Before Greasewas a movie, it was a Broadway musical. Some of the original lyrics for the song 'Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee' were "No, no, no, Sal Mineo, I would never stoop so low". For the movie these lyrics were changed to “Elvis, Elvis, let me be! Keep that pelvis far from me!” The lyrics were changed because Mineo was murdered a few years after the stage version debuted. Coincidentally Elvis tragically died on August 16, 1977, the same day that the Sandra Dee song was filmed.
While the cast was supposed to be in high school, every single one of them is way older than a high schooler. When they began filming in 1977, John Travolta was 23, Olivia Newton-John was 28, Stockard Channing was 33 and Jeff Conaway was 26. The closest to being age appropriate was Dinah Manoff who played Marty who was 19-year-old at the time.
When they filmed the dance contest, it was during the heat of summer because they had to film when school was no longer in session. The school gym had no air conditioning and they had to film with the doors closed so they could control the lighting during filming. The building became so unbelievably hot that extras were dropping like flies and several had to be treated for heat-related illness.
The movie had already wrapped when they decided to add in the song 'Hopelessly Devoted to You'. The producers felt like they were missing a ballad from Olivia Newton-John so they wrote one and asked her to come back to film it. It turned out to be a great idea and the song ended up receiving an Academy Award nomination.
The chemistry between Rizzo and Kenickie was undeniable and it turns out that those hickeys from Kenickie were real. Stockard Channing admitted in an interview that Jeff Conaway insisted on giving her those love bites himself. Talk about some method acting.
When producer Allen Carr first bought the film rights to Grease, he had a different cast in mind. He saw Elvis as his Danny and envisioned Ann-Margret as Sandy. Later down the road Elvis was offered a role, but it wasn’t Danny. He was offered the role of The Guardian Angel in the song "Beauty School Drop-Out" but he turned it down.
During an episode of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew in 2008, Jeff Conaway revealed that the movie was responsible for starting his addiction to painkillers. While they were filming the song "Greased Lightning" he was dropped by his fellow cast members and hurt his back. He was prescribed painkillers, got addicted and was never able to kick the habit. He died in 2011 at the age of 60.
In the stage version, 'Greased Lightning' is sung by Kenickie. When John Travolta signed on, he insisted that his character should sing the song instead. The director asked Conaway if it was okay to give the song to Travolta and while at first he wasn’t thrilled, he eventually said it was okay.
Originally Sandy was written as an all-American girl next door named Sandy Dumbrowski. When Olivia Newton-John booked the role they had to make some rewrites. In the movie version, she became Sandy Olsson, from Australia. Also, because they cast Newton-John, her songwriter John Farrar was asked to to write two new songs for the film and they dropped a few songs from the Broadway musical as well.
Jeff Conaway had a huge crush on Olivia Newton-John and he could barely speak whenever they were on set together. They never got together, but he did have a little fling with Susan Buckner who played Patty Simcox. Later he wound up marrying Rona, Olivia Newton-John's sister.
When thinking about who could play Sandy, Carrie Fisher was considered for the role. Director Randal Kleiser went to the mixing stage for Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope to visit his college roommate, George Lucas. When he was there, he saw Fisher in one of the battle scenes and thought she might be a good choice.
The first choice for Rizzo was Lucie Arnaz but she actually lost the role because of her mother. When she was asked to screen test her mother, Lucille Ball, called Paramount and said, "I used to own that studio; my daughter's not doing a screen test!"
The part then went to Channing when the casting director remembered seeing her perform when she co-starred in a play with Arnaz.
Grease was the highest grossing film of 1978 but even though it did so well it only got one Oscar nomination. What was it for? The song that wasn't even supposed to be in the movie, "Hopelessly Devoted To You."
After filming "You're the One That I Want", Olivia Newton-John kept those pants and while she never wore them again, she still owns them. When asked about the super tight pants, it turns out that they were actually sewn onto her.
"They sewed me into those pants every morning for a week," Newton-John claimed. "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.
When she was offered the job, Olivia Newton-John insisted on doing a screen test. She was worried that she wouldn’t be able to act the role and she also felt like she may look too old to be a highschool student. She hoped that if she nailed the screen test, she would feel better about taking the role.
A majority of the extras on set won a nationwide contest to be in the movie. Thousands of people also auditioned to be one of the 20 principal dancers seen throughout the film. Those dancers were given small roles throughout Grease and were in most of the dance numbers.
The T-Bird’s were always messing around in the movie, and it looks like they liked to play around off screen as well. At the cast party, the T-Bird actors handed out buttons with a picture of them mooning the camera.
At one point, they thought of making Grease an animated movie instead. When they decided to nix the idea, they kept in a little animation just for fun. They also decided to make the entire opening credits animated as an homage to their original idea.