It's pretty much a given that when a famous person's life story gets told on television, there's not going to be time to go into every last detail. And sometimes, for dramatic purposes, the true story has to be condensed and edited. Cramming the lengthy career of Olivia Newton-John into just a two-part miniseries means these are some lingering questions after the credits roll, which is where we come in. Here are the burning questions we had after watching the first episode of Olivia: Hopelessly Devoted to You—and some answers.
Where does Mrs Newton-John's accent come from?
Played by New Zealand actress Robyn Malcolm (Outrageous Fortune), Irene Newton-John was the daughter of German Jewish Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Born, who was quick to leave his homeland once the Nazi party came to power in 1933. Irene, who was almost 20 at the time, met Olivia's father, Brinley, after the family moved to Cambridge, England.
Did Olivia really go out with Ian Turpie?
She did—he was her first great love, and the miniseries' depiction of the age gap between the young TV host (he was 21 at the time of their romance) and the 16-year-old aspiring singer is accurate. Shortly before the former host of The New Price Is Right passed away in 2012, Olivia visited him at his bedside.
Was her stage fright really that bad?
Yes, it was. A story from People magazine in 1983 said, "She used to write the lyrics to familiar songs on the palm of her hand and often broke into tears before a show." Part of the reason she decided to do Grease was because it would allow her to take a break from live performance work.
Can I watch Toomorrow, ONJ's 1970 sci-fi movie?
For decades, the film, which Olivia once described as "all a bit of a shambles", wasn't allowed to be screened (with only odd exceptions) at the instructions of producer Don Kirshner. Following his death, it was made available on DVD in the UK.
Was her first single really a flop?
Yes, her cover of "Till You Say You'll Be Mine", originally a Jackie DeShannon B-side from 1963, ended up only being released promotionally. When what little attention it received was negative, Decca Records opted not to give it a full commercial release or the push that would've been required to turn it into a hit.
Did Olivia really not want to sing her breakthrough hit, "If Not For You"?
Her first top 10 hit in Australia, "If Not For You" had been recorded previously by Bob Dylan and George Harrison, but the miniseries' suggestion that Olivia wasn't a fan of the tune is spot-on. Years later, she admitted she didn't really like the song and had been encouraged to record it.
Can she really play the piano?
She can, and that's not the only instrument she knows her way around. But she once said, "I've written songs on the piano and guitar, but I've never been game enough to play them publicly.”
Who was John Travolta's girlfriend who passed away just before his did Grease?
Actress Diana Hyland, who he'd been dating since 1976 when they met on the set of The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. She was diagnosed with breast cancer the following year and died in March 1977 when a mastectomy was unable to stop the spread of the disease.
Is Olivia still friends with John Travolta?
She sure is. During her recent health issues, Olivia says, "He's been wonderful. He calls and checks up on me." Besides staying in touch as friends over the decades since Grease, the pair also worked together in 1983 on movie Two of a Kind and collaborated on 2012 festive album This Christmas.