'Hopelessly Devoted to You': Delta Goodrem on Getting Into Character as Olivia Newton-John
Olivia Newton-John is one of pop culture’s most beloved stars. Fans fell in love with her when she released her hit single "Have You Never Been Mellow" in 1975. She became an even bigger sensation after being cast as Sandy opposite John Travolta’s Danny in the 1978 film Grease, one of the most successful movies of all time.
The singer has endured much in life, most of it has been in the news. Now, her fans can see a fictionalized account of her life, her struggles and accomplishments, in Lifetime’s Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted to You, and her music is performed throughout the film.
Finding someone who can properly capture Newton-John’s beauty, grace, and talent sounds like an impossible task, but producers struck gold with Delta Goodrem, an Australian singer/actress, who is pals with Newton-John in real-life. There will be times you’ll likely forget this isn’t actually Newton-John up on the screen.
TV Insider chatted with Goodrem about taking on her icon. Read on for her insights!
What was it like taking on this role as Olivia Newton John as you are friends with her?
Delta Goodrem: She’s my mentor. I definitely feel like she’s taught me everything I know. The cool part is that I love hearing stories about her and how deeply she touches so many people’s lives.
I met her at an award show a few years ago. She posed for a photo with every last person backstage. I mean everyone. I’d never seen anyone do that so graciously.
People say things like that to me about her all the time.
How did your involvement in this movie come about?
I heard about the project starting out. My name got thrown in very early. I spoke to Olivia straight away. My loyalty was to her first and foremost. I asked her, ‘Are we doing this? Am I going to play you?’ Once we talked it through and she was like, ‘I want you to do this,’ I said ‘Okay!’ I felt very protective, actually, over this project. Even in rehearsals, I was very conscious of everything people were saying or where the story was going.
There’s a statement at the top of the movie saying some events have been ‘fictionalized for dramatic purposes,’ but Olivia has had plenty of drama in her life.
Yes. There’s enough drama to hopefully stay in a truthful place. There are definitely so many trials. She stands up with indomitable strength and rises each time.
I guess the biggest compliment I can give you is that, at first, I really thought it was Olivia doing the singing in the film, but it’s you.
We get to hear you sing Olivia’s songs in their entirety, which I thought was a great choice.
They are so beautiful in their original forms. I didn’t want to [apply] any paint strokes to them. I had my own take, but I was very conscious of [staying] true to the original. I love that we got to do the whole soundtrack.
Can you talk about Olivia’s dynamic with her mother, Irene, played by Robyn Malcolm? The character is very strong and their final scene together is such a tearjerker.
The mother/daughter took a lot to wash off after taping. My heart was broken. They had a beautiful relationship, loving and kind. Her mother provided a strong backbone and support.
There’s a very tender scene where Olivia stops in a hospital hallway and talks to a cancer patient.
I’ve seen [her do things like that] numerous times. That’s a part of her being.
When you first saw yourself as Olivia, what was that like?
The first day, we started shooting the “Physical”’ video. I walked onto set wearing the headband and the leotard. The whole crew had dressed up as if they were in the ‘Physical’ video [too]. Every single person wore bandanas!
What was your favorite era to visit?
I did love the ‘70s. I love dressing in that era. The “Xanadu” and “Magic” [both from 1980] eras were so much fun, too.
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What was the most challenging song of hers to do?
“Xanadu” has a lot of high notes and so many chord changes that it’s quite eccentric in its nature. It was quite tricky in that it sits in a very ‘Olivia’ place. I had sung her songs all my life. I was waiting to sing that one.
At the end of last year, Olivia put out a video on social media saying she was doing great contrary to [tabloid] reports. Needless to say, everyone was happy to see that.
Absolutely. She did it with love and a smile. She’s in her recovery and on her schedule. She’s going to do a book tour in March, I know. She’ll be out seeing people.
Happy New Year! Here’s to a wonderful 2019! Love & light, Olivia pic.twitter.com/1Nd2jIcRb1
— Olivia Newton-John (@olivianj) January 3, 2019
Do you feel knowing her and having been inspired by her that that allowed you to bring her to life in a way that no one else could?
I hope so. But there’s only one Olivia Newton John. She’s the original. She’s so special.
The song that concludes the movie was great, a perfect choice. Do you agree?
Yes. That moment is all heart. That’s my favorite song of all time.
Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted to You, Saturday, February 16, 10/9c, Lifetime