Singer and actress Olivia Newton-John, well known for her iconic portrayal of Sandy Olsson in the 1978 film “Grease,” has died, CBS Los Angeles reported.
The actress, who was public about her ups and downs with breast cancer over the years, died on Monday at the age of 73. Newton-John’s husband, John Easterling, announced her death on Facebook: “Dame Olivia Newton-John (73) passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends. We ask that everyone please respect the family’s privacy during this very difficult time.”
Before “Grease,” Newton-John had already made her way as an artist, earning her first Grammy Award in 1973 for her country hit “Let Me Be There,” NBC News reported. A year later, she won another two Grammys for the country ballad “I Honestly Love You,” which also marked her first No. 1 hit. Her 1981 smash hit “Physical,” with its suggestive lyrics, was banned by two radio stations in Utah, Entertainment Weekly reported. The song became her biggest hit and spent 10 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, according to CNN.
The British-Australian pop star was “Grease” director Randal Kleiser’s first choice for the role of Sandy.
“But she had a few concerns,” Kleiser told NBC News. “She had had a bad experience on an English film and didn’t want to repeat it.
“(At 29 years old) she wasn’t sure she would look the part of a 17-year-old and wanted to make sure she and John looked like they could be contemporaries,” Kleiser continued. “He was a bit younger (at 23). She asked to have a screen test so she could see how she would come across and feel how the chemistry would be between she and John and myself.
“We couldn’t have been more thrilled by the final result.”
Newton-John has said she was “lucky” to be a part of a film that, despite its controversial message, has retained its popularity over the years.
”I don’t think anyone could have imagined a movie would go on almost 40 years and would still be popular and people would still be talking to me about it all the time and loving it,” Newton-John told CNN in 2017. “It’s just one of those movies. I’m very lucky to have been a part of it. It’s given so many people pleasure.”
John Travolta, the Danny to Newton-John’s Sandy in “Grease,” paid tribute to his friend shortly after her death.
“My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better,” he shared in an Instagram post. “Your impact was incredible. I love you so much. We will see you down the road and we will all be together again. Yours from the first moment I saw you and forever! Your Danny, your John!”
Newton-John continued to sing and act, even as she endured treatments for multiple breast cancer diagnoses.
“Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer,” her husband, Easterling, shared in a statement. “Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations be made in her memory to the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund (ONJFoundationFund.org).”
Newton-John’s first breast cancer diagnosis came in 1992, and over the years, through her struggles and triumphs, she became an advocate for breast cancer survivors, NBC News reported.
“I think, you know, what you think creates your reality. So it’s a decision. You have to make that decision,” she told the “Today” show in 2019. “You can be a victim, or you can be a winner and enjoy your life.”