Forty years ago, Grease the movie had America singing and dancing their way into and out of theaters, their inspiration coming (not surprisingly) from the cast, particularly John Travolta as Danny Zuko and singer Olivia Newton-John as Sandy Olsson. They were a couple of ’50s teenagers fighting against great odds — especially high school peer pressure — to be together. Based on the Broadway musical of the same name, it’s a combination of romance, comedy, music, and dancing that connected with pretty much everyone, and still does. This year Grease turns 40, and we’re taking a special look back at it, offering 40 facts and comments from those involved regarding the film.

1. For John Travolta, Grease is a classic.

Grease is part of the American culture. It wasn’t initially, but it has embedded itself in American culture,” John told “Everyone understands the scenario of Grease, everyone’s been to school, everyone’s understood those feelings. And then you have these writers who came up with a brilliant story and music. Then we added our special feeling to it.”

2. There were concerns about casting Olivia Newton-John.

Director Randal Kleiser had reservations about Olivia Newton-John playing Sandy. “I remember meeting her for the first time at that party and thinking, ‘Have You Never Been Mellow?’” he related to Vanity Fair. “How is that going to work? How is she going to become this slut?”

3. Nobody else could play Sandy.

It was John’s opinion, as he shared with, that “there was only one person on the planet that could be Sandy, and that was Olivia Newton-John, and I was hell-bent to get her in this movie.”

4. Olivia worried she was too old for the film.

Olivia was nervous about doing the film, telling the Telegraph, “I worried that at 29 I was too old to play a high-school girl. But John was charming and really wanted me to do it, and that was one of the deciding factors. He’s a lovely man – we became great friends and he was very helpful to me on set, as I was not an experienced actress.”

5. Her audition was done the way Olivia wanted it to be.

What John found amusing was Olivia’s audition process: “The rare thing of an actor having the choice of whether they would do a movie,” he related to journalist Jimmy Carter. “Normally the studio has the choice, and Olivia said, ‘Well, I’ll screen test and if I like the screen test, I’ll be in the movie.’”

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6. The chemistry between John and Olivia was undeniable.

Oliva has warm memories of working with John, feeling that they worked well together and had chemistry with each other from the moment they met.

7. The idea for Grease was spawned during a nostaligic conversation.

The original concept for Grease came from high school art teacher Warren Casey and advertising copywriter Jim Jacobs, who were discussing how much they missed doo-wop songs from the 1950s, which gradually spawned the musical and everything that followed.

8. The musical didn’t get its start in NYC.

The musical made its debut in a Chicago former trolley barn on Feb. 5, 1971, arriving Off Broadway at the Eden Theatre a year later.

9. John Travolta appeared in the stage version of Grease

John appeared in a touring production of Grease playing the background character of Doody.

10. Sandy didn’t originally come form Australia.

The character of Sandy was originally written as an American, but because Olivia couldn’t master the accent, the character was rewritten to have come from her native Australia.

11. The soundtrack was a sensation of 1978.

The soundtrack to Grease was the second best-selling album of 1978, following only the soundtrack to John’s hit from the previous year, Saturday Night Fever. It sold 28 million copies worldwide.

12. Two songs from the soundtrack hit #1 on the Billboard charts,

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The singles “Grease” and “You’re the One That I Want” reached the top of the Billboard charts, and “Hopelessly Devoted to You” (which was Academy Award-nominated) reached number three.

13. The actress who played Rizzo went on to play a First Lady.

Stockard Channing, who played Betty Rizzo, and would go on to great acclaim on television and on the Broadway stage, played First Lady Abbey Barlett in the television series The West Wing.

14. The original Danny Zuko went on to star in Taxi.

Jeff Conaway (Kenicie), who went on to play Bobby Wheeler on the sitcom Taxi, actually spent two and a half years playing Danny Zuko on stage.

15. Olivia loved the change in Sandy.

Olivia’s favorite moment: “Everything about making the film was fun, but if I had to pick a favorite moment,  it was the transformation from what I call Sandy 1 to Sandy 2,” she said to London’s Telegraph. “I got to play a different character and wear different clothes, and when I put on that tight black outfit to sing ‘You’re the One That I Want’, I got a very different reaction from the guys on the set.”

16. Grease wasn’t the first time John worked with director Randal Kleiser.

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Randal Kleiser had previously directed John Travolta in the TV movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, which is what secured him the position. “John had never had the lead in a movie before The Boy in the Plastic Bubble,” he explained to “He had been part of an ensemble in a TV comedy, but this was his first time as the star. We got along very well, the movie got a lot of attention and when John was hired to star in Grease, he suggested me as the director. We trusted each other, and had the kind of shorthand that happens when you’ve already worked together.”

17. Stockard Channing was desperate for Grease.

Stockard Channing genuinely needed to be cast: “At the time I had no money and I had a mortgage,” she admitted to “When Allan Carr cast me out of the blue, it was because they had seen a movie that I had done called Sweet Revenge. I played the car thief. They saw this and realized I could do other things. I was at the bottom of the barrel, bottom of the drawer maybe, but I decided the only way I could do this was to look at her like she was a real person. I was so much older than she was in life, but I could not think about that, so I sort of threw myself back to what I felt when I was her age, even younger. The complexity of adolescents and hormones and sexuality and all of that other stuff. Seeing that I really was older, I think that added to the isolation of Rizzo.”

18. Elvis Presley was considered for a role in the movie.

Producer Allan Carr originally envisioned Paul Lynde (Bewitched, Hollywood Squares) as as the Rydell High principal, and Donny Osmond (and for a brief moment, Elvis Presley) rather than Frankie Avalon as Teen Angel.

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19. The movie made box office history.

Grease was the biggest box office hit of 1978, pulling in almost $400 million and costing only $6 million to produce. Forty years later, it’s still the fourth highest grossing musical of all time.

20. Didi Conn auditioned in character.

When Didi Conn auditioned for the role of Frenchie, she was told to do so in character. “I had lived in L.A. for a couple of years by then and I was driving a way I hadn’t gone before, and there was ‘Frenchie’s Beauty Parlor,” she shared with Hellogiggles. “I went in and I didn’t tell her what I was doing, but she had a pink hairdo, and I said, ‘Oh I love the way your hair is, can you do mine like that?’ While she was working on it, and teasing away, and spraying, I asked her, ‘How did you get into this?’ It was really helpful.”

21. The Fonz was almost cast as Danny Zuko?

The part of Danny Zuko was originally offered to Henry Winkler, then riding high as “The Fonz” on Happy Days, but he turned down the opportunity out of fear of typecasting (plus the fact that he didn’t really sing played into that decision as well).

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22. Sandy could have been a Partridge.

Susan Dey, Laurie Partridge on The Partridge Family, was the original choice to play Sandy, but she listened to her manager and turned it down. So where’s that manager working these days?

23. Before Olivia, other actresses were considered for Sandy.

Other potential Sandys included Ann-Margret, Carrie Fisher (George Lucas was director Randal Kleiser’s college roommate), and Marie Osmond. Marie was actually very close to signing, but reportedly had serious issues with Sandy’s transformation from good girl to bad towards the end of the film, so she dropped out of the running.

24. Actors got sick from the water in the drag racing scene.

The drag racing scene was pretty cool. Unfortunately the water under the bridge it was shot at in Los Angeles turned out to be contaminated, and multiple cast and crew members got ill as a result.

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25. The original Coach Calhoun had a controversial past.

Originally cast in the role of Coach Calhoun was adult film star Harry Reems, though obviously that didn’t come to pass. Offered director Randal Kleiser to, “It was the 70s, and at that time it was sort of anything goes. The sexual revolution was happening, and porn stars were becoming somewhat accepted in media. I didn’t think it would be a problem. But Paramount did.”

26. Stockard has seen Grease only twice.

Stockard Channing admits she’s only seen the film twice in the past 40 years. “I saw it when it first opened and then there was a 20th anniversary and I went with a friend of mine and her little girl,” she recalled to People. “Her little girl at the time was about four and she was sitting there between us. She looked at the screen and she looked at me and couldn’t understand how I could be in two places at once.”

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27. Two songs from the stage musical were replaced for the movie.

In the journey from stage to screen, some significant changes were made to Grease. Explained director Randal Kleiser to, “There were a couple of songs we didn’t think would pop onscreen. There was one called ‘All Alone at the Drive-In Movie,’ and it was a nice song, but it wasn’t something that John could really wail with, so we wrote ‘Sandy’ instead. At the end, there was a song that we replaced with ‘You’re the One That I Want’, because we needed a song that John and Olivia could sing together that would be kind of bouncy and fun, and the play just didn’t have that.”

28. The high school they shot at has been in various other films, as well.

The Rydell High sequences were shot at Venice High School in Venice, CA, which was also used in various film and TV productions, among them A Nightmare on Elm Street, American History X, Heathers, Masters of the Universe, and Glee. It also served as a location for Britney Spears’ music video “… Baby One More Time.”

29. The high school in Grease was named after a rock and roll singer.

Rydell High was named after singer Bobby Rydell.

30. “Hopelessly Devoted to You” was a last minute addition.

Added to the film after filming had wrapped was Olivia’s ballad, “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” which received an Oscar nomination.

31. Frankie Avalon’s fear of heights almost caused a scene to be scrapped.

The song “Beauty School Dropout” almost couldn’t be filmed because of Frankie Avalon’s fear of heights and a three-story staircase that didn’t have banisters. He got through it, but it wasn’t easy.

32. For John and Olivia, Grease 2 was not the word.

Given the success of the first film, Paramount wanted to do a sequel, but there was apparently no follow through. Olivia told Fox News, “I kind of remember they did approach John and I to do it, and then it didn’t happen. I didn’t think it was going to happen, and then they made it with other people.”

33. There’s a James Dean tribute at the beginning of the film.

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If you remember the blue windbreaker that Danny wears at the beginning of the film, that was done as a tribute to actor James Dean and his film Rebel Without a Cause.

34. Grease 2 totally bombed in the box office.

The sequel, Grease 2, was released in 1982 and reversed the formula, with Maxwell Caulfield as “nice boy” English exchange student Michael Carrington, and Michelle Pfeiffer as “bad girl” Stephanie Zinone. The film was a bomb, costing $13 million and grossing $15 million.

35. There was almost a Grease spin-off.

There had been talks of a spin-off film called Summer School, with the wedding of Rizzo and Kenickie at the center of it.

36. Olivia’s denims were really tight.

Remember Olivia’s tight denims she wore in the finale after she had made her transformation? They were her own, but when the zipper broke she had to actually be sewn into them.

37. Actors overheated while shooting the school dance scene.

A highlight of the film is the school dance, but the gym it was shot in had no windows and over the course of the two weeks it took to do, temperatures were often more than 100 degrees. Overheated actors definitely became a problem. Comparatively, the finale — “You’re the One That I Want” — was filmed in one day.

38. A new version of the film was released in 2010.

A sing-along version of the movie was released to some theaters on July 8, 2010.

39. There was a live TV performance of Grease in 2016.

FOX recently aired Grease: Live, the title of which says it all. Julianne Hough as Sandy, Aaron Tvelt as Danny, Vanessa Hudgens as Rizzo, Carly Rae Jepsen as Frenchie, and Carlos PenaVega as Kenickie.

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40. Fans think that Sandy and Danny were ghosts in the film.

One popular theory, given the ending of the film when Sandy and Danny fly into the clouds in his car, is that they were actually dead throughout. “I laughed,” Olivia told Huffington Post. “I thought it was hilarious. I thought it was also wonderful that people were still talking about it all these years later. Then I thought, if that’s the case, we were the first zombie musical, and we look pretty good considering.”