By Veronica Dudo
Celebrating her 40th year in the music industry, Olivia Newton-John has graced the big screen, charmed audiences with her songs and is a breast cancer survivor who continues to positively inspire millions with her message of hope. Having sold over 100 million albums, Newton-John continues to tour and is preparing for her upcoming December 10 concert at Caesars Casino in Atlantic City.
The 63-year old has a new movie, “A Few Best Men” scheduled to premiere January 2012 in Australia, followed by a worldwide release. I spoke with the Grammy winner about her lasting career, new movie, charity work and what it was like to dance with Gene Kelly and John Travolta.
You’re celebrating 40 years in the music industry; how have you stayed true to yourself over the decades?
I always choose music that I like and I think that my musical taste changes with life events and experience. So, that’s really what I’ve done–I’ve just kind of gone with what I liked and where I thought I was musically.
In January you have a new movie, “A Few Best Men” coming out in which you play a character very different than the type fans are used to seeing you portray. What was that experience like?
“A Few Best Men” is a comedy and I play the mother of the bride. It’s a wedding movie set in Australia. It was written by the man that wrote “Death at a Funeral” and directed by Stephan Elliott who wrote and produced, “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”. He’s very clever and he wanted me to work with him for a while and I wanted to work with him because he’s so funny. When I read the script, I laughed so much that I said I have to do this film and it’s a very different role for me–I’m a little bit crazy and it’s very funny–I just got to see it for the first time and it’s really funny!
Your album, “Portraits: A Tribute to the Great Women of Song” was recently re-released, what was it like to put that together?
It was great. This is a re-release and I wanted to pay tribute to the women in the industry who affected me in the early stages of my career.
You have been cancer-free for 20 years but continue to be a champion of the cause. Now you’re working to teach women to do regular breast examinations with a new tool?
Yes, I have something called the Liv Aid which is a breast cancer tool to help women do regular breast self examinations. Most lumps that women find are benign if there is anything and if you find it early you have a better chance of survival. The idea is to be aware of your own body, to be aware of your own breast health and be proactive in doing self exams. The reason I’m so keen on that is because that’s how I found my lump. I found a lump, I went to see my surgeon, he sent me for a mammogram. The mammogram was negative and I don’t say that to scare anyone, I say it because it’s like you have to trust your instincts. I felt something wrong and so he did a needle biopsy. That was negative, so then I had a surgical biopsy and that’s when we found the cancer. Sometimes you just have to listen to your intuition and I felt something was up so I encourage women to do their own regular self exam and not wait for the yearly one because your doctor doesn’t know your body like you do.
What are some other projects you’re working on?
The cookbook, which will be coming out next year; all the money goes to my cancer and wellness center in Australia called Live Wise.
How would you describe your upcoming concert at Caesars Casino in Atlantic City?
The show is me and my music through the years, and you know I went through a lot of different stages with my music, from country to pop, from Grease to Xanadu and from the new movie I have to a new song, “Weightless” that John Farrar wrote for me, who wrote all those hits from “Magic” and “You’re the One That I Want”. Then I do some Christmas songs because we’re so close to Christmas and it will be just a journey through my music. There’s no big production or anything it’s really me, my music and a great band.
Grease is an iconic movie that continues to entertain new generations. Do you have a favorite memory from making that movie?
Just that it was fun and it was like being back in school. I mean it’s so long ago now it’s like we’re talking 30 years ago—almost 35—but we had a wonderful time and some wonderful friendships have been formed from it.
What was it like to dance with the legendary Gene Kelly in Xanadu?
That was amazing! I’ve danced with two incredible iconic dancers–Gene Kelly and John Travolta and both amazing. A life-long dream—I can’t really believe that I did that. I go, ‘Gosh, I danced with Gene Kelly!’ that’s like an amazing thing to achieve and to be daring enough to do it!