26 Things You Didn't Know About 'Grease'

It took cast changes, scene stealing, and a "crows-feet test" to make Grease the word.

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FOX is reviving the 1978 movie musical blockbuster with a live performance, but there's still a whole lot that wannabe T-Birds and Pink Ladies don't know about the film.

1. Grease used to be even grittier.

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John

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Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey wrote the original 1971 stage production using an urban Chicago high school as inspiration — and they didn't leave out any profanity or raunchy teenage antics. The musical got its name from the 1950s penchant for greasy hair, greasy engines, and greasy food.

2. The producer was a huge playboy. 

Allan Carr

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Movie big shot Allan Carr hosted "Rolodex parties"— inviting the A-L guest list one night, the M-Z one the next — and even held an event in an abandoned Los Angeles jail, according to Vanity Fair. The producer saw the Tony-nominated play and realized that a toned-down version of Danny and Sandy's romance would be perfect for film. But his Paramount boss brushed him off, so Carr got just $6 million to make it.

3. "The Fonz" almost played Danny Zuko.

Henry Winkler

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Paramount originally wanted Happy Days star Henry Winkler as the leading man, but the actor was worried about being typecast so he bowed out.

4. And Carrie Fisher could have been Sandy.

Carrie Fisher

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Director Randal Kleiser roomed with George Lucas in college and watched dailies of Star Wars to see if Carrie could be a fit.

5. But Marie Osmond was the front-runner.

Marie Osmond

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The wholesome singer definitely suited the role, but Osmond, who was raised Mormon, objected to Sandy's bad girl transformation so she declined.

6. Lucille Ball got involved in the casting, too.

Lucille Ball

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Her daughter Lucie Arnaz was the first choice for Rizzo, but Ball refused to let her audition for the promiscuous troublemaker role.

7. Danny could have been a busboy. 

John Travolta

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Allan Carr also imagined the greaser working at a gas station, singing a song called "Gas Pump Jockey."

8. And Sandy wasn't originally Australian.

Olivia Newton-John

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Carr picked country-singer Olivia Newton-John for the part after sitting across from her at a dinner party. The Melbourne native couldn't do an American accent, so they rewrote the part and changed Sandy's last name from "Dumbrowski" to "Olsson."

9. Jeff Conaway was already a Grease alum.

Jeff Conaway

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He played the role of Danny Zuko on Broadway (along with Richard Gere and Patrick Swayze!) but got the sidekick role of Kenickie in the film.10. 

10. Everyone would have graduated Rydell High long ago.

Jamie Donnelly

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Newton-John worried about the seven-year age gap between her and costar John Travolta, but the 29-year-old wasn't the oldest member of the cast. Stockard Channing was 33, and another Pink Lady, Jamie Donnelly (who played Jan), had premature gray hair. They both passed the "crow's-feet test" during auditions, though, and cinematographer Bill Butler used soft lenses to turn back the clock.

11. There's a tribute to the original bad boy. 

Rebel Without a Cause and Grease Scenes

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Danny's windbreaker at the beginning of the movie was a nod to James Dean's character in Rebel Without a Cause.

12. And a spooky reference in "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee."

The play originally mentioned heartthrob Sal Mineo, but he was murdered in 1976. The writers then changed the lyrics to include Elvis, but the singer died the same day the scene was filmed.

13. Your favorite song might not have been in the movie. 

Producers added four tunes at the last minute: "Grease," "Sandy," "You're the One That I Want," and "Hopelessly Devoted to You." Newton-John's big ballad actually came after filming wrapped — and ended up receiving an Oscar nom.

14. The Beach Boys almost made a guest appearance.

Beach Boys

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Carr originally imagined the surf rock quartet doing "Greased Lightnin'."

15. But Travolta stole the hot rod tribute track.

John Travolta

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The garage number belongs to Kenickie in the stage version — it is about his car, after all! But Travolta apparently wanted the solo and nabbed it for himself.

16. The T-Birds didn't always sound so cool. 

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John

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In the play, the gang called themselves the "Burger Palace Boys" after their favorite diner hangout.

17. Elvis could have been Teen Angel.


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Unfortunately, the King passed away during filming so the role went to Frankie Avalon.

18. "Beauty School Dropout" almost didn't happen.

Grease Scene

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Avalon had an intense fear of heights, so the slippery, three-story staircase didn't seem so dreamy after all. They almost cut the number but ended up putting mattresses alongside the steps.

19. The cast reportedly chewed 100,000 pieces of bubble gum during the shoot.

It doesn't sound like they took Frankie's advice.

20. "Hand Jive" wasn't as fun as it looked. 

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John

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The school dance took two weeks to film, and temperatures topped 100 degrees in the windowless gym. A couple extras even came down with heat-related illnesses. And actor Michael Tucci, who played T-Bird Sonny LaTierri, fainted and had to be taken to the E.R.

21. But the carnival was a snap.

Scene from Grease

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The fair was only in town for the day, so most of the grand finale was shot in 24 hours. The director created reproductions of the rides to shoot more close-ups later on.

22. Sandy can thank Olivia for those iconic pants.

The skintight leather leggings belonged to Olivia Newton-John — she actually had to be sewn into them when the zipper broke.

23. But critics totally hated it.

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John

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The Today show's Gene Shalit deemed it "visual junk food," the New Yorker called it a "klutzburger," and the New York Daily News's reviewer said it "should really be covered on the obituary page."

24. It was highest grossing movie musical of the 20th century. 

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John

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The best-selling soundtrack landed four songs in the Billboard Top 10 and the film grossed nearly $400 million. It was the highest-grossing movie musical of all time until it Mamma Mia! in 2008.

25. Grease 2? Not so much. 

Michelle Pfeiffer

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Carr proposed a sequel called Summer School focusing on Kenickie and Rizzo's wedding. Instead, Grease 2 flipped the plot and starred Michelle Pfeiffer as the leader of the Pink Ladies. The 1982 release had twice the budget of the original but totally flopped, earning only $15 million at the box office. Plans for a Grease franchise, including three more movies and a TV series, were put on hold.

26. It's finally back!

Actors from FOX's Grease: Live

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FOX's Grease: Live airs this Sunday, January 31. Dancer Julianne Hough stars as Sandy and Les Mis actor Aaron Tveit will be Danny Zuko. Vanessa Hudgens and Carlos PenaVega join in as Rizzo and Kenickie.