John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John Weren’t the Authentic Selections to Star in ‘Grease’


Grease was an enormous hit when it got here out in 1978 and has since develop into an American traditional. However when the film was being filmed in 1977, nobody knew they have been making what would develop into the highest-grossing American film musical of the 20th century, together with leads John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, who weren’t the preliminary selections to play highschool sweethearts Danny and Sandy. “Making it was fun but you never know with movies if audiences are going to go with it or not, even if you love it,” Newton-John told Forbes. “It is incredible that it is still going but it’s not even just that, it’s showing no signs of stopping. You say ‘Sandy and Danny’ and people instantly know what you’re talking about.”

Nevertheless, the highway to creating the now-classic film was not a straightforward one — the fitting actors needed to be discovered for every half, filming needed to be achieved in tough situations, songs have been added to and faraway from the movie and private dramas have been confronted.

Travolta instructed producers Newton-John was ‘each man’s dream’

Grease may’ve had very completely different solid members. In keeping with Vanity FairHenry Winkler of Completely happy Days fame was supplied the lead position of Danny Zuko and Travolta solely stepped in after Winkler turned down the chance. Producer Allan Carr chosen a porn star to painting Coach Calhoun till the studio objected (Sid Caesar ended up within the position). Carrie Fisher and Marie Osmond have been amongst these thought-about for the lead position of Sandy earlier than Travolta advised Newton-John, then a country singer, for the half. In 2018, Travolta instructed People journal what he’d mentioned on the time, “There is only one person that should play this role and it’s Olivia Newton-John…She’s every guy’s dream.”

Nevertheless, Newton-John was reluctant to affix the solid. A earlier movie of hers had flopped and she or he “was 29 and worried that I didn’t look young enough” to painting highschool scholar Sandy. It was solely after a profitable display check and interacting with Travolta that she agreed to take the position, telling Entertainment Weekly, “John and I had great chemistry from the first time we met.” Sandy turned a woman from Australia known as Sandy Olsson (she’d been Sandy Dumbrowski within the stage present) to permit the star to make use of her native accent. 

Lucie Arnaz, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s daughter, was thought-about for the position of Pink Girl chief Rizzo. Nevertheless, she has said she could not get a signed contract in time, telling the Austin Chronicle, “I gave up Grease to go do Bye, Bye Birdie on the Melody High Theater in Milwaukee.” Stockard Channing was then up for the position, however there have been worries that the 33-year-old actress would not be capable of pull off excessive schooler Rizzo. In keeping with Self-importance Honest, the film’s director, Randal Kleiser, determined he’d examine all solid members, together with Channing, to see if he may spot wrinkles round their eyes. Every of the film’s potential actors needed to cross his so-called “crow’s-feet test” to formally get the position.

READ MORE: 10 Facts You’ve Probably Never Heard About Grease

Grease cast

(L-R) Jeff Conaway, Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta and Stockard Channing in “Grease”

Filming in sizzling California posed issues for the solid

Although the stage play was set in Chicago, the film model of Grease was filmed in California in the course of the summer season of 1977. That supplied a sunnier backdrop, however it additionally meant excessive temperatures. Through the filming of the highschool dance, the fitness center turned sweltering for the solid. However they could not preserve home windows open for too lengthy as a result of a pork-processing plant was emitting noxious odors that may permeate the setting. Director Kleiser later instructed Los Angeles Journal, “People would lie down on the gymnasium floor just to deal with the exhaustion.”

An identical drawback occurred when the finale, “We Go Together,” was filmed on a highschool soccer area. Kelly Ward, who performed T-Chicken member Putzie, instructed Yahoo Entertainment in 2018, “There were people who were passing out from dehydration and heat exhaustion and so forth during that sequence. It was an oppressively hot set because there was no place to hide. There was no shade, really. It was high summer and we were outdoors and it was hot.”

Someday, the actors enjoying the T-Birds — Barry Pearl (Doody), Michael Tucci (Sonny), Jeff Conaway (Kenickie) and Ward— determined to benefit from the Southern California location and go crusing throughout a daytime break of their filming schedule. They wanted to be again that night to shoot a scene and thought that they had loads of time — till the wind stopped and their sailboat was stranded. The group solely made it to the night time shoot on time when the boat’s captain carried out a wind-summoning dance that really labored. Ward instructed Yahoo Leisure that the expertise was “a major bonding moment for the T-Birds!”

Olivia Newton-John and feminine solid members singing “Summer Nights”

The musical numbers have been continually altering

Although Channing obtained to play Rizzo, she virtually did not get the possibility to ship the highly effective music “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” wherein Rizzo takes possession of her sexuality and private selections. Channing instructed Self-importance Honest that producer Carr thought-about the music “a downer.” She solely satisfied him it was obligatory to incorporate it by arguing, “That’s how you know what’s inside this little person. Otherwise, she’s just all that surface stuff.”

Additionally, the romantic lament “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” sung by Newton-John, wasn’t included till after filming had completed. And the duet between Newton-John and Travolta on the ending carnival scene, “You’re the One That I Want,” was one other last-minute addition to the film. In keeping with Yahoo Leisure, the choreography was accomplished on the spot. The solid members enjoying the T-Birds and Pink Girls ended up lip-synching their strains. Pearl, who performed Doody of the T-Birds, later defined to Yahoo Leisure, “It was a song we had never heard before.”

Most of the stage present’s songs have been reduce from the film. “Greased Lightnin'” was a stage quantity that did make it into the movie, however not with no few modifications. Onstage, the character of Kenickie is the one singing about his automobile, however within the film, Travolta’s Zuko handles the tune. “I have to be completely honest with you,” Travolta instructed Self-importance Honest. “I wanted the number. And because I had clout, I could get the number.” Nevertheless, it may’ve been worse — one other plan the manufacturing had thought-about was bringing within the Seaside Boys to sing the music.

John Travolta and the T-Birds singing “Greased Lightnin'”

The 15-week shoot was a ‘labor of affection’

There was loads of emotional upheaval happening in the course of the making of Grease. Conaway resented Travolta for taking the music “Greased Lightnin'” away from him. Travolta was nonetheless dealing with the death of his girlfriend, actress Diana Hyland, in March 1977, and infrequently known as Grease‘s director in search of help. Conaway ended up falling for Newton-John’s older sister once they met at a celebration. For Newton-John, pulling off her character’s last-minute transformation from good lady to T-Chicken temptress “was an opening up for me. I felt from it that I wanted to try different things. I was open to everything new,” she instructed Rolling Stone.

Amidst these moments of emotion, the actors bonded. Pearl instructed Yahoo Leisure, “We all got along. It was 15 weeks of a labor of love. You see it when you watch it.” Per Didi Conn, who had the position of Pink Girl Frenchy, “What was so much fun was that most of us were older than the characters we were playing so we just stayed in character all day long,” she defined to the Daily Mail. On the finish of filming, the solid had loved themselves a lot they have been able to make a proposed sequel, Summer time Faculty.

Nevertheless, producers did not know the way large successful that they had on their palms and the proposed sequel wasn’t filmed (a number of years later Grease 2, starring Michelle Pfeiffer, would get the inexperienced mild, however it did not recapture the success or the magic of the unique film). Earlier than heading their separate methods, solid members have been in a position to get pleasure from themselves one final time on the wrap social gathering. In keeping with Conn, Channing introduced some “special brownies” to the occasion, which she shared with everybody. Conn mentioned in a Every day Mail interview that her recollection of the social gathering is due to this fact imprecise: “I really don’t remember much, just dancing and lying on the floor laughing with everybody.”

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