In Grease , Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta were the hottest couple of the 70s. 20 years later, Olivia has escaped cancer and goes back to her country roots. And she’s not so blue … At the opposite of a long corridor of a recording studio in Nashville, Tennessee, a silhouette wearing white linen smiles at me. A ghost? I pinch myself to verify . Yes, that’s her “THE” Newton-John. The one who, in Grease, crated the neo-kitsch look and electrified Travolta.
GS : Did you understand what made Grease so successful ?
ON-J : If only I knew ! It must be thanks to the music. We didn’t take ourselves seriously. And I also believe the movie has its own energy.
GS : Don’t forget the chemistry with John Travolta …
ON-J : I remember he came to my place to read the script. And I asked him if he would be OK to do a screentest with me, because I wasn’t at ease. I had made a sci-fi musical before that and I wasn’t very good in it. Furthermore, I was 29, I was supposed to be 18 and I wanted to make sure it would work. John helped me a lot, being kind of protective, during the whole making of the movie. But I don’t know why he didn’t come at the re-premiere of the movie …
GS : Travolta said he was in love you with you at that time. Did you know it ?
ON-J : In Grease, John Travolta and I were really in love with each other, but he was going through a hard time and I was already involved in a serious relationship … but hey, we were Sandy and Danny, that compensated , didn’t it ?
GS : People say you invented Sandy 2 ?
ON-J : We were with the costumer, the make up artist and the hairdresser, trying different stuff to find a new look. I don’t really remember how we found it. I believe it was the shoes, the earrings. I went out and I had such a great time! I wondered “ why did you wait all these years ? “. It was fun to start with Sandy 1, shy and clean, and to end with Sandy 2, more sexy and closer to Danny, the “bad boy”.
GS : You created a new fashion !
ON-J : Oh yes, but it wasn’t very comfortable wearing those pants. To be honest, I couldn’t neither drink nor eat, I was stitched into those pants everyday. I should have invested in spandex, I would be a multimillionaire by now!
GS : You just released a new album …
ON-J : Yes, it’s called Back with a heart, it’s on MCA-Nashville. I finally came back to my country roots. I re-recorded I honestly love you and I just finished a tour with Cliff Richard.
GS : Your albums deal a lot with environmental issues …
ON-J : I was just recovering from breast cancer and I felt very connected to the planet and to nature, I was worried about its future, for my daughter Chloe. It was really helpful for me to record these songs.
GS : You’re now referred as a “survivor”
ON-J : Yes, “survivor”, that’s an image I like.
GS : You vision of life has changed ?
ON-J : I know it must sound strange, but I’d say my breast cancer changed my life in such a wonderful way. I appreciate every morning, every day. I’m delighted to be here.
GS : Did you feel like you had to talk about it ?
ON-J : They started to say I was dying in an hospital, something like that. A paper was going to publish an article, but I spoke out to prove it wrong, before it got to be insane.
GS : What if you had to do it all over again ?
ON-J : I’d sign right away ! I danced with John Travolta, and with Gene Kelly in Xanadu. What is this but luck? Gene was great, charming, very professional. He helped me to trust myself, because I’m not a trained tapdancer … You know , people say “Oh no, what an horrible day, it’s raining !”. I say “It’s a beautiful day. We’re living it”. You know what I mean ?