Grease is the word! When Grease hit theaters in June 1978, it was an instant hit — and its cast members became instant stars.
Based on the 1971 musical of the same name, the film follows students at Rydell High School after they return from summer break in 1958. As memorably recapped in the song “Summer Nights,” Danny Zuko (John Travolta) has a seasonal fling with Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John), but when they get back to class, the duo have different expectations about where their relationship stands.
The Pulp Fiction actor was already relatively famous thanks to his turn in 1977’s Saturday Night Fever, but Newton-John hadn’t yet risen to fame in the United States. That changed after Grease, which at the time was the highest-grossing movie musical of all time.
The Xanadu actress and the New Jersey native remained close friends after they made Grease until her 2022 death, but they barely knew each other when production started — and one of the first scenes they filmed included a kiss.
“I was nervous, of course,” the “Physical” singer told Us Weekly in January 2021. “It was a very special day, and it was really a nice way to get to know John a little bit because we hadn’t spent all that much time together. We had some rehearsal time and dance time and stuff, but this was our first acting day. It was lovely. It was special.”
Travolta, for his part, believes that Sandy and Danny would still be together after literally flying off into the sunset in the movie’s finale.
“I think they had several kids, which people did in those days,” he told USA Today in June 2018, reflecting on the film’s 40th anniversary. “They adored their kids, and they held onto their romance. Sandy and Danny were the real deal.”
He did not, however, buy a then-viral internet theory that Sandy actually drowned at the beach in the summer, making the rest of the movie a hallucination she had after death. Fans began speculating in 2016 that “Summer Nights” hinted at the tragedy with Danny’s line, “I saved her life, she nearly drowned.”
While Travolta found the theory amusing, he didn’t think the writers of Grease would take the plot in so dark a direction. As for the drowning line, he thought Danny made it up to “impress” his friends in the T-Birds. “But I don’t want to spoil the fun for everyone,” he joked.
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