Grease: Olivia Newton-John almost lost role of Sandy to another 1970s star
Although it’s nearly impossible to picture anyone else other than Olivia Newton-John as Sandy Olsson in Grease, the late Australian entertainer almost lost the role to another Seventies star.
Newton-John, who passed away today (8 August), was well-known for her starring lead as Sandy, opposite John Travolta’s Danny Zuko, in the 1978 musical classic.
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According to Vanity Fair, the iconic role of doe-eyed Sandy was almost given to late Star Wars actor Carrie Fisher, who died in 2016 at the age of 60.
When director Randal Kleiser was on the search for his leading lady, he went to his former college roommate director George Lucas for assistance.
At the time, Kleiser looked at rushes of Lucas’ current project, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, which starred Fisher as Princess Leia.
However, Kleiser wasn’t able to glean Fisher’s acting or singing capabilities from the footage, so he considered other possibilities.
Kleiser then considered The Partridge Family’s Susan Dey, Deborah Raffin, and Marie Osmond as other potentials.
Osmond became the frontrunner, but she later pulled out in protest at the idea of Sandy’s transformation from good girl to bad girl.
Eventually, producer Allan Carr honed in on the British-born Australian singer, Newton-John, who he felt could be the perfect fit.
However, Newton-John was nervous to take on another role after her 1970 film debut Toomorrow flopped at the box office.
“I was very anxious about making another film, because my music career was going well,” Newton-John told the outlet, adding that she “did not want to mess it up by doing another movie that wasn’t good”.
Kleiser was also hesitant, but it was Travolta who would later convince him of Newton-John’s star power.
“She had a brilliant voice, and I didn’t think there could be any more correct person for Sandy in the universe,” Travolta said, adding that Newton-John’s casting was like “putting Taylor Swift in that role today”.