The movie Olivia Newton-John was “embarrassed” and “humiliated” by

The 1970s were incredibly kind to Olivia Newton-John. She released two number-one albums, 1974’s If You Love Me, Let Me Know, and the following year’s Have You Never Been Mellow, before rounding off the decade with an excellent acting performance in one of the most popular movies of all time, the 1978 musical drama Grease.

Grease, directed by Randal Kleiser in his feature debut and starring John Travolta alongside Newton-John, is based on the stage musical of the same name and tells of a young greaser who develops a summer romance with an Australian transfer student. The soundtrack remains one of the best-selling albums ever made.

However, even before Grease had taken Newton-John’s career and stardom to heights she had only ever once dreamed of, she had already featured in the movies. Naturally, though, as with many actors’ early careers, the films Newton-John was involved in were not the most pride-inducing.

Take, for instance, 1970’s British science fiction musical Toomorrow, directed by Val Guest. The movie tells of a gang of students who pay their school fees by forming a pop band, but when strange vibrations occur from an instrument called a “tonaliser”, they are abducted by aliens and have to entertain their species.

Toomorrow was produced by Harry Saltzman of the James Bond films fame, but he had problems during both the production and writing phases with Guest and the writing team. It was Saltzman who decided to hire Newton-John to perform in the lead role so early into her acting career.

He once said: “I was very taken with Livy; I thought she had everything going for her in this fresh, bubbly way; she was worried about filming, but she got into it pretty soon. All through, it was quite obvious that Livy was going places because she was bubbling, bouncy, was quite a looker, it was obvious that she [was as] cute as a button, was going places.”

Going places she was, but it was another eight years before Newton-John got the Grease part. By the time that came around, the actor and singer had developed a sense of shame over Toomorrow, which is detailed in Grease’s casting director Joel Thurm’s memoir Sex, Drugs & Pilot Season: Confessions of a Casting Director.

The book claims that Newton-John was “embarrassed” and “ashamed” over her performance in Guest’s film of 1970 and was “cautious” over how she was doing to play Sandy in Grease. She had told John Travolta, “I was embarrassed by the last movie that I did, and I don’t want that to happen again.” And thankfully, it didn’t.

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