Award-winning actor and icon John Travolta shot to fame with his slick moves and good looks back in the 70s. He starred as high-schooler Danny Zuko in the hit movie ‘Grease’, but how old was he when he played the part?
John Travolta played the part of 18-year old Danny Zuko in Grease when he was actually 23 years old. He was by no means the only actor playing the part of a significantly younger character, as his leading lady, Olivia Newton-John, was 29 years old when she played the part of Sandy.
Read on to learn more about John Travolta and his cast mates’ ages in ‘Grease’, and more of his box office successes.
‘Grease’ is The Word
Born February 18, 1954, John Joseph Travolta grew up in New Jersey as the youngest of six children. He began his acting career on the stage, after dropping out of school aged 17, but found work on screen after moving to California in 1972.
He became a teen heartthrob playing Vinnie Barbarino in the high-school sitcom ‘Welcome Back, Kotter’ in 1975, paving the way for bigger roles to come.
He quickly found stardom, and played the role of Tony Manero in dance film ‘Saturday Night Fever’ in 1977, which catapulted him to international fame. The role earned him a nomination for the Best Actor Oscar.
His role in ‘Grease’ soon followed, with rehearsals starting just four days after filming for ‘Saturday Night Fever’ had finished. Travolta’s early success meant that at the time of filming ‘Grease’, he was just 23 years old.
Although far older than the high school character he was playing, Travolta was actually one of the younger principal actors on set. Olivia Newton-John almost didn’t accept the role due to concerns about her age: “I was 29 and worried that I didn’t look young enough”.
Even at 29, Olivia Newton-John was younger than some of her co-stars, with 33 year old Stockard Channing playing 18 year old Rizzo, and 31 year old Michael Tucci playing 18 year old Sonny.
If you’ve seen the film, you’ll probably agree that the ‘Grease’ high schoolers clearly weren’t played by teenagers, but their energy is sure convincing!
Watch the famous ‘Summer Nights’ movie scene in the YouTube video below.
What Came Next?
Though ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and ‘Grease’ are generally considered to be his most notable roles, John Travolta’s career extends far beyond these 70s hits.
Though the 80s saw Travolta fade from the limelight, he returned full force in the 90s with roles in cult classic ‘Pulp Fiction’, 1994, and ‘Get Shorty’, 1995. These have been followed with a slew of movie appearances, including Edna Turnblad in 2007 musical ‘Hairspray’.
In an interview with Steven Prokopy, Travolta discussed his rationale for choosing roles that are unlike characters he’s played before.
He explained, “I guess I need to have something to do as an actor. I don’t want to just show up and be whatever that means; I want to show up and perform for you. And in order to do that, I need to have things to do.”
Meet ‘n’ Grease
In December 2019, thousands of fans travelled to see John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John reunite once again to reprise their roles of Danny and Sandy, in South Florida.
The dynamic duo performed in three Meet ‘n’ Grease Movie sing-along shows for their adoring fans, dressed up as the high schoolers they played over 40 years prior. They answered questions, sung songs and posed for photos with lucky fans.
During the event, the audience were reportedly asked if they would like to see a ‘Grease 3’, to which they responded with deafening applause. Who knows what’s next for the actor!