Olivia Newton-John was worried she was 'too old' to play Sandy in 'Grease'

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By Phoebe Egoroff

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Olivia Newton-John once believed she was "too old" to play the role of Sandy in the 1978 movie Grease.

The British-Australian star, who sadly died of cancer on Monday, revealed to The Telegraph back in 2017 that she had many concerns about a potential role in the hit musical; namely, whether her age would impact her ability to play the title character, 17-year-old Sandy Olsson.

"I worried that at 29 I was too old to play a high school girl," the then-68-year-old remarked, before adding that she insisted upon taking a screen test prior to accepting the role.

"I was very nervous about making the film, because I was an Australian, but they said, 'That’s OK, you can do an Australian accent,'" she said.

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At 29, Newton-John was concerned she was "too old" to play teenaged Sandy Olsson in 'Grease'. Credit: MARKA / Alamy

The 1978 film was based upon the stage musical of the same name, and followed the stories of various 1950s teenagers and their senior-year antics while attending Rydell High School in California.

John Travolta starred as 50s greaser Danny Zuko, Sandy's love interest in the film.

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'Grease' focused on the budding high-school romance of Newton-John's and Travolta's characters. Credit: Glasshouse Images / Alamy

Travolta had acted in the stage version of Grease, and allegedly had his heart set on Newton-John playing Sandy in the movie. He believed she would be able to play both the naïve version of Sandy, and the tough girl she transforms into by the film's finale.

As a bonus fact, 'You're the One That I Want' and 'Hopelessly Devoted to You' were the only two songs in the movie that songwriter John Farrar wrote specifically for Newton-John's appearance in the film, with the latter earning her an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.

Additionally, the movie's casting director, Joel Thurm, told PEOPLE that "everybody wanted Olivia [for the film], but Olivia didn't jump at the offer. That's the important thing to know."

Thurm continued: "[Newton-John] said, 'Okay, I want to see a screen test with John and myself and then I'll let you know if I want to do it.'"

"I think I've never heard of a case where an actor being offered a role said, 'I want to see me before I say yes.' But that's how smart she was," he added.

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Credit: Allstar Picture Library Ltd / Alamy

It turns out Travolta's vision would be an incredible success - Grease brought in over $390 million at the international box office, and was the highest-grossing live-action musical for 34 years.

In a touching Vanity Fair tribute, Newton-John was not only remembered for her unforgettable role as Sandy, but also for her impressive music career which spanned four decades.

As a singer, Newton-John topped the charts with hits like 'Physical' and 'Xanadu', and was commended on her ability to maintain musical relevancy throughout the years.

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Olivia Newton-John was also able to demonstrate her musical prowess with hits like 'Physical' and 'Xanadu'. Credit: Records / Alamy

The four-time Grammy-winner died peacefully on Monday, August 8, aged 73, after a years-long battle with cancer.

She was first diagnosed in 1992 yet, devastatingly, the cancer had returned in 2017 and spread to her lower spine.

She is survived by her husband, John Easterling, and her only child, Chloe Lattanzi.

Our thoughts continue to go out to Newton-John's family, friends, and fans at this time.

Featured image credit: WENN Rights Ltd / Alamy

Olivia Newton-John was worried she was 'too old' to play Sandy in 'Grease'

vt-author-image

By Phoebe Egoroff

Article saved!Article saved!

Olivia Newton-John once believed she was "too old" to play the role of Sandy in the 1978 movie Grease.

The British-Australian star, who sadly died of cancer on Monday, revealed to The Telegraph back in 2017 that she had many concerns about a potential role in the hit musical; namely, whether her age would impact her ability to play the title character, 17-year-old Sandy Olsson.

"I worried that at 29 I was too old to play a high school girl," the then-68-year-old remarked, before adding that she insisted upon taking a screen test prior to accepting the role.

"I was very nervous about making the film, because I was an Australian, but they said, 'That’s OK, you can do an Australian accent,'" she said.

wp-image-1263164505 size-full
At 29, Newton-John was concerned she was "too old" to play teenaged Sandy Olsson in 'Grease'. Credit: MARKA / Alamy

The 1978 film was based upon the stage musical of the same name, and followed the stories of various 1950s teenagers and their senior-year antics while attending Rydell High School in California.

John Travolta starred as 50s greaser Danny Zuko, Sandy's love interest in the film.

wp-image-1263164506 size-full
'Grease' focused on the budding high-school romance of Newton-John's and Travolta's characters. Credit: Glasshouse Images / Alamy

Travolta had acted in the stage version of Grease, and allegedly had his heart set on Newton-John playing Sandy in the movie. He believed she would be able to play both the naïve version of Sandy, and the tough girl she transforms into by the film's finale.

As a bonus fact, 'You're the One That I Want' and 'Hopelessly Devoted to You' were the only two songs in the movie that songwriter John Farrar wrote specifically for Newton-John's appearance in the film, with the latter earning her an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.

Additionally, the movie's casting director, Joel Thurm, told PEOPLE that "everybody wanted Olivia [for the film], but Olivia didn't jump at the offer. That's the important thing to know."

Thurm continued: "[Newton-John] said, 'Okay, I want to see a screen test with John and myself and then I'll let you know if I want to do it.'"

"I think I've never heard of a case where an actor being offered a role said, 'I want to see me before I say yes.' But that's how smart she was," he added.

size-large wp-image-1263164470
Credit: Allstar Picture Library Ltd / Alamy

It turns out Travolta's vision would be an incredible success - Grease brought in over $390 million at the international box office, and was the highest-grossing live-action musical for 34 years.

In a touching Vanity Fair tribute, Newton-John was not only remembered for her unforgettable role as Sandy, but also for her impressive music career which spanned four decades.

As a singer, Newton-John topped the charts with hits like 'Physical' and 'Xanadu', and was commended on her ability to maintain musical relevancy throughout the years.

wp-image-1263164509 size-full
Olivia Newton-John was also able to demonstrate her musical prowess with hits like 'Physical' and 'Xanadu'. Credit: Records / Alamy

The four-time Grammy-winner died peacefully on Monday, August 8, aged 73, after a years-long battle with cancer.

She was first diagnosed in 1992 yet, devastatingly, the cancer had returned in 2017 and spread to her lower spine.

She is survived by her husband, John Easterling, and her only child, Chloe Lattanzi.

Our thoughts continue to go out to Newton-John's family, friends, and fans at this time.

Featured image credit: WENN Rights Ltd / Alamy