Entertainment

Olivia Newton-John was immortalised by her role in Grease

The beloved musical is now more than 40 years old but if anything remains more popular than ever.

Grease star Olivia Newton-John will be forever young to each new generation of film fan who falls in love with Grease.

The classic musical celebrated its 40th birthday last year but the world remains hopelessly devoted to the high school love story between greaser Danny Zuko and timid student Sandy Olsson.

Filled with cool teens, fast cars and some of the most memorable songs in film history, Grease left an indelible mark on cinema.

Born in Cambridge, Newton-John emigrated with her family to Melbourne, Australia, when she was six.

Olivia Newton-John
Olivia Newton-John is loved by millions of film fans for her starring role in Grease (Ian West/PA)

By her mid-teens, she was already carving out a career as a budding star, having formed a girl group with classmates called Sol Four at the age of 14 before winning a talent contest on Australian TV show Sing, Sing, Sing and a trip to the UK.

After chart success with a cover of Bob Dylan’s If Not For You, she represented the UK at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with the song Long Live Love, and came in fourth place in the year Abba won with Waterloo.

Then came the role which would define her career: Grease.

Newton-John was 28 when she started filming the musical and insisted on a screen test with co-star John Travolta because she was concerned she was too old to play a high school student.

She took the part of goody-goody Sandy and the rest is history. Grease was a massive and immediate success and was the biggest box office hit of 1978.

 Olivia Newton-John
Olivia Newton-John, pictured in 1994, is best-remembered for starring in Grease (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Powered by some of the greatest songs in cinematic history – including Summer Nights, You’re The One That I Want and Greased Lightnin’ – the film’s soundtrack is among the best-selling albums ever.

And despite Grease marking its 40th anniversary last year, its popularity endures.

News that Newton-John and Travolta would reunite for sing-along screenings of the film later this year was met with glee by fans.

Asked what the secret of Grease’s success was, Newton-John told the PA news agency: “If I knew we’d make another one! I think what it is, is the music was great, the energy in that film is wonderful.

“It moves, it’s almost like a cartoon and people relate to the different characters, they’re like people they’ve known in their lifetime, or at school. It takes us all back to that time.”

Olivia Newton-John with her husband John Easterling
Olivia Newton-John with her husband John Easterling, who she married in 2008 (John Stillwell/PA)

Following the film, Newton-John returned to her music career, boosted by Grease.  Her hits include Magic, Xanadu and Physical.

She married actor Matt Lattanzi in 1984 and the couple had a daughter, Chloe Rose, in 1986.

The couple divorced in 1995. In 2008, Newton-John wed her second husband, businessman and conservationist John Easterling.

Newton-John has been diagnosed with cancer three times and spends much of her time raising funds for her cancer research centre in Melbourne.

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