No one can deny the impact the musical Grease set for future generations, especially in the world of musicals. We also can’t count the number of times we have watched this iconic film, because of our love for the film and the actors, we decided to pull together the most ridiculous facts you (probably) didn’t know. Check it out!
Olivia Newton-John was reluctant to work on the film
Turns out that Olivia Newton-John was hesitant to star in the film. She actually demanded a screen test with John Travolta to make sure that there was, in fact, chemistry between the two leads.
John Travolta had song demands
John Travolta said he would take on the role of Danny only IF he was allowed to sing ‘Greased Lighting.” They agreed and took the song away from Kenickie.
Olivia Newton-John had to be sewn into her costume
The lovely Olivia Newton-John actually had to be sewn into her pants every morning on set. We know that it sounds crazy considering how tiny she is but its true! Olivia had to be extremely careful about what she ate and how she moved.
The film was almost animated
What do you think, would an animated Grease film been as successful? It’s hard to tell, while we’re sure it probably wouldn’t have, we’re glad that producers changed their minds. Only the intro of the film was animated.
Burger Palace Boys?
You can thank the 1972 Broadway musical, as it served as the inspiration for the 1978 film. By inspiration we mean, the film was based on the musical. The original Broadway musical also featured the gang lead by Travolta as the ‘Burger Palace Boys’. However in the film, their name was changed to ‘The T-Birds’. Much better!
Henry Winkler turned down the film
That’s right, the Fonz himself was offered a part, well THE part really as Henry Winkler shot down playing the part of Danny Zuko. Winkler believed the role of Zuko was too close to his own Fonzie character and he didn’t want to be classified as “that” type of actor.
Marty couldn’t dance
If you play close attention, you’ll notice that actress Dinah Manoff is missing from just about every single dance scene in the film. Apparently she couldn’t dance so she remained hidden every time a dance number was required.
Not a single cast member was high school age
I mean, are you actually surprised about this fact? It doesn’t take a mesothelioma attorney to figure out that this is pretty normal. John Travolta was the youngest actor to star in the film at age 23.
Elvis almost joined the party
We’re just trying to picture what a film would have looked like with a prime John Travolta and the iconic Elvis Presley. Because once upon a time, the King was offered an unknown part in the film!
Olivia’s accent was a game changer
Film producers ~adored~ Olivia Newton John’s accent so much, that they actually demanded changes. They went to the writers and forced them to change the story to keep Olivia’s Australian roots.
Some serious Broadway crossover!
Once Grease had crushed the box office, many believed that it was time to revive the original Broadway play. Stars like John Travolta, Barry Pearl, Jeff Conaway, and Jamie Donnelly all headed over to Broadway as a result.
‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ came in post
When the principal filming of the film wrapped up, the producers decided that Olivia Newton-John needed her own big song. Thus the memorable, raw ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ song was written and filmed in pick up shots. Newton-John would even go on to land an Academy Award nomination for that very performance.
The film had a HUGE bubble gum budget
That’s right, we’re talking about gum! Back then, bubble gum was just all the rage. Its reported that the cast chewed over 100,000 pieces of gum during filming. That’s just crazy.
Andy Warhol almost starred in the film
The one and Andy Warhol was supposed to play an art teacher in the film. However Warhol was immediately rejected after a studio exec said that he wouldn’t have “that man” in his film.
Grease dominated the box office
A musical film dominating the box office was unheard of back then but now its pretty much the norm. In fact, Grease was the highest grossing film of 1978. It beat out iconic films such as Animal House, Jaws 2, and Superman.
Lorenzo Lamas took his part from a President’s son
Steven Ford, who is the son of former President Gerald Ford, was supposed to play Sandy’s jocky-head boyfriend in the film but he got too nervous and backed out. Therefore, Lomas steopped in and took the part.
‘Beauty School Dropout’ had dark origins
The track, ‘Beauty School Dropout’, was actually written after a writer read a story about a teenager who had killed herself after dropping out of beauty school.
The film was released with different names
When you think of the era the musical was set in, the title Grease makes perfect sense. However when it was released in Venezuela and Mexico, the title was changed to Vaselina. Which makes no sense.
All of the dancers were named
Most of the characters that you see in the film that are just in the background, filling up space, were named. In the credits, the production team named every single dancer, such as Woppo, Bubba, Cee Cee, and Sauce.
Heap Lap Trials
Travolta had tons of trouble saying the phrase ‘heat lap trials’ that the film makers actually had to keep in Travolta’s flub. It came out that an ex girlfriend of his had passed away during shooting of that sequence so he was incredibly distracted and heartbroken.
Coke pulled advertising
When the producers were working on marketing deals for the film, they spoke with Coca Cola who were on board at the time. However a product placement deal fell through forcing the team to rush and blur out as many shots featuring Coca Cola.
A Grease empire was in the works
We’ve already told you that Grease dominated the box office so it isn’t surprising that there were plans to make a massive empire out of the series. The producers had hoped to release three additional films, along with a TV series. But after Grease 2 flopped, that dream quickly fizzled out.
George Lucas was instrumental in the re-release of Grease
Turns out that George Lucas was a massive fan of the film. So when it was time for a re-release, George Lucas stepped in and helped get Paramount on board. Lucas said t, “Every nine year old he knew watched a VHS copy of Grease every day,” back when it was released.
The budget turnaround for Grease is insane
Grease was filmed on a rather small budget of just around $6 million dollars. However, despite this tiny sum, the film earned more than $400 million worldwide! Just crazy.
It was 116 degrees during the filming of the Rydell prom scene
Taking around two weeks to film. this scene was shot in sunny Los Angeles, California. Because of the drastic heat temperature, there were several extras that needed to be treated for heat-related illnesses.
In “Look at Me I’m Sandra Dee” the producers changed the reference and it has quite a freaky coincidence.
The song had a reference to Sal Mineo, in the stage play. Sal Mineo was murdered in 1976. In reference to Elvis Presley, who died the same day the scene was filmed (August 16,1977), they changed the lyric to “Elvis, Elvis, let me be! Keep that pelvis far from me!” The day was August 16, 1977.
There’s a small tribute to The Three Stooges
Well, who else could reference the Three Stooges better then the three boys who play Doody (Barry Pearl), Sonny (Michael Tucci), and Putzie (Kelly Ward). The trio went to Randal Kleiser, the director, with their idea, which got approved for the film during the bonfire scene.
All of the actors/actresses were too old for high school
John Travolta was 23, Jeff Conaway was 26, and Stockard Channing was 33. Lorenzo Lamas (Tom) and Dinah Manoff (Marty), who were both 19, were the only two closest to the actual age of a high school student.
The “Hickey from Kenickie” was in fact 100% real
Stockard Channing (Rizzo), said in an interview that it was Jeff Conaway (Kenickie) who insisted on applying the hickeys himself.
Danny Zuko’s nod to James Dean
Danny’s blue wind-breaker, which we see in the opening beach scene, is said to be a nod to James Dean. James wore a red wind-breaker in Rebel Without A Cause(1955).
Stockard Channing can thank Lucille Ball for landing the role of Rizzo
Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Lucille Ball, was not considered for the part of Rizzo due to Lucille Ball’s call, “I used to own that studio; my daughter’s not doing a screen test!” But, Lucille Ball actually did own Desilu Productions, which was eventually bought by Paramount Studios.
Cast members get sick from the drag race scene
The nail-biting (fan favorite) drag race scene was filmed near a bridge with water, capturing the feel and intensity of the race. While the location seemed to be quite ideal, the water under the bridge was not ideal at all. The inactive water contained hazardous filth, which caused some of the cast members to become ill.
The first time Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta met was at the actresses house
As Olivia’s number one supporter and fan, John Travolta, who had not reached a great deal of fame yet, was genuinely star struck when he met her for the first time. I’m pretty sure that after shooting “You’re the One That I Want,” Travolta’s fan crush got even bigger.
Jeff Conaway injured his back during the filming of “Greased Lightning”
As if the back injury wasn’t painful enough, this unfortunate mishap sadly led to a downward path for Conaway, including abuse with prescription medications. This information was publicized only after Conaway’s appearance on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.
John Travolta had to talk Olivia into filming “You’re the One That I Want.”
And wow, we’re so happy that he did! What’s Greasewithout the infamous carnival scene and fan favorite song? During the Merv Griffin Show, Olivia admitted that she was quite terrified to film this song. I guess it would be a little scary to dance your way through a moving fun house in tight black leather pants.
Grease takes place in 1958
This was 20 years before the film’s actual release date, which was June 1, 1978 (U.S).
In the stage production of the show, Sandy’s last name is Dumbrowski. However, because Olivia Newton-John is Australian the producers changed her last name to correlate with her Aussie roots. And vuela, Sandy Olsson was born!
Franki Valli sings film’s opening song
“Grease”, the film’s renowned theme song, played during the opening credits, was sung by the one and only Frankie Valli. This was very good choice, if I must say so myself.
A week long dance contest
That groovy hand jive dance contest, that we all love, was originally meant to be just Danny and Cha Cha, without Sandy. The scene was set at a real high school in downtown L.A, during a 116 degree day. Lesson learned: don’t join a hand jive dance contest during extreme heat conditions.
Prom or Film Premiere?
Well, looks like Olivia Newton-John combined the two occasions and totally pulled off wearing a pink prom dress to the film’s premiere. In response to our admiration of the prom dress, Olivia gave us the original photograph! Okay, she didn’t really but doesn’t this photo look vintage?).
“Coach” aka Harry Reems
Harry Reems, more commonly known as “Coach”, had a past history in the adult film industry, and because of this the directors cut him from the cast.
Carrie Fisher as Rizzo
Here’s an interesting story: Director Randal Kleiser and Star Wars legend Mr. George Lucas were college roommates. The two would watch dailies of Star Wars to see if Carrie could be fit for the part of Rizzo. I guess she was more of a Princess Leia type, than a 70’s Pink Lady.
Marie Osmond was the front-runner
As suitable as the wholesome singer was for the role, Osmond did not accept the offer. Because Marie Osmond was raised Mormon, she objected to play Sandy’s “bad girl” transformation.
Danny Zuko as a busboy?
Yes, believe it or not, this was one of the many visions Allan Carr had for the character. Not only did Carr imagine that the T-bird would work at a gas station, he also had Danny singing a song called, “Gas Pump Jockey.” I think this “no” decision, was one of the better ones.
The Beach Boys almost made it into the film
Speaking of Carr’s many visions, here’s another one. Carr originally pictured the surf rock quartet singing “Greased Lightnin.”
The 24 hour carnival scene
Due to the fair only being in town the day of the carnival scene, the grand finale was shot in just 24 hours. In order to shoot close-ups later on, the director had created reproductions of all the carnival rides.
Who Plays Sandy?
Originally the choices for the lead role of Sandy were Susan Dey and Deborah Raffin. Susan Dey was however the first to be passed on for the role.
Deborah Raffin was (shockingly) set to originally play Sandy until that was producer Allan Car met Olivia Newton-John.
Rydell High was actually named for Bobby Rydell, the teenage idol singer of “Swingin’ School.” The hit would go on to sell one million records in 1960.
The director, Randal Kleiser, shot an earlier scene of a rather gritty and heated fight between Rizzo and Kenickie which would have given background to their whole milkshake incident in the diner scene. However, the scene was cut as it didn’t match the lighter tone of the film.
Songs Were Cut
A handful of songs from the stage version of the film were actually cut from the film. Such as: “Those Magic Changes,” “Freddy, My Love” and “It’s Raining on Prom Night,” however, were played on a jukebox or by the prom band in the film instead.
The whole plastic wrap bit in the “Greased Lightning” scene was actually a symbol for condoms. Huh, go figure.
Lorna Luft was originally considered for the role of Rizzo but was rejected in the end. However Luft did go on on to play Paulette in Grease 2.
Bet you didn’t know that Kleiser absolutely hated the opening title song because he believed the lyrics to be too cynical.
Rushed in for surgery
Annette Charles played Cha Cha in the flick and during filming, she was hospitalized for stomach pains. However she checked herself out of the hospital to film the drag race scene. Later that night, she was rushed into the emergency room for an ectopic pregnancy surgery.
Jeff Conaway who played the legendary Kenickie later went on to marry Olivia Newton-John’s sister, Rona. The couple were together from 1980 to 1985.
During filming, Jaime Donnelly was growing tons of grey hair that in turn had to be dyed black for the movie! Crazy.
The hit song of “You’re The One That I Want” took just ONE afternoon to film!
The critics didn’t like Sandy’s leather pants in the carnival scene. The Today show’s Gene Shalit called it it “visual junk food,” the New Yorker said it was a “klutzburger,” and the New York Daily News’s reviewer said that it “should really be covered on the obituary page.” Yikes.
FOX’s Grease: Live aired on January 31, 2016 as a live, televised remake of the beloved 1978 film Grease. It stared Julianne Hough (Sandy), Aaron Tveit (Danny Zuco), Vanessa Hudgens (Rizzo), and Carlos PenaVega (Kenickie).