Olivia Newton-John Seven Most Iconic Roles

Olivia Newton-John: 7 of her most iconic TV and film roles

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On August 8, it was announced that actor and singer, Olivia Newton-John had died from cancer, aged 73. 

According to her husband, she “passed away peacefully at her ranch in southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends”.

Since the news of her death broke, famous faces such as Hugh Jackman, James Gunn, Dionne Warwick and John Travolta have all led online tributes to the Australian sweetheart.

To celebrate the legendary actor’s legacy, we’re looking back at some of her best and most iconic TV and film moments. 

From Xanadu to RuPaul’s Drag Race, Olivia Newton-John has done it all. Here are just seven of her unforgettable roles.

Grease: The Movie

In 1978, Olivia Newton-John was cast alongside John Travolta in the adaptation of the 1971 Broadway musical, Grease. To this day, Grease remains one of the most successful movie musicals ever made. 

However, did you know that Olivia Newton-John almost didn’t take the lead role of Sandy due to concerns that she was too old to play a high school student? 

At the time of filming Grease, the actor was 29 while her character’s counterpart, Danny Zuko (John Travolta) was 23 in real life.Olivia Newton-John’s worries were put to bed, however, due to Grease becoming the biggest box office hit of 1978. 

The Grease soundtrack also spent a colossal 12 weeks at number one in the US and also gained a prestigious Golden Globe nomination. However, Grease wasn’t all that Olivia Newton-John would go on to be famous for. 


Two years after her stint as Sandy, Olivia Newton-John returned to Hollywood to star in the now-cult classic, Xanadu. 

If you’re unfamiliar, then Xanadu is a movie where a Greek muse called Kira (Olivia Newton-John) incarnates on Earth and inspires inhabitants to build a roller disco called Xanadu. Yes, that really is the plot.

The BBC may have called this a “disastrous disco musical” however, we think this rollerblading fantasia is fun, quirky and quite bonkers. It’s also one of Olivia Newton-John’s rare theatrical appearances so for that reason alone, it’s a must-watch. 

Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu
Image credit: Universal Pictures

Two of a Kind

Five years after the success of Grease, 1983’s Two of a Kind saw Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta finally reuniting on the big screen. 

The film, described as a ‘fantasy romantic comedy’ was a box-office flop at the time. However, the movie soundtrack went platinum and saw ‘Twist Of Fate’ went Gold in Canada.

More recently, ‘Twist Of Fate’ was featured in the second season of the Netflix series, Stranger Things. It also features on ‘Stranger Things: Music from the Netflix Original Series’ which was nominated for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media at the 2019 Grammy awards

Eurovision Song Contest 1974

Did you know that Olivia Newton-John once represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest

In 1974, the singer placed equal fourth in the competition while Swedish superstars, ABBA stormed the first place podium with ‘Waterloo’. 

Following her Eurovision Song Contest debut, Olivia Newton-John actually admitted that she ‘disliked’ the track the British public had chosen for her. Out of six possible songs, ’Long Live Love’ was selected through a voting process.

Despite her hatred of ‘Long Live Love’, this performance goes down in Eurovision Song Contest History. A star truly was born. 

Glee Season One

Back in 2010, Olivia Newton-John appeared in season one of Glee. In an episode titled ‘Bad Reputation’, Olivia Newton-John calls McKinley High School teacher, Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) after a video of the latter ‘jazzercising’ goes viral.

What unfolds is pure television gold. Olivia Newton-John and Sue Sylvester recreate the video to the seminal 1982 hit, ‘Physical’. 

Glee was truly ahead of its time. All six seasons are currently streaming on Disney+ if you want to relive this iconic moment and more.

Image credit: Fox/Disney+

RuPaul’s Drag Race Season Seven

In 2015, Olivia Newton-John appeared as a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race. She took to the panel on episode two of season seven, titled ‘Glamazonian Airways’, alongside fellow guest judge, Jordin Sparks. 

The Aussie also had the pleasure of witnessing Katya and Sasha Belle’s renowned Lip Sync to her 1983 track, ‘Twist of Fate’. It’s a pivotal Drag Race moment that fans have ingrained in their memories.

Sharknado 5

Say what you will about the Sharknado saga, but Olivia Newton-John’s cameo as Orion in Sharknado 5: Global Swarming, is iconic.

She appears alongside a smorgasbord of stars including Samantha Fox, Katie Price, Tara Reid and her daughter, Chloe Lattanzi.

Sharknado 5, directed by Anthony C. Ferrante, currently has a criminally low Rotten Tomatoes score of 30%. This science fiction disaster movie may not be for everyone, but for Olivia Newton-John? It’s worth sitting through.

Image credit: Syfy

Feature image credit: Alamy/Paramount Pictures