‘Grease’ Inspired Summer Lovin’ 45 Years Ago

GREASE, from left: Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta, 1978
Paramount Pictures/Everett Collection

It is hard to believe that it was been 45 years since Grease first made its way into movie theaters. Released on June 13, 1978, the musical film follows Sandy (the late Olivia Newton-John) and Danny (John Travolta) as they navigate a relationship after a summer romance. The film became such a hit that it inspired a sequel, starring Michelle Pfeiffer. As iconic as Grease is, it is hard to believe that we almost had a different lead role.

At first, Newton-John almost turned down the role of Sandy because she was afraid of being embarrassed. She wasn’t proud of her performance in the 1970 film Toomorrow and was nervous that it could happen again with Grease. Luckily, the casting director was able to sway her and part of the reason she ended up taking the role is because she reportedly had a real-life crush on Travolta!

GREASE, Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta, 1978

Paramount/Everett Collection

The casting director Joel Thurm revealed, “She met John and she liked him. She also liked the role of Sandy, but she was really cautious. By this time she’s a huge worldwide star and busy on tour. But we all thought she was perfect, that she was Sandy. So, she said, ‘All right, well, in that case, I’d like a screen test.’ That is the first and only time I’ve ever heard of an actor or actress asking for a screen test.”

GREASE, John Travolta (front), 1978

Paramount Pictures/Everett Collection

In another interesting turn of events, one of Danny’s most beloved moments in the movie, when he sings “Greased Lightning” almost didn’t happen either! Producers wanted The Beach Boys to come in and sing the song or hoped that Jeff Conaway, who played Kenickie, might sing it because that’s who sings the song in the Broadway play. Travolta reportedly fought to sing the song and they let him do it. I’d say that was a good decision!

GREASE, Stockard Channing, 1978

Paramount Pictures/Everett Collection

Another star had to fight to sing one of the most important songs in the film. Stockard Channing‘s (Rizzo) solo “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” was almost cut but she argued that the song, sung after her pregnancy scare, gave more depth to the often brash character. She didn’t want Rizzo to be all surface-level. Even though the producers thought the song could be a “downer,” it truly is a crucial part of the film. 45 years later, the film has still captured the hearts of fans all over the world and that is something to celebrate. The hype lives on as Paramount+ recently released a new series called Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, set before Sandy and Danny came to Rydell High. Now tell us, what’s your favorite part of Grease?

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