15 Slick Facts About Grease

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in Grease (1978).
Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in Grease (1978).
Paramount Home Entertainment

The movie Grease (1978), based on the musical of the same name, is about to be reimagined for a new generation. HBO Max just announced that it will be premiering Grease: Rydell High, a musical series inspired by the film. In the 1978 big-screen adaptation, John Travolta played tough guy Danny Zuko and Olivia Newton-John starred as sweet Sandy Olsson, two teenagers whose summer romance suddenly blossoms into a full-fledged high school love affair.

Shot on a budget of $6 million budget, Grease made nearly $400 million at the box office—making it one of the highest-grossing musical movies of all time.

1. Henry Winkler turned down the role of Danny Zuko.

As far as Henry Winkler was concerned, Danny Zuko was too similar to Fonzie, the tough guy with a heart of gold he was already playing on Happy Days.

2. Marie Osmond and Susan Dey said no to playing Sandy.

Marie Osmond told Larry King that she turned the part down because she “didn’t want my teenagers some day to say, you know, ‘You have to go bad to get the boy.’ It was just a personal choice as a some day mother.” Dey (Laurie on The Partridge Family) didn’t want to play another teenager. Director Randal Kleiser went to the Star Wars mixing stage to visit his college roommate, George Lucas, and to see Carrie Fisher in one of the battle scenes. But Kleiser couldn’t tell from the scene whether Fisher was right for the part, so he kept looking. In 1998, Travolta revealed he heard singer Linda Ronstadt was also in consideration.

3. Olivia Newton-John insisted on having a screen test with john travolta.

Producer/co-writer Allan Carr met Olivia Newton-John at a party thrown by fellow Australian singer Helen Reddy and was “completely smitten” and begged her to sign on for the part. Travolta told The Morning Call that he rallied for Newton-John to get the part, too. Not trusting her good fortune or her acting (her previous film, Toomorrow, had been released back in 1970), Newton-John requested a screen test with Travolta to make sure they had chemistry.

4. Andy Warhol and an adult film star would have been cast if Paramount hadn’t stepped in.

Carr wanted Warhol to play the art teacher. One unnamed studio executive said he would not have “that man” in the movie, which Carr interpreted as the executive having a personal vendetta against the legendary artist. Carr also wanted porn star Harry Reems to play Coach Calhoun and offered him the part after a screening of Casablanca at Hugh Hefner’s mansion. The studio wouldn’t have it. “They bounced me out of the cast,” Reems said. “They thought they might lose some play dates in the South.” Carr felt so badly about it that he wrote Reems a personal check for $5000.

5. Lorenzo Lamas landed a role when a president’s son backed out.

Gerald Ford’s son, Steven, was too nervous to play Tom Chisum, Sandy’s jock boyfriend, who had a grand total of zero lines. Lamas (later Lance Cumson on Falcon Crest and Hector Ramírez on The Bold and the Beautiful) jumped at the chance, agreeing to lighten his dark hair because he looked too much like a T-Bird. "I would have dyed it green, fuchsia, anything," Lamas told People.

6. Most of the main actors were far too old to be in high school.

Stockard Channing (Rizzo) was 34 when the film was released. Newton-John was 29. Jeff Conaway (Kenickie) was 27. Travolta was 24. Jamie Donnelly (Jan) was 30 during filming, and had to dye her hair from her premature grey to black. Her hair grew back so quickly that her roots had to be colored in with a black crayon every day.

7. The title song was written by Barry Gibb, and Peter Frampton played guitar.

Kleiser didn’t like this song because he thought the lyrics were too dark and not fitting of the 1950s. Kleiser asked Gibb to make the lyrics more upbeat; Gibb told Kleiser he should shoot a serious scene to match the song. It became a number one single in the United States.

8. Rizzo’s hickeys were real.

Conaway gave Channing a real hickey because he wanted it to be authentic. Conaway was also so infatuated with Newton-John that he was tongue-tied whenever she was around. He later married Olivia’s sister, Rona.

9. "Greased Lightnin'" was supposed to be sung by Jeff Conaway, not John Travolta.

Travolta’s two conditions for agreeing to play Danny were that he could sing “Greased Lightnin',” even though Kenickie sang it in the stage production; and that he had to have “blue black hair like Elvis Presley and Rock Hudson in the movies” because “it’s surreal and it’s very 1950s.” The star also argued with Kleiser over the end of the song “Sandy”; he wanted a close-up of himself instead of the cartoon shot of a hot dog diving into a bun. Kleiser got his way.

10. Coca-Cola signs were (mostly) blacked out.

Carr made a promotional deal with Pepsi; the set decorator didn't know that. When the producer saw footage from the movie featuring Coke products he went “ballistic,” according to Kleiser. The Coca-Cola logos were blocked out with an optical printer. They couldn’t alter the Coke cooler, because it was impossible to cover with the technology available at the time. Pepsi never complained. They would have unblocked the Coke signs when the Pepsi deal expired before the 20th anniversary re-release if the original print hadn’t been lost.

11. Travolta kept flubbing a word so much it was kept in the movie.

Travolta kept lip-syncing "heap lap trials" instead of "heat lap trials," and Kleiser claims you could see this in the finished product. Kleiser believed Travolta was distracted after reading a magazine article that morning about his recently deceased girlfriend, Diana Hyland, who had passed away from cancer.

12. Travolta got more of the stage script into the movie.

Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, who wrote the original musical’s book, weren’t invited on set during production of the movie. Travolta had played Danny more than 100 times on the road doing the musical, and gradually got more lines from Jacobs and Casey’s version into the film, which was written by Carr and Bronté Woodard. When Travolta didn’t think a line of dialogue was working, he would quote a line from the original, and Kleiser would tend to agree and use that line instead.

13. That Elvis Presley lyric is creepy.

In “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” Rizzo sings “Elvis, Elvis, let me be, keep that pelvis far from me,” while looking at a picture of The King. That scene was shot on August 16, 1977—the day Presley died. “It was very eerie,” Kleiser told The New York Post. “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.’” When Carr first bought the film rights to Grease, he envisioned Elvis as Danny and Ann-Margret as Sandy. According to Broadway.com, Presley was offered the role of Teen Angel but turned it down.

14. Olivia Newton-John was sewn into those spandex pants.

"They sewed me into those pants every morning for a week," Newton-John said. "Believe me, I had to be very careful about what I ate and drank. It was excruciating." It was 106 degrees on the set for the carnival finale.

15. George Lucas helped get the movie re-released.

In 1997, Kleiser called Sherry Lansing, then head of Paramount, and insisted that Grease had to come back again for its 20th anniversary. Lansing informed Kleiser that George Lucas had called her a few days earlier and said that out of all of the movies in the Paramount vault, Grease is the one that should come back. The Star Wars creator explained that every nine-year-old he knew watched a VHS copy of Grease every day.

16 Movies That Almost Starred Al Pacino

Steve Wood/Getty Images
Steve Wood/Getty Images

Though he’s often been called one of the greatest actors of his generation, Al Pacino will no doubt be remembered as one of the greatest actors of all time. After making his movie debut opposite Patty Duke in 1969’s Me, Natalie, Pacino would go on to become one of the most seminal figures in the “New Hollywood” movement of the 1970s (the pre-blockbuster era in which the counterculture became the mainstream) with starring roles in The Godfather trilogy, Scarecrow, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Bobby Deerfield, and …And Justice for All.

Though he’s racked up more than 50 credits in his 50-year career, Pacino has also turned down plenty of roles (including several in truly great movies). When asked about his track record for saying no in 2013, Pacino explained, “I’m not a very good judge of what’s good.” Here are 16 roles that could have been.

1. The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (1971)

Super-producer Robert Evans needed to call in a lot of favors to get Pacino out of the commitment he had made to playing Mario in James Goldstone’s Mafia comedy. The reason for the change of heart? Two days after agreeing to the part, he was offered the role of Michael Corleone. Eventually, Robert De Niro played the part that was meant for Pacino.

2. Lenny (1974)

In 2010, Pacino told Larry King that turning down the title role in Bob Fosse’s Lenny Bruce biopic is one of his biggest regrets. Though he didn’t originally think it was for him, after seeing a comic perform live, “I suddenly saw what I would want to do with this part.” At that point, it was too late—though Pacino calls Dustin Hoffman’s Oscar-nominated performance in the part “amazing.”

3. Star Wars (1977)

For years, rumors have swirled about the many actors who turned down the role of Han Solo, opening the path for Harrison Ford to make it his own. In 2013, Pacino spoke out on why he passed on the part, telling a crowd during a Q&A, “Star Wars was mine for the taking but I didn’t understand the script.”

4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Speaking of classic sci-fi flicks that Pacino declined, Steven Spielberg had a host of actors on his wish list before offering the role to Richard Dreyfuss—Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman, James Caan, and Pacino among them.

5. Slap Shot (1977)

In Al Pacino, journalist Lawrence Grobel’s extended interview-turned-semi-autobiography of the actor, Pacino cites Slap Shot as a movie he still wishes he had been able to make. “But because George Roy Hill was doing it, I couldn’t do it,” he explained.

“I should have made that movie. That was my kind of character—the hockey player. Paul Newman is a great actor, it’s not a matter of that. I read that script and passed it on to George Roy Hill that I wanted to talk to him about it, and all he said was, ‘Can he ice skate?’ That’s all he was interested in, whether I could ice skate or not. That was a certain kind of comment. He didn’t want to talk about anything else. It was like he was saying, 'What the hell, it could work with anybody.’ The way in which he responded said to me he wasn’t interested.”

6. Days of Heaven (1978)

In Grobel’s book, Pacino cites Days of Heaven as one of the roles that he was truly conflicted over, saying, “I love Terrence Malick, and I love the picture.” According to Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Dustin Hoffman also turned down the lead, which eventually became a breakthrough role for Richard Gere.

7. Coming Home (1978)

Alongside Days of Heaven, Pacino also told Grobel that saying no to the lead role in Coming Home (the role that won Jon Voight an Oscar) was a tough call. But he had his reasons. “I was hoping to make Born on the Fourth of July at that time,” he said. “It was too close.”

8. Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

Do the math and it’s pretty obvious that the version of Born on the Fourth of July that Pacino was hoping to make back in the late 1970s was a bit different from the late 1980s film that earned Tom Cruise his first Oscar nomination. Yes, Oliver Stone was still involved, but only as the screenwriter. William Friedkin was set to direct, but when he dropped out, Pacino wanted out, too. “I had an interest in making it with Billy,” Pacino says in Al Pacino. “So, suddenly, Friedkin is out of the picture—now what? I wasn’t going to make that movie.”

9. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Pacino didn’t even have to read the script for Robert Benton’s Oscar-winning divorce drama to know it wasn’t right for him. “There were times in my life when I didn’t even read what was being offered me,” he told Grobel. “Sometimes I can smell something that’s not right for me … I had a feeling it was not for me … I didn’t feel, at this point, it would be useful.” (Dustin Hoffman won his first Oscar playing the role of Ted Kramer.)

10. Apocalypse Now (1979)

After two successful Godfather go-arounds with Francis Ford Coppola, Pacino knew enough about the director’s work habits to know that he would not be a good fit to play Willard (Martin Sheen’s part) in Apocalypse Now. “I know what this is going to be like,” Pacino told Coppola. “You're going to be up there in a helicopter telling me what to do, and I'm gonna be down there in a swamp for five months.” Pacino balked at the idea of five months of shooting, but the film actually took 16 months to be completed.

11. First Blood (1982)

Based on David Morrell’s 1972 book, and optioned quickly, First Blood is one of those movies that had a number of director-star configurations attached before finally making it into production. Martin Ritt wanted Paul Newman to do it, Sydney Pollack wanted Steve McQueen, and by 1975, Martin Bregman was attached with Pacino to star as John Rambo, when it was a much different movie. “People would have understood the character, but they wouldn’t have had empathy,” original screenwriter David Rabe explained in Douglas Robinson’s book, No Less a Man: Masculist Art in a Feminist Age. “There is a kind of violence that excites an audience and makes them feel that it’s a lot of fun. Mine was not.” Many sources say that Pacino eventually opted out because he wanted Rambo to be more of a "madman."

12. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

Before it became a showcase for the comedic stylings of Eddie Murphy, Beverly Hills Cop was a much edgier crime thriller that at different times was offered to Martin Scorsese and David Cronenberg to direct. Plenty of big-name actors besides Pacino turned down the role of Axel Foley, too (Mickey Rourke, Sylvester Stallone, and James Caan apparently among them).

13. Die Hard (1988)

During a freewheeling crowd Q&A in 2013, when confronted with the list of major movies that he turned down, Pacino had only this to say about Bruce Willis’ iconic role in Die Hard: “I gave that boy a career.”

14. Johnny Handsome (1989)

Though Pacino would later go on to work with director Harold Becker in Sea of Love and City Hall, in Grobel’s book, the actor explains that he first met Becker while they were developing Johnny Handsome:

“Harold and I were trying to find a third act, and we couldn’t. The first half of that movie is great. That was my favorite role ever in movies. I loved the whole idea of someone who’s been grotesque-looking and has made a life having to cope with that kind of deformity, to then have it lifted from him, and to have to cope with the world now … I loved the role. Loved it. But once again, one of those roles that just go down the drain if they couldn’t fix the last act. Mickey Rourke did a great job on it, but that didn’t matter; the movie didn’t have the finish.”

15. Snake Eyes (1998)

In 1997, Pacino was set to re-team yet again with his Scarface and Carlito’s Way director Brian De Palma on the Nicolas Cage film Snake Eyes. Until he wasn't. On July 11, 1997, Variety reported that, “After months of talks between filmmaker Brian De Palma, Paramount execs, and Al Pacino about starring opposite Nicolas Cage in Snake Eyes, Pacino officially has passed. The studio now is eyeing a handful of other actors, including Gary Sinise, to star the action thriller written by David Koepp.” (Sinise did take the part.)

16. Pretty Woman (1990)

Before you try and picture Pacino in the role made famous by Richard Gere, it’s key to remember that Pretty Woman was originally a much darker tale. Still, in 2010, Pacino explained to Larry King that, “Sometimes it's just not the right role for you and you don't feel you belong in that part.”

13 For Sure Facts About Valley Girl

Deborah Foreman and Nicolas Cage are, like, totally bitchin' in Valley Girl (1983).
Deborah Foreman and Nicolas Cage are, like, totally bitchin' in Valley Girl (1983).
Shout! Factory

You can thank the hit 1983 movie Valley Girl for mainstreaming phrases like “for sure” and “gag me.” Valspeak had been around since before the film, which grossed $17.3 million against a $600,000 budget, but the movie helped depict “Valley Girls” in a more positive light. The movie stars Deborah Foreman as a Valley Girl named Julie, who falls in love with a Hollywood punk named Randy (Nicolas Cage), despite the disapproval of their friends.

The film marked Cage’s first major role, and his quirkiness was evident from the get-go (more on that later). Directed by Martha Coolidge (who was paid just $5000 for the gig), Valley Girl endures as both a timeless teen rom-com and a great all-around film—and is about to get a musical reboot. Here are 13 tubular facts about the original movie.

1. Valley Girl is based on Romeo and Juliet.

It’s not a coincidence that Valley Girl's star-crossed lovers are named Randy and Julie, nor is it accidental that they share a kiss in front of a movie theater marquee for Romeo and Juliet. “Yes, it was intentional, and it was a love story,” Martha Coolidge told the Kickin’ It Old School blog. “So I worked to bring it even more out front. I created a Valley look and a Hollywood look. This heightened the stakes for Randy and Julie, just as the differences between the families did in Romeo and Juliet. The parallels were always meant to be fun and not super serious but were based on truthful observations about the local conflicts and real teen pressures. It’s not about marriage, but about love and growing up and differentiating enough to love.”

In the first version of the script, written by Andrew Lane and Wayne Crawford, a falling-in-love scene and a break-up scene were left out, so Coolidge worked with the writers to add those in.

2. Valley Girl is named after a Frank Zappa song, but he didn't want it associated with the movie.

A year before Valley Girl was released in theaters, Frank Zappa and his daughter Moon Unit had an unexpected hit song with “Valley Girl,” in which Moon exaggerates Valspeak over her dad’s music. In an interview, Zappa said, “I don’t want people to act like that. I think Valley Girls are disgusting.”

In a 1982 interview with Billboard, Zappa again expressed his distaste: “People think that ‘Valley Girl’ is a happy kind of song, but it isn’t. I’ve always hated the San Fernando Valley. It’s a most depressing place.” At the time, he said he was open to collaborating on a script about the song as long as the movie wouldn’t be like Beach Blanket Bingo. But when the movie went into production, Zappa asked a judge to halt production of it because it infringed on the song’s copyright, and filed a suit for $100,000 in punitive damages.

3. Martha Coolidge hired Nicolas Cage for the lead without realizing he was a Coppola.

Nicolas Cage in Valley Girl (1983)
Nicolas Cage in Valley Girl (1983).
Shout! Factory

Before Valley Girl came to be, Coolidge had developed a script at Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope, but the project never came to fruition. When she signed on to direct Valley Girl, she was desperate to find a leading actor who wasn’t a “pretty boy.” “We saw everybody from that generation,” Coolidge said at a 2011 screening of Valley Girl, moderated by Kevin Smith. “All those Brat Packers or whatever, they came and I rejected all of them. I almost cast Judd Nelson, and he was tied up, which was probably lucky for me.” During the casting process, she walked over to a pile of headshots and came across one titled “Nicolas Cage,” and after seeing his audition, she decided she wanted him for Randy.

Cage told her he couldn’t do the part, because he was committed to acting in Coppola’s Rumblefish. Coolidge didn’t realize Francis was Cage’s uncle until she called the production company to resolve the conflict, and was told that Nic’s actual surname was Coppola.

4. Martha Coolidge (unsuccessfully) fought to make the cast more diverse.

“I wanted one of the four girls to be black, but [the studio] refused,” Coolidge said at a screening of Valley Girl, discussing the lack of diversity in the cast. “I just did the best I could under the circumstances.”

5. In order to get into character, Nicolas Cage lived in his car while filming Valley Girl.

To get into character, Cage lived in his car while shooting the movie. “I remember chastising him about the danger of living in his car in Hollywood, and how we couldn’t call him,” Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School. “He said he’d use pay phones—we didn’t have cell phones then! Later, during Birdy, he lived with bandages around his head, which made it difficult for him to eat, so maybe we were lucky.”

6. Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman had palpable chemistry.

Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman in Valley Girl (1983)
Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman in Valley Girl (1983).
Shout! Factory

“I loved [Cage’s] eyes, and I thought he had great energy,” Foreman told the Tampa Bay Times of her co-star. “I thought he was scary to me. Emotionally, I was feeling stuff inside. He was triggering stuff in me that I had never experienced in my life. I didn’t even have a boyfriend prior to that movie … I had strong feelings for Nic. When the film ended, we had a conversation. I actually went up to San Francisco with him for a weekend. When we came back, an ultimatum was made—let’s just put it that way. And I decided not to go with the ultimatum, and we were never together after that.”

For Foreman, the break-up scene in the movie was difficult. “I think deep down, I didn’t want to be breaking up with him! And I didn’t even want to go there, to predestine myself,” she said. “I was really resisting the whole experience. It was uncomfortable beyond means. That was the longest we spent on any scene. It was a struggle. Even when I watch it now, I go, ‘Wow, that's so uncomfortable.’”

7. Elizabeth "E.G." Daily wasn't a Valley Girl in real life.

Elizabeth Daily’s character, Loryn, didn’t have a Valley Girl accent, and that was on purpose. “I didn’t really know the Valley Girl thing that much, so I pretended my character was actually from Malibu,” she said. “I was such a rocker from the [Sunset] Strip that I didn’t really know the Valley Girl thing, but I think it was kind of accurate, actually. There are people that actually talk like that from the Valley. It’s pretty funny.”

If Daily’s non-Valley Girl voice sounds familiar, it’s because she has since moved on to a successful voice acting career, doing the voice of The Rugrats’ Tommy Pickles, as well as work on The Powerpuff Girls, Happy Feet, and Wreck-It Ralph; in 2013 she auditioned for The Voice.

8. Nicolas Cage was so hairy, he had to shave his chest.

For an 18-year-old, Cage was quite hirsute, so Coolidge asked him to shave his chest to look younger. “There was an artistic bent to it, for his character,” Foreman told the Yo Show. “He looked more mature with all that hair that he had. They found a middle ground for it.” Cage shaved his hair into a V-like shape, which can be seen in the beach scene above.

9. The Valley Girl soundtrack got pulled at the last minute.

One of the things Valley Girl is known for is its excellent New Wave soundtrack, featuring Modern English’s “I Melt With You,” the Plimsouls, and an array of other ’80s songs. Though it was a shoestring budget film, $250,000 of that budget went toward music clearance rights. A Clash song plays in an earlier print but it got switched to a Men at Work song later, and the studio refused to redo the print to bring the credits up to date “They didn’t care if the credits were correct, they just didn’t want to spend that large amount of money,” Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School. “So CBS pulled the soundtrack album at the last minute. The film was released with the new songs in it and some of the music credits were completely wrong.” A mini-album was released, but it wasn’t until 1994 that Rhino Records released a full soundtrack.

10. The Los Angeles band X was supposed to be in the movie instead of The Plimsouls.

During a scene at Club Central, the live band playing in the background is The Plimsouls, who contributed their hit “A Million Miles Away” to the soundtrack. But during the Kevin Smith screening, Coolidge revealed that she originally tapped the band X to be in the scene. “It was going to be X, and we were in talks. It was very serious and then all of a sudden they kind of freaked out and they said, ‘You know what? We don’t want to alienate our Valley fans,’ and they passed.”

11. Martha Coolidge was given artistic freedom on Valley Girl ... as long as she made sure there was some nudity.

Atlantic Releasing distributed the movie, and they wanted it to appeal to men, which meant that they wanted it to include some nudity, so Coolidge agreed to include a few boob shots. “They said they didn’t care how it was done, they ‘just wanted to see them.’ We shook hands on it,” Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School. “They considered the film an ‘exploitation genre film’ meant for guys. The real success happened when we showed them the finished film. They jumped up and gasped, ‘It’s a real movie!’ They no longer obsessed about how many times they saw naked breasts in the film, which was barely three, and one frame of a fourth … When the studio saw it, they knew it was better to have a good, real film than a mediocre exploitation film. It put them on the map.”

12. Deborah Foreman isn't on the Valley Girl poster, possibly due to financial reasons.

The artwork for the poster features Nic Cage standing next to a woman who is not only not Deborah Foreman, but a woman who does not appear in the movie at all. “Deborah had worked in the business and she was pretty strict about being paid,” Coolidge told Kickin’ It Old School. “When the company needed the actors to be ‘generous with them’ about hours or rules, Deborah was not as forgiving as some of the others. When the poster came up for whatever reason—and it may have been simply that she wanted to be paid—the company brought in a model rather than Deborah. I was shocked and thought it was petty and a really bad idea. But there was nothing I could do about it.”

In a 2013 interview with the Yo Show, Foreman simply said, “If I was the producer I would never have let that happen. I don’t know the facts on it.”

13. A musical remake of Valley Girl has been in the works for years, and is finally being released in May 2020.

Since 2009, a musical film version of Valley Girl has been talked about. First, Jason Moore was attached to direct, but in 2012 Clay Weiner came aboard to direct the Paramount/MGM movie. According to an article in Deadline at the time, “In the musical, the actors will sing ’80s New Wave tunes from bands like The Go-Go’s and The Cars.” Finally, the film has a release date: May 8, 2020—now with Emmy Award-winning director Rachel Lee Goldenberg at the helm.

This story has been updated for 2020.

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