PRINT | E-MAIL Olivia Newton-John: Grease Goddess
by Scott Holleran
September 9, 2003
Having survived the breast cancer she was diagnosed with over ten years ago, Olivia Newton-John is still making music and movies —- possibly a sequel to the popular 1978 musical Grease. Grease 3, Newton-John confirmed to Box Office Mojo, is in the works.
"They're writing it, and we'll see what happens," Newton-John revealed during an exclusive interview from her home in southern California. "If the script looks good, I'll do it. But I haven't seen the script, and it has to be cleverly done."
If she sounds guarded, the Grammy-winning pop singer has her reasons. Newton-John's movie career began in earnest with her role as Sandy, which earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. After Grease, her motion picture roles have been a mixed batch of unusual characters.
In 1980, Universal Pictures released the musical fantasy Xanadu, starring Newton-John as a Greek muse named Kira opposite Gene Kelly. Despite a best selling soundtrack featuring Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra, Xanadu—which was up against the summer blockbuster The Empire Strikes Back—bombed.
"The music and dancing are great, but it's not a great movie," she admitted. "The script was written daily, and it didn't really come together."
Newton-John rebounded a year later with the multi-platinum album Physical—she was the first recording artist to make a video for every song on an album—and the title track shot to number one for ten consecutive weeks. In 1983, Newton-John paired with Travolta again for Two of a Kind, a comic crime caper, and it was a flop.
Newton-John didn't star in another feature movie for 13 years. While she played a honky tonk singer in Del Shores' gay-themed Texas parody Sordid Lives, Newton-John explained that she has tried to be discriminating about acting.
"I had always wanted to play Evita for the movie," she confessed, having recorded "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" long before Madonna. "By the time they made the movie [in 1996], I was too old. I have been asked to do several parts for Broadway—in Annie Get Your Gun, South Pacific, Evita—but it would have meant moving to New York, and I was busy raising my daughter."
Not anymore. Newton-John said that daughter Chloe, 17, is recording her own album, and the two recently starred in Showtime's The Wilde Girls. Chloe's father, actor Matt Lattanzi (Rich and Famous, My Tutor), met, and later married, Newton-John while shooting Xanadu (Lattanzi portrayed Gene Kelly's character in flashbacks). Though they divorced, Newton-John said they are friendly and that they both support their daughter's pursuits in show business.
One of Chloe's first admirers, Newton-John recalled, was the late comedian Bob Hope, who asked her to sing on one of Hope's Christmas shows.
"Matt was making a movie in Vancouver, and Bob Hope learned we were staying at the same hotel," she remembered. "He found out I'd just had a baby. He had a teddy bear sent up to our room—I'll never forget that. He was a lovely man."
With a new album of duets scheduled for release and her Heartstrings concert tour, Newton-John, who has been honored by queens, popes and presidents, knows that movies are only a part of her enduring appeal and she knows that one particular picture has left audiences with an especially lasting impression. Newton-John, who was 29 when she made Grease, is confident about the results.
"I think I pulled it off," she declared. "John [Travolta] and I look pretty balanced." The 54 -year-old Newton-John, who is considering reprising the role that made her a movie star, added: "Age is irrelevant in Grease."