You ask the questions - Independent


You ask the questions

Olivia Newton-John, 56, was born in Cambridge, England, but her family moved to Australia when she was five. In 1975, her singing career took off when “Have You Never Been Mellow” went to No 1 in the US singles chart. Three years later, at 29, she was asked to star as Sandy, a 17-year-old schoolgirl in the film Grease. In 1981, she released the album Physical, which also went to No 1 in the United States. She has continued to record and act, and has also been a UN goodwill ambassador for the environment. She lives in Malibu and has a daughter, Chloe.

Have you ever sung “You’re the One That I Want” in a karaoke bar? I have. Kate Hollins, by e-mail

No. But I did sing in a karaoke bar in Japan when I was on tour there a few years ago. We took over a bar and sang a few rock and roll standards - but nothing from Grease I’m afraid.

How cool were you at school? Gary Smith, Leeds

Not at all. I don’t think I was very noticeable at school. I was always the youngest in the class and felt that everyone knew what was going on and I didn’t. I hung out with three other girls at school - we were all blondes - but I wasn’t part of a clique.

You came to London to start your career. What did you hope life would hold for you when you landed? Sue Christie, Monmouth

In fact, I just wanted to go back to Australia. I was 16. I had a boyfriend back home and so I kept on booking to go back and my mother kept on unbooking me. London just seemed like a bunch of old buildings to me. I can’t believe I was so ignorant. I remember saying to my mother, “Mum! Everything’s so old.”

Your daughter Chloe is keen to follow in your footsteps. Did you try to put her off? Is there anything you’re hoping to protect her from? Mark Davidson, London

I never tried to put her off. When she was about 14, she started saying, “Mum I want to get an agent.” Of course, what was going through my mind was, “I wish she would finish school.” But how could I say much as I had done the same thing? She knows the life because she’s lived it. She knows the downfalls. And it’s her passion and you have to follow your passion. My mother gave me all the lectures and I still did it.

You come from a family of academics. What did your family think of your decision to go into show business? Catherine Blackman, by e-mail

It’s true that I come from a family of academics. My grandfather, the physicist Max Born, won the Nobel prize in the 1950s and was a good friend of Albert Einstein. My father was the master of a university college. I told my parents I wanted to leave school when I was 15 because I’d been offered a job on a television show. And in the beginning, I think they were a little concerned, especially because my sister had left school early to become an actress. But my parents did have leanings towards the arts - my father could have been a professional singer - so they understood.

Sandy didn’t know much about men. What have you learnt over the years? Julia Peterson, Bolton

Oh God. You’re right: Sandy didn’t know anything about men. But I remember being 17 and not knowing anything either. And it was rather wonderful because you thought that everything they did was fantastic. What I have learnt is to understand that men’s brains are built differently. It still irritates me sometimes that men find it hard to do more than one task at once, but I understand it now. Come on, I think men are great. Some of my best friends are men.

I remember mobbing you when Grease first came out. I was desperate to get your autograph. What was going through your mind? Melanie Weston, by e-mail

Actually, I was kind of scared. When we arrived at the premiere in London, people jumped on the car. They were on the roof and all over the outside of the car. It was the scariest mob situation I have ever been in. John and I were smiling and acting like everything was fine, but it felt like they were going to come through the roof. So, it was exciting, but I was worried someone was going to get hurt.

You beat breast cancer 10 years ago. Does the experience still affect your life today? Eve Price, Kettering

It certainly still makes me feel lucky to be here. I’m very involved in breast-cancer causes and I love the fact that I can help other women who are going through it. I probably get a call every week from someone I know who has a friend who has breast cancer.

What is the closest you have come to throwing in show business altogether? Harriet Clarke, London

After I had breast cancer in 1992, I thought I was going to quit. I thought, “I’ll stay home on the farm in Australia and enjoy myself.” But I kept on waking up in the middle of the night with songs in my head, so I ended up writing an album about the experience. Also, after Chloe was born, I didn’t do anything for a few years and I did think I would never go back, but then I did an album of lullabies for her. The truth is, I often think, “This will be the last album” and then something interesting comes along.

You’re known for your sunny disposition, but when was the last time you got really moody? Karen Wright, Luton

Listen, I’m a pretty positive person but I get moods, of course I do. I get cranky especially when my blood-sugar level goes down. I get very angry in the car; it’s good to vent when no one can hear you.

How big did you think Grease would be when you made it - and did you realise how risqué it was? Katy Andrews, London

I had no idea how big it was going to be. Who could have guessed it would still be so huge 28 years later? When we made it, I didn’t really think about how risqué it was. But, many years later, when I sat down to watch it with my daughter for the first time, I did think, “Oh my God, I never thought of it like that.”

You spent a few years gigging on the London club circuit. Do you look back on those days with nostalgia? Barbara O’Reilly, Liverpool

Not really. I once did a gig at somewhere called Raymond’s Revue Bar. It was a well-known strip club in the middle of town, but I had no idea. I went on in my pretty little costume and sang a few songs. I did realise that there was a girl swimming around in a fish-tank behind me but didn’t really take much notice of what she was wearing. At the end of the performance, the owner of the club came in, gave me £40, and said: “Thank you very much, but you don’t need to come back.”

Is it frustrating to be best known for a movie you made 30 years ago? Charlotte George, Chichester

Not at all. It’s a classic and how many people can say that they’ve been in a classic?

Olivia Newton-John’s new album, ‘Indigo: Women of Song’, is released on Universal on 11 April