Pop Culture

How 'Grease' made its stars look like teens (or at least tried)

Whether the project be "Friday Night Lights" or "Beverly Hills, 90210," casting adult actors to play teenagers has been a longstanding Hollywood tradition. The 1978 movie-musical "Grease" was no exception, but some attempts to make its primary cast look nearly half its age worked better than others.

Getty Images Contributor
1978: (FILE PHOTO) 'Grease' the musical, created by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, premiered on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre on June 7, 1972. By 1979 the musical had become the longest ever running show on Broadway, with the smash hit film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John becoming the highest-grossing movie musical. Please refer to the following profile on Getty Images Archival for further imagery. http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/Search/Search.aspx?EventId=143378232&EditorialProduct=Archival#&esource=maplinNEWS_uki_jun12 Actors John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John embrace in a promotional still for the film, 'Grease,' directed by Randal Kleiser, 1978 in United States. (Photo by Paramount Pictures/Fotos International/Getty Images)

Just ask Stockard Channing, who was 33 when she played Rizzo in the musical that's getting the live-televised treatment with a new cast this Sunday on Fox.

RELATED: First 'Grease: Live' photos released: See Danny, Sandy and Rizzo in costume

Nick Ut / AP
Stockard Channing readies herself for her role in the movie version of "Grease," in Los Angeles, Aug. 30, 1977. Ms. Channing stars with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in the film. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Quoted in an article published online and appearing in the Jan. 31 print edition of Vanity Fair, Channing considered one makeup trick more of a hacky stunt than a brilliant hack.

"[Paramount Pictures executive] Allan [Carr] showed up on the set with a brown pencil and started dotting freckles on my nose so I would look younger," the actress recalled. "I said, 'I don't look younger! I just look dirtier!'"

Nick Ut / AP
Actresses and co-stars Stockard Channing, left, and Olivia Newton-John ready themselves for their roles in the movie version of "Grease," in Los Angeles, Aug. 30, 1977. Ms. Channing and Ms. Newton-John star with John Travolta in the film. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Vanity Fair reports that cinematographer Bill Butler also "used soft lenses to turn back the clock," which addressed Olivia Newton-John's concern that she, at age 29, looked far older than her on-screen love interest John Travolta, who was 23 back then.

Other attempts at to dip into the fountain of youth took place before shooting began. "Grease" director Randal Kleiser took a closer look at auditioning actors to ensure they passed the eye test in more ways than one.

Nick Ut / AP
Actresses and co-stars Stockard Channing, left, and Olivia Newton-John ready themselves for their roles in the movie version of "Grease," in Los Angeles, Aug. 30, 1977. Ms. Channing and Ms. Newton-John star with John Travolta in the film. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

"I would get up close to them and see if they had any crow's-feet around their eyes, and that would show they were beyond the surreal age that we had determined would work," he told the publication. "High-school kids could not have crow's-feet."

The cast of Fox's "Grease: Live" likely doesn't have a lot of crow's-feet to conceal, but these actors playing Rydell High School students aren't exactly kids, either. Julianne Hough (who plays Sandy) and Vanessa Hudgens (Rizzo) are both 27, while Aaron Tveit (Danny) is 32.

Tommy Garcia / FOX
GREASE: LIVE: (L-R): Julianne Hough, Aaron Tveit and Vanessa Hudgens in GREASE: LIVE airing LIVE Sunday, Jan. 31, 2016 (7:00-10:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed) on FOX. Cr: Tommy Garcia/FOX

"Grease: Live" airs Sunday at 7 p.m.

Follow TODAY.com writer Chris Serico on Twitter.

TOP