Travolta to sway her toward taking on the role. The Saturday Night Fever star paid Newton-John a visit in person and worked his magic.

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“I went outside to be greeted by those piercing blue eyes and the warmest smile on the planet,” Newton-John recalled. “In person, John Travolta radiates pure joy and love. That day, he greeted me with a big hug like we were already lifelong friends. How could you say no to John Travolta?”

Romance between John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John was for ‘Grease’ film only

While the two stars had chemistry that jumped off the screen, Travolta and Newton-John kept their own feelings in check despite their mutual attraction.

“We really liked each other and there was an attraction,” Newton-John explained. “But we would never date because we were both involved with other people at the time, and both of us have a loyalty streak that runs deep.”

While audiences wanted their romance to continue off-camera, Newton-John noted the benefits of keeping their behind-the-scenes relationship platonic.

“The truth is, it never went beyond friendship with John, despite the fact that the fans wanted for us to become a couple in real life,” she wrote. “We left the making out to Sandy and Danny, but the deep feeling of sisterly love I have for John continues to this day.”

Travolta pointed to timing as a reason for their lack of real-life romance. “It almost happened between us a few other times, but it didn’t,” he shared, as reported by the Sunday Post. “Sometimes life just offers you the wrong timing.”

Olivia Newton-John described her first onscreen kiss with John Travolta in ‘Grease’

Speaking with Us Weekly last month, Newton-John recalled having to lock lips for the first time with her co-star early on in filming.

“It was at the beach — actually the opening scene of the movie,” she said in January 2021. “I was nervous of course. I remember just before that we were sitting on a rock and it’s actually in the movie that these waves broke over us. … But it was a very special day and it was really a nice way to get to know John a little bit because we hadn’t spent all that much time together.”

The Grammy winner’s recollection of that scene is clearly still close to her heart, as is her affection for Travolta.

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“It was lovely. It was special,” the Grease star said of the love scene with Travolta. “John is a lovely, sweet man. And he made all my acting experiences really easy. He was very thoughtful and encouraged me.”