Olivia Newton-John was snubbed by Elvis Presley over movie role

Olivia Newton-John reacts to reviews of Grease in 1980

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Later today, at 11:15pm on BBC 2, Olivia Newton-John stars in Xanadu. The 1980 movie showed off Olivia’s singing prowess as it featured her music throughout the movie. However, she missed out on singing alongside the King of Rock and Roll himself, Elvis Presley, just three years earlier, when the Jailhouse Rock star was originally approached to join the iconic young adult musical, Grease.

Grease introduced a slew of memorable characters in the 1950s, including Olivia as Sandy, opposite John Travolta’s Danny Zuko.

Just before Elvis died on August 16, 1977, he was reassessing his life and decided he wanted to rejoin the ranks of Hollywood. While he starred in countless musical romantic comedies throughout the years, he had always dreamed of becoming a serious actor. He was even briefly up for a role in A Star Is Born opposite Barbra Streisand.

However, when Grease’s producer, Allan Carr, offered the King an incredible part in Grease, he couldn’t go through with it.

Allan invited Elvis to play the musical vision, Teen Angel, in Frenchie’s mystical Beauty School Dropout scene. The moment in question showed Frenchie considering her options after she quit school and lost her spot at beauty school.

Elvis was due to sail in on a cloud and recite the catchy song that somewhat reflected his own life and career.

The track’s first line even reads: “Your future, so unclear now, what’s left of your career now?”

However, Elvis eventually turned it down. It is not known exactly why he didn’t claim the role, but Allan couldn’t wait around.

Eventually, fellow musician Frankie Avalon played the brief cameo, leaving Elvis without a credit in Grease.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/FrqioiAcyiY

There were no hard feelings, however. And Grease’s writers even popped a cheeky reference to Elvis in one of the film’s song lyrics.

During the song Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee, Rizzo uttered the line: “Elvis, Elvis, let me be. Keep that pelvis far from me.”

What’s more, is that the film’s director, Randall Kleiser, remembered a “creepy” moment on the day they filmed this Sandra Dee segment of the movie. 

Kleiser and the cast were filming the scene on August 16, 1977 – the day Elvis died – when they were perfecting the song’s routine. 

Kleiser said when the news broke, the cast and crew were stunned by the coincidence. He said: “It was all over the news, so everyone knew. We did this number, and everybody kind of looked at each other like: ‘Yeah, this is creepy.'”

Despite the fact Elvis never performed in Grease nor met Olivia, the two musicians were intrinsically linked.

Olivia enjoyed a powerful singing career before she became a household name as an actor.

She was a massive fan of Elvis while growing up, and even saw him live a handful of times.

Olivia opened up about seeing Elvis on stage before he died. She said: “He’s got a magic on stage, and I’d heard a lot of people saying he’s this and that, and I always wanted to make my own judgment of him, and he was magic as soon as he comes on stage-whatever he does, people will accept.”

She even performed his track, Jailhouse Rock, with Abba and Andy Gibb in 1978.

Olivia died earlier this year on August 8, 2022, at the age of 73. She died after suffering from breast cancer for the third time.

Xanadu is on BBC 2 at 11:15pm.

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