Grease is undeniably one of the most popular movies ever made in Hollywood. These behind-the-scenes Grease movie facts are bound to surprise even the most hopelessly devoted fans. Don’t miss out.
The Role of Sandy Almost Went to Another Star
Grease director Randal Kleiser had several actresses in mind for the part of Sandy, before Olivia Newton-John landed the iconic role. Pop singing sensation Marie Osmond was the preferred option. Actress Susan Dey, Star Wars’ Carrie Fisher and actress Deborah Raffin were also all in the running.
The Word ‘Grease’ Isn’t Even in the Script
According to the song, “Grease is the word” but it is actually not even mentioned once in the script. The single-world movie title that is so instantly recognizable and associated with mid-century youth subculture is oddly never uttered (in that form, at least) in the movie.
The Script Was Rewritten So Sandy Could be Australian
Part of the charm of Olivia Newton-John’s film character Sandy Olsson was her sunny Australian attitude thrown into the cliquey mix at Rydell High School. Although in the Broadway version, the character’s name was Sandy Dumbrowski, film producers were hopelessly devoted to Newton-John and rewrote the script to match her background.
Elvis Was Offered a Role
The film Grease and its stars instantly became immortalized as iconic musical legends in the canon of pop culture history. As big of celebrities as the central actors in the movie are, just imagine the added star power that would have been if Elvis had been in it.
So What Happened To The Idea?
Well, that almost happened. The King oozed everything ‘50s and was initially offered the role of Teen Angel. The teen idol however, ultimately turned down the part of the character who serenades Frenchy in the Frosty Palace. In the end, Frankie Avalon was cast in the film.
Grease Was Supposed to Have Three sequels
Grease was the biggest box office hit in 1978 and remained the top-grossing musical film in the United States until 2008. As of now, Grease is still the fourth highest grossing live-action musical and it has raked in nearly $400 million internationally.
In light of the great success of the first film, studio execs wanted there to be three Grease sequels. However, when 1982’s Grease 2 (starring Michelle Pfeiffer) flopped at the box office, the plans were dumped like Danny at the drive-in. Still, it probably worked out for the best. If those fun facts had you saying “tell me more, tell me more” you will want to find out the rest!
John Travolta’s name has been eternally linked to the legacy of Grease. However, he wasn’t the only member of his family to end up in the Grease cast. His sister, Ellen, also landed a part in the film as one of the soda pop waitresses at the Frosty Palace diner.
Olivia Newton-John Was Sewn into Those Iconic Black Pants
In the iconic final scenes of the Hollywood smash hit Grease, the character Sandy prepares to steal Danny’s heart by showing off her new-found transformation from wholesome goody-two shoes to bad girl. It’s those skin-tight black pants that she wore that the world still adored. As it turns out, the outfit was so tight that actress Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into them for the electrifyin’ carnival finale shoot.
Only One Grease Song Got an Oscar Nod
The soundtrack to the movie Grease is undoubtedly one of the most beloved, and is still sung as karaoke to this day. The album was the second-best seller in 1978 – the year the film came out – and songs like “You’re the One That I Want,” “Summer Nights” and “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee’” remain sing-along sensations. However, only one of the film’s tracks ever received an Academy Award nomination. Performed by Olivia Newton-John, “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was up for Best Music – Original Song in 1979.
John Travolta Wasn’t Initially Going to Sing “Greased Lightning”
John Travolta lured audiences in with “Greased Lightnin’’ with his iconic performance. However, Tavolta’s character Danny Zuko wasn’t initially supposed to sing the legendary track. The male lead’s sidekick, Kenickie (Jeff Conaway), sang it in the original Broadway show. Travolta had two conditions for playing Danny in the movie: that he could sing “Greased Lightnin’” and that he would have iconically ‘50s “blue-black hair like Elvis Presley and Rock Hudson the movies.”
Some of the Most Popular Songs Were Movie Originals
The soundtrack from the motion picture Grease is undeniably one of the most epic movie albums EVER! Timeless hit favorites like “Grease,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “You’re the One That I Want” and “Summer Night” all made us want to get out our dancing shoes and made the Billboard top-10.
There Was Casting Crossover between the Stage and Film Versions
Although they didn’t all reprise their stage roles, there were four actors in the film adaptation of Grease who had previously been in the Broadway production of the musical. John Travolta famously played the leader of the T-Birds greaser gang, Danny Zuko, in the movie but he had been the supporting character, Doody, on Broadway.
Actor Jeff Conaway, who was cast as Danny’s BFF Kenickie in the film, had actually played Danny on Broadway. Barry Pearl landed the film part of Doody after having played T-Birds troublemaker, Sonny, on Broadway and Jamie Donnelly played Pink Lady member, Jan, both on Broadway and in the motion picture.
Lucille Ball’s Daughter Was Originally Considered for Rizzo
Apparently, the producers of Grease were not enthralled by Lucille Ball’s approach when it came to her views on how to do things. The iconic sitcom star’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz, was the studio’s original pick for the character Betty Rizzo. However, Arnaz was dropped from the running after her mother refused to let movie execs give her daughter a screen test. The part of the feisty Pink Lady with a “reputation” ultimately went to the talented Stockard Channing.
Henry Winkler Turned Down a Lead Role
Here’s one that will make you say “Yowsah!” Henry Winkler was already an icon of ‘50s-style coolness with his portrayal of Arthur Fonzarelli (better known as Fonzie) on the sitcom Happy Days when he was originally offered the lead male role of Danny Zuko in the film Grease. orried about being typecast as a tough guy with a heart of gold, The Fonz star turned down the potential to play another leather jacket-clad rebel heartthrob in Grease. “Aaaaaay,” so the role was an “exactamundo” fit for him… but things seem to have worked out pretty “peachy keen, jelly bean.”
Olivia Newton-John Almost Didn’t Take the Part
Seeing that her musical career was on the “go, go, go, go” and that her last film Toomorrow had flopped, Olivia Newton-John was initially quite hesitant to accept the part of Sandy in Grease. Although producer and co-writer Allan Carr had begged her to sign on, she wasn’t exactly revved up by the prospect.
John Caught Her Eye
An impressed John Travolta also personally encouraged her to take the part. Still not convinced, Newton-John request a screen test with Travolta, which apparently did the trick and produced an on-screen chemistry that simply went together “like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong.”
The Dance Contest Scene Took a Week to Film
The spunky dance contest sequence during the Rydell prom scene proved to us that the Grease cast really was “Born to Hand Jive.” The energetic bunch appeared perfectly cool and collected during the spirited display, but behind the scenes, it wasn’t really chills that were multiplyin’. The shot filmed at Huntington Park High School in Los Angeles took a whole week to film. Apparently temperatures on-set rose to a staggering 116 degrees, causing several actors to fall ill from heat stroke.
Olivia Newton-John Then
The talented Olivia Newton-John had already made a name for herself as a solo artist before she landed the role of Sandy in the film Grease. The movie sent her career skyrocketing and made her a larger-than-life household name.
Olivia Newton-John Now
After Grease, she went on to release several successful albums, including the 1981 hit “Physical.” She continued acting and making TV appearances and staying active with a 2014 residency in Las Vegas.
Andy Warhol Could Have Been in Grease
Grease producer Allan Carr originally had his eye on legendary artist Andy Warhol for the part of an art teacher at Rydell High School. Well, one unnamed studio exec was not happy about that, and reportedly said he wouldn’t have “that man” in the film.
Jeff Conaway Ended Up Marrying Olivia Newton-John’s Sister
Olivia Newton-John and Jeff Conaway shared the screen together in Grease as Sandy and Kenickie, but the two actors were also connected off-screen. Despite his bad boy character, Conaway apparently had a big crush on Newton-John and messed up his lines during filming. Incidentally, the co-stars later became family. Conaway and Olivia Newton-John’s sister, Rona, met through the actress and got hitched in 1980. The couple married and together raised Rona’s son, Emerson, who eventually became a race car driver.
John Travolta Then
John Travolta has been a steady fixture in Hollywood for four-decade since his explosive film breakout in the ‘70s with the musical blockbusters Saturday Night Fever and Grease. His career got a reboot with the 1994 cult classic Pulp Fiction.
John Travolta Now
With dozens of credits to his name, Travolta remained busy throughout the rest of the ‘90s and 2000s starring in hits like Face/Off, Swordfish, Ladder 49 and Hairspray. In 2016, he played defense attorney Robert Shapiro in the acclaimed miniseries, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.
Coca-Cola References Were Removed from the Film
Perhaps no two things seem more timelessly American and the movie Grease and the beverage Coca-Cola. Well, that’s probably what they were thinking when the two sides decided to go together in a promotional deal. Things eventually got less fizzy, however. The Coke collaboration went down the pan and all logos referring to the product had to be blurred or altered.
A President’s Son Backed Out of Grease
Former U.S. President Gerald Ford’s son, Steven, was originally cast in the supporting role of star athlete Tom Chisum, who is captain of Rydell’s football team and briefly goes steady with Sandy. The part had no lines, but the aspiring actor decided he was too nervous to take it on.
The Actor Who Took The Role
The role of the jock boyfriend then went to Lorenzo Lamas, who was thrilled to take over. “I was going to have some scenes with Olivia – the goddess” he exclaimed. Even though Lamas was asked to lighten his dark hair, the excited actor said: “I would have dyed it green, fuchsia, anything.” We can definitely see why!
The Cast Was Predominantly Much Older Than Their Characters
Although the plot centered around the lives of teenage high school students, the actors that made up the cast of Grease were, for the most part, much too old to have attended Rydell. Olivia Newton-John (Sandy) was 28 at the time of filming and John Travolta (Danny) was 23.
Wow What An Age Gap
Stockard Channing (Rizzo) was 33, Michael Tucci (Sonny) was 31, Jamie Donnelly (Jan) was 30, Barry Pearl (Doody) was 27, Jeff Conaway (Kenickie) was 26, Didi Conn (Frenchy) was 25 and Kelly Ward (Putzie) was 20. The youngest cast member was Dina Manoff (Marty), who was 19.
Grease Won Every People’s Choice Award Nomination
Grease might not have taken home the Oscar, but it sure fared well in a different award contest. The film made waves at the People’s Choice Award and won every category in which it was nominated. Olivia Newton-John won Favorite Motion Picture Actress, Stockard Channing took home the Favorite Motion Picture Supporting Actress and the overall the movie won Favorite Musical Motion Picture and Favorite Overall Motion Picture.
Jamie Donnelly Where Is She Now?
Actress Jamie Donnelly is best known for her portrayal of Jan, a member of the Pink Ladies clique. Following Grease, she took a 20-year break from acting, but eventually returned to the scene in 1998. Since then, some of her most prominent projects have been on the TV shows Monk and Ray Donovan and in the films Cyrus and Black Mass. Since 2015, the now-70-year-old’s career has taken a back burner.
Barry Pearl (Doody) After Grease
Barry Pearl is best known for portraying Doody – one of the three supporting greasers from the T-Birds gang. His acting careering didn’t end there. Pearl went on to gain some fame in children’s TV and theater. In recent years he starred in the Broadway musical Baby It’s You. His other works include cameos on several popular TV shows like House, Baywatch and ER.
Rizzo’s Hickeys Weren’t Makeup
Remember the diner scene where Rizzo (Stockard Channing) states that she has so many hickies she looks like a leper? Well, those marks weren’t makeup! That’s right, they were the real! Jeff Conaway, who played Rizzo’s on-screen boyfriend Kenickie, insisted that they be authentic. So he gave them to her himself. That is dedication. We love the line “A hickey from Kenickie is a like a Hallmark card.”
Didi Conn (Frenchy) After Grease
Actress Didi Conn is best known for her role in Grease as the character Frenchy – an aspiring beautician and Sandy’s confidant in the Pink Ladies. From the movie, she racked up a notable number of TV credits in shows including The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, Benson and Shining Time Station. In 1982, she reprised her iconic part of the bubbly “Beauty School Dropout” in the less popular sequel Grease 2.
Rydell High Was Filmed at Three Different Schools
The fictional Rydell High School where the characters of Grease went to school was named in homage to ‘60s teen rock icon Bobby Rydell. Filming of scenes that took place at the school were actually conducted at three different schools in the Los Angeles area.
Dina Manoff (Marty) Then
Dina Manoff was excluded from the dance numbers in Grease, due to it not being her forte. Yet the actress who played Pink Lady Marty Maraschino went on to have a long career in showbiz and still works in the industry to this day.
Dina Manoff Now
After the film, Manoff landed prominent roles on the TV shows Soap and Empty Nest and continued to be a regular TV fixture in ‘90s. She won a Tony award for her performance in I Ought to Be in Pictures and more recently in the early 2000s co-starred in the show State of Grace.
A Real Travelling Circus Provided the Set for the Final Scene
The final scene of Grease has gone down as one of the most epic references in pop culture history. Olivia Newton-John’s character Sandy transforms from fresh-faced ingenue to black-clad biker babe for the memorable finale sequence.
Jeff Conaway (Kenickie) Then
Apart from playing the T-Birds’ notorious No. 2, heartthrob bad boy Kenickie, in Grease, Jeff Conaway appeared in some of the era’s iconic television programs. He made his debut on Happy Days in 1975 and then landed the part of Bobby Wheeler in the series Taxi, which came out the seam year as Grease – 1978.
Jeff Conaway Now
Conaway made appearances in other popular productions like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bold and the Beautiful and Babylon 5. In addition to his acting career, Conaway was also a recording artist and released several tracks with the band 3 ½ along with two solo albums.
Michael Tucci (Sonny) Then
One of Michael Tucci’s first on-screen roles was that of T-Birds member Sonny in Grease. From there, he had a significant amount of screen time in the ‘80s and ‘90s with starring roles in TV shows like Flying Blind and Diagnosis: Murder.
Michael Tucci (Sonny) Then
Tucci took a hiatus from television and movies from 2001 to 2013, when he reemerged with a role in the Melissa McCarthy-Sandra Bullock comedy The Heat. Tucci has also recently taken up teaching and coaching acting at a high school in Los Angeles County, California.
The on-screen sparks that flew like “Greased Lightnin’” between Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in Grease were so electrifyin’ that fans were raving to see the actors work together again. The two reunited in 1983 for the rom-com Two of a Kind, which didn’t exactly garner the same kind of hype that Grease did. Newton-John and Travolta again joined forces in 2012 for the studio album, This Christmas. They also appear on stage together for a Grease reunion.