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Olivia Newton-John responds to critics who call 'Grease' sexist

Newton-John addressed backlash to the film that arose after it aired in the U.K. during the holidays.
Image: Grease
Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta played Sandy and Danny, respectively, in "Grease."Paramount Pictures
/ Source: TODAY

Olivia Newton-John says those who criticize "Grease" and say it is sexist and lacking in diversity need to “relax a little bit,” according to comments she made on a recent podcast.

The legacy of the 1978 film, which also starred John Travolta, has come under scrutiny in recent weeks after the BBC aired the movie over the holidays in the U.K. Viewers complained of misogyny, racism and homophobia, according to Britain's The Times.

Newton-John, 72, called those comments “kind of silly” in a recent interview on the Australian podcast "A Life of Greatness."

"The movie was made in the ‘70s about the ‘50s," she said. "It’s fun. It’s a fun movie musical and not to be taken so seriously. I think everyone is taking everything so seriously. We need to relax a little bit and just enjoy things for what they are."

Newton-John went on to say she doesn’t view "Grease" in the way her critics do, and that “it’s just a fun movie that entertains people. That’s all.”

Newton-John said she was initially reluctant to take on the role of the prim Sandy Olsson because she was not sure she could pull off playing a 15-year-old girl when she was 28.

Hearing of her hesitation, the studio sent someone to convince her.

“They sent John Travolta to talk me into it,” she said, recalling him walking up her driveway with his “piercing blue eyes,” intent on her taking the role. “How can you resist that, right?” she said.

Newton-John and Travolta remain close, and she said "Grease" is one of the things holding their friendship together, saying the two of them “shared something incredibly unique making that film that is still so loved.”

As for dealing with criticism during her career, Newton-John said she stopped reading articles and reviews that critiqued her work long ago, due to the suffering it caused her.

“I just kind of remove myself from that situation now,” she said, “and what’s that saying? ‘It’s going to be tomorrow’s fish-and-chip paper,’ so just let it go.”