Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta made one of the most famous on-screen couples in history, and the Grease co-stars have remained close friends ever since filming the 1978 movie.
While Olivia has battled cancer three times since shooting to fame on the film, John was faced with every parent’s worst nightmare in 2009, when his 16-year-old son Jett died on a Christmas holiday in the Bahamas. Through their grief and heartbreak, the pair have been there for each other every step of the way.
Now, speaking in an exclusive chat with Starts at 60, Olivia – who was diagnosed with cancer for the third time last year – has praised her close friend for turning around his unimaginable grief to help others with his inspiring non-profit charity, the Jett Travolta Foundation, helping children with special needs and their families.
It was reported at the time of his death that Jett had suffered a seizure on the holiday. His father later confirmed that he had autism and suffered regular seizures throughout his life.
While Olivia declined to comment on John’s personal grief in relation to his son’s death, she praised his work for the foundation as well as one of her closest friends who has also overcome grief – saying that focusing on something positive can prove beneficial in hard times.
“I think it helped me and one of my friends, Nancy, who lost her daughter and started a children’s health environmental coalition to educate parents to the dangers of environmental toxins,” she explained.
“Because of their grief they created something positive that will help other people – as has John with the Jett Foundation, and hopefully I have with the [Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research] centre. So I think putting your energy into something positive is going to help others, it feels good and it’s helpful.”
She also credited John with helping her through her past health battles and added: “He’s been a big support, he’s a good friend.
“We don’t see a lot of each other, but we see each other. We were just talking about this the other day when we saw each other at the reunion, we talk and text and see each other probably two or three times a year.”
Grease remains one of the most popular musicals in history, and it will always hold a very special place in Olivia’s heart.
“It’s 40 years on and people are still talking about it, I’m very lucky!” she said. And asked what her most memorable during filming was, she added: “There are many, but the transition when I go to Sandy two is really fun and different and memorable.”
She doesn’t often watch the film back, but recently had the chance to see it again alongside John at a Grease reunion to celebrate the 40th anniversary. Speaking about the moment she took the trip down memory lane, she added: “We had a chat before the movie. That was really fun, I got to see it on a huge screen and they’ve improved the music, it was great, it was fun.”
Olivia was diagnosed with cancer at the base of her spine last year. It’s the third time she’s had the disease, having secretly battled it five years before, as well as overcoming breast cancer in 1992.
It inspired her to help others going through similar health issues and as well as setting up her ONJ Centre, which works to help those living with cancer, as well as develop and trial breakthrough cancer therapies, she also organises annual Wellness Walks to raise awareness and funds.
Olivia has chosen natural therapies such as cannabis oil to help ease her pain from the disease this time round, instead of opioids and other drugs such as chemo. Her husband John grows the plants in California where the couple live, as it is legal there.
“I’m hoping cannabis oil (which is completely natural) will become available to everyone for pain relief and stress and everything,” she explained. “We’re doing a lot of research into cannabis and cancer and I’m hoping we’re going to find the cure with the right strains.
“It really depends on the person though. It varies from person to person and what cancer they have, but the research is fascinating. It’s wonderful and I’m thrilled about it.”