Olivia was part of a pop and rock music revolution in the ’70s — a time where her talent was becoming more and more recognised in the United Kingdom and soon, the United States.
British pop singer and Newton-John’s long-term friend Sir Cliff Richard described her as “the sweetest, the most gorgeous, gifted person”.
“Everybody loved her. I mean, the public loved her. The cameramen loved her. The camera loved her. I loved her,” Sir Richard said.
By 1971, Newton-John was having great success as a solo artist, and then came her breakthrough role in the hit movie Grease (1978) which had the world fall in love with her all over again
But not all was as it seemed.
During an interview with Channel 7’s Sunday Night, Newton-John revealed she originally knocked back the role of Sandy.
“You said no to that role originally. But they had a secret weapon,” said Sunday Night reporter Alex Cullen.
“They sent John Travolta to my home to talk me into it. And, you know, I was worried about everything,” Newton-John explained. “I was worried I was too old. I was all of 29.”
But she wasn’t the only one, the entire cast of Grease were in their 20s and 30s at the time, having to act as high-schoolers.
“I was worried about that,” Newton-John told Cullen.
“And what were your first impressions of John Travolta?” Cullen asked.
“He’s a beautiful man, and he said, ‘You know what? Nobody in the film is gonna be 18, so you don’t have to worry’.”
But Newton-John still didn’t feel comfortable and asked to do a screen test. It worked — the pair had chemistry straightaway.
While everyone hoped the pair were in love in reality, this wasn’t the case. Although she did say she probably did have a crush on John (who didn’t).
“We both had … both involved with other people. But I think that probably made it better,” she laughed.
Didi Conn, who played Frenchy in the popular ’70s movie, said, “Oh I know” — when asked if they had a crush on one another.
“Olivia said when she saw his blue eyes and he said, ‘When I saw your blue eyes,’ so it was a match made in heaven.”
Conn met Newton-John on set and they have remained lifelong friends.
The biggest surprise of the movie was Newton-John’s wild makeover.
“All of a sudden, this hot mamma’s walking through the cars … you know, big hair.
And it was her!” Conn said.
That iconic outfit she wore aka the body-hugging, high-waist, skin-tight, black sharkskin pants were actually from the 1950s — the pants were so tight, she had to be sewn into them.
“They were so old, and there was just one pair, so there was no room for error. One rip and — disaster,” Newton-John said in her latest book Don’t Stop Believin’.
“When I tried on those pants for the first time, the zipper was broken and Albert Wolsky (costume designer) didn’t want to rip them trying to put in a new one or remove the old one. Instead, I’d be sewn into them each morning!”
“My first thought after hearing this complex fashion fix: What if I need to pee? What am I going to do?”
So, who did she most identify with — sweet, innocent Sandy #1 or wild Sandy #2?
“That’s a hard question. I think every girl has a little bit of each,” she told Cullen during her interview.
Although in her book Newton-John revealed she felt empowered in the raunchy outfit.
“The idea of claiming my own sexiness rushed through my body,” she said.
“It wasn’t anti-feminist — it was my choice in that moment. All the men on the crew began to do double and triple takes as they turned around to stare at me with jaws that headed south. I think a sandwich or two hit the floor.”
John Travolta remembers, “I couldn’t believe it. It was just so right to see her with that Marilyn Monroe hairdo, holding the cigarette, and in those sky-high heels. It was just too good to believe. It was so perfect. And I knew the audience would have the exact same reaction that I was having — a heart palpitation.”
The hit single, You’re the One That I Want, which came out of the raunchy scene between Danny and Sandy was actually never rehearsed.
“I never thought about before, ‘What will I do?’ But as soon as I’d put (the outfit) on and they did my hair and make-up, I was there. It was fun. It was so much fun,” Newton-John said.
A few years after the movie, she gave the red peep-toe sky-high heels that she wore with her tight all-black ensemble to charity “never knowing how special they would become”.
While Newton-John happily recalled some of the most fulfilling moments in her very successful career, the courageous star made an emotional revelation that she had secretly battled a second bout of breast cancer back in 2013.
The 69-year-old — who is currently fighting the disease for a third time — explained to Cullen on Sunday Night why she chose not to go public with the diagnosis at the time.
“I thought, ‘It’s my life’ and I just decided to keep it to myself’,” she said.
In early 2013, Newton-John was involved in a minor car accident, and a lump appeared in her right shoulder.
She told Sunday Night she initially believed it was a due to the strain of her seat belt, before scans revealed it was the return of the breast cancer she had beaten two decades earlier.
While the courageous star beat her second bout of cancer, she is now battling the disease again, with a tumour last year found at the base of her spine.
Newton-John has undergone radiation therapy and is also using natural remedies to help cure her. She has cut sugar completely from her diet, and has turned to marijuana to help ease her physical pain.
Newton-John’s husband of 10 years, John Easterling, is founder of the Amazon Herb Company, and grows cannabis for her at their ranch in Santa Barbara, California.
“In California, it’s legal to grow a certain amount of plants for your own medicinal purposes … I’m very lucky that I live in a state where it’s legal and that I have a husband that is a plant-medicine man.”
When asked whether she was worried about the cancer, she defiantly responded: “I believe I will win over it, and that’s my goal.
“There are other people out there doing much, much worse than me. I’m a very privileged person, and I’m very aware of that.
“I live in this beautiful place. I have a wonderful husband. I have all the animals that I adore. I have an incredible career. I have nothing, really, to complain about.”