Tra­volta: ‘Grease’ is still the word

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - LIFE - Bryan Alexan­der

John Tra­volta is a big fan of that Grease In­ter­net the­ory that went vi­ral — that co-star Olivia New­ton-John’s Sandy is ac­tu­ally dead in the film.

Mor­bid, yes. But world­wide de­bate around the premise proves how pow­er­fully the 1978 clas­sic mu­si­cal, which starred Tra­volta as greaser Danny, res­onates as it turns 40 on June 16.

“I love it; imag­i­na­tions are awe­some,” Tra­volta, 64, tells USA TO­DAY on a call from France, where he cel­e­brated the movie’s an­niver­sary with a screen­ing at Cannes Film Fes­ti­val (a newly re­stored Blu-ray is out now). “These things are bound to hap­pen to some­thing time­less like this. It’s so fun.”

Tra­volta was fas­ci­nated when the the­ory went vi­ral in 2016. It spec­u­lated that Sandy drowned while frol­ick­ing with Danny on the beach at the start of the movie — and the en­tire story is her coma fantasy.

This would ex­plain Danny’s boast to his male friends, “I saved her life; she nearly drowned” on the song Sum­mer Nights. And the happy duo fly­ing their con­vert­ible into the clouds for the fa­mous end­ing sig­ni­fied Sandy ul­ti­mately dy­ing.

Does the the­ory work for Tra­volta? “I could have fun with it,” he says. “But I know the writ­ers of Grease, and I was around in the orig­i­nal days. I can’t take it too far.”

Danny is ex­ag­ger­at­ing when he says he saved Sandy’s life, Tra­volta points out.

“He’s brag­ging; it was made up to im­press the boys,” he says. “(Sandy and Danny) have two dif­fer­ent sto­ries and some­body is ly­ing. Most likely, it’s Danny.

“But I don’t want to spoil the fun for ev­ery­one,” he adds.

The ac­tor be­lieves that, some­where, Sandy and Danny are still to­gether.

“I think they had sev­eral kids, which peo­ple did in those days, they adored their kids, and they held onto their ro­mance,” says Tra­volta. “Sandy and Danny were the real deal.”

Di­rec­tor Ran­dal Kleiser has kept silent on the fan the­ory, promis­ing to re­veal his an­swer at length in a planned book. But he dis­misses Sandy’s flight to heaven “as the rea­son for the end­ing.”

Kleiser took ad­van­tage of the an­niver­sary to over­see the full restora­tion of Grease. A clip of Sandy and Danny shar­ing a kiss in that fly­ing con­vert­ible, in­tended to close the movie, is in­cluded as a bonus fea­ture in the DVD and dig­i­tal HD re­lease.

The di­rec­tor also was able to make a small fix that had annoyed him (and fans) for years: dig­i­tally re­pair­ing the blurred-out sign be­hind Sandy and Tom (Lorenzo La­mas) in the Frosty Palace malt shop.

Pro­ducer Al­lan Carr had a deal to fea­ture Pepsi in Grease. But the prop man­ager didn’t get the memo and put a Coca-Cola sign in the Frosty Palace, ac­cord­ing to Kleiser.

Carr blew a gas­ket when he saw the scene after pro­duc­tion wrapped.

“He made us blur it with 1978 tech­nol­ogy, which looks ter­ri­ble,” says Kleiser. “Fans have al­ways asked what hap­pened. It was sim­ply be­cause they screwed up and put Coke signs there.”

The al­tered sign makes Pepsi the clear win­ner 40 years later.

“Ran­dal has been want­ing to fix the Coke sign since the day Grease was re­leased, it drove him crazy,” says An­drea Kalas, vice pres­i­dent of Para­mount Pic­tures archives, who over­saw the year­long restora­tion.

“We now have the tech­nol­ogy to do it seam­lessly.”


Kenickie (Jeff Con­away), Sandy Ols­son (Olivia New­tonJohn), Danny Zuko (John Tra­volta) and Betty Rizzo (Stockard Chan­ning) end “Grease” on a high note.


Sandy and Danny found ro­mance at the beach. But did she die there?

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