Everybody loves Grease – but it’s fair to say not everybody loves Grease 2. A sequel to the 1978 film, it takes place two years after the original film and follows Pink Lady Stephanie Zinone and her burgeoning romance with new kid Michael Carrington.
The film flopped, but still continues to be discussed, watched, and dissected to this day. Here are some facts about this controversial film.
20. Michelle Pfeiffer didn’t use a stunt double for the motorcycle ride scene
Apparently, Michelle Pfeiffer performed her own stunts in the famous scene where Stephanie and Michael go on a romantic motorcycle ride. The scene sees Stephanie taken for a ride at twilight by the Cool Rider before they share a brief kiss. The loved-up pair are then interrupted by the arrival of the T-Birds and Pink Ladies.
Before the Cool Rider – aka Michael – leaves, he tells Stephanie that he’ll see her again soon at the school talent show. According to Maxwell Caulfield’s stunt double, Gary Davis, in the iconic scene Michelle Pfeiffer “sat behind me, then I lifted her around to where she straddled me, and then we wheelie’d away. She was wonderful the whole time.”
19. Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield did not get along
Although Stephanie and Michael might have had great chemistry on-screen, in reality, Michelle Pfeiffer and Maxwell Caulfield were at loggerheads for the majority of the time during filming. Both offered an insight into their frosty relationship a few years after the film was released. In one interview, Caulfield claimed that they “got along infamously.” In another interview Pfieffer branded Caulfield as “self-adoring.”
Caulfield – whose career stalled after the movie, a stark contrast to Pfeiffer’s rise to stardom – went on to reveal that it was difficult to watch his former co-star achieve such great success. “It was, psychologically, quite a kick in the pants,” he told Page Six in 2021. “Michelle rose like a Phoenix, right? Did ‘Scarface,’ and so that made it even, frankly, a little harder to swallow.”
18. A few big names were almost in the film
While Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta don’t turn up in Grease 2, some other big names in showbiz almost made appearances. Andy Gibb – the youngest of the Bee Gees brothers – was initially set to play the male lead, but he failed to make the cut after a poor screen test. Another music icon, Cher, initially signed on to play Paulette Rebchuck.
However, the singer eventually dropped out due to the low salary and unfinished script. Jennifer Beals also signed on to play Sharon Cooper, but dropped out when she was offered the lead role in Flashdance. Debbie Harry of Blondie was also asked to play the lead role of Stephanie Zinone, but she declined because she thought she was too old to play a schoolgirl. Clearly she hadn’t seen Grease!
17. Maureen Teefy didn’t make it to the recording session for Do It For Our Country
Do It For Our Country is a duet between Sharon (Maureen Teefy) and Louis (Peter Frechette), which sees Louis try to convince Sharon to get under the covers with him. In the song, the pair are shut into a fallout shelter where Louis tells Sharon that nuclear war is imminent and tries to convince her that they should “do it for their country.”
If you’ve listened to the movie’s soundtrack, you might have noticed that Teefy doesn’t feature in the song. The actress couldn’t actually make it to the recording session so Frechette had to sing the whole song himself. This explains why Teefy’s vocals aren’t on the official soundtrack. Teefy’s voice was ultimately dubbed in later.
16. Pamela Adlon got into a car accident before shooting wrapped
Unfortunately, Pamela Adlon – who plays Dolores Rebchuck in the film – got into a car accident while on her way to set one day. The accident occurred about halfway through shooting. Thankfully Adlon was not seriously injured and most of her scenes were already filmed anyway. For the scenes where Adlon was missing and recovering from her ordeal, stand-ins were used. If you look closely you can spot a stand-in during the talent show sequence.
Adlon went on to become a successful actress after her appearance in Grease 2. Notably, she appeared in Say Anything…, Bed of Roses, and Lucky. She’s also gone on to have a successful career on the small screen: she voiced Ashley Spinelli in the Disney TV show Recess and Brigette Murphy in Milo Murphy’s Law. She also featured in Californication
15. There’s a small nod to Kenickie
Fans of the original film will be pleased to know there’s a nod to Kenickie in Grease 2. During the scene where Michael is confronted after trying to get a T-Bird’s locker, you can catch a glimpse of the license plate of Kenickie’s Greased Lightning car (DXJ 432) hanging inside the locker. If you look extra closely, you can also spot a pack of cigarettes and a wrench from the auto shop class.
Initially, filmmakers wanted the real Kenickie (aka Jeff Conaway) to feature in the film. Not only that, but they also wanted Rizzo (Stockard Channing) to make an appearance too. Early plans for the film actually had Kenickie and Rizzo as main characters, and the movie was meant to document their time at summer school. Ultimately, this idea was scrapped – largely because Channing had left Hollywood by the early 80s, choosing to work on her stage career instead.
14. Michelle Pfeiffer only went to the audition “as a fluke”
Most of the people involved in Grease 2 were tarnished by their association with the film’s poor reviews and reception. But for Michelle Pfeiffer, it turned out to be a role that helped launch her career. However, it almost wasn’t to be, as Pfeiffer was initially ambivalent about the role. “I went on this audition as a fluke,” she recalled in an interview with Interview Magazine in 2012.
“And somehow, through the process of going back and dancing, and then going back and singing, I ended up getting the part.” She continued: “I went crazy with that movie. I came to New York and the paparazzi were waiting at the hotel. I know the producers put them up to it. I am basically very private, and I’m really nervous about doing publicity. Every time I set up an interview, I say, ‘That’s it, this is my last one. I’ll do this because I committed to doing it, but I’m never doing another one.’ It was insane.”
13. Johnny Nogerelli was going to be Danny Zuko’s cousin
In the film, new kid Michael Carrington is introduced as Sandy Olsson’s cousin – a neat little detail that helps connect Grease 2 to the original film. But producers almost went one step further and considered making Johnny Nogerelli – Stephanie’s ex-boyfriend – Danny Zuko’s cousin. However, in the end writers thought that making Michael Sandy’s cousin and Johnny Danny’s cousin would be overkill, and so the idea was scrapped.
However, there is still a connection between the characters of Johnny Nogerelli and Danny Zuko, even if they aren’t cousins as initially suggested. Adrian Zmed, who took on the role of Nogerelli in Grease 2, had previously played Zuko in the national touring company production of Grease back in the 70s. He later appeared in the Broadway musical, appearing as Zuko again. He reprised the role one last time at the age of 40 on Broadway in 1995.
12. The film helped repopularise bowling
Although it’s fair to say the film had little to no impact on the film industry, it certainly left an impact on bowling alleys across the US. The song Score Tonight, set in a bowling alley, combined with updated, mechanised scoring helped rejuvenate bowling and made it a trendy game again. Prior to the movie’s release, bowling alleys in the US had been declining in popularity, but following the release they were given a new lease of life.
Brunswick supplied all the bowling equipment for the film and specially made the bowling balls so that they were safe and easy to use. The outside casing of the balls were made of plastic, but inside the balls were filled with lightweight styrofoam and only weighed 2lbs. This enabled the cast to easily dance around with them during the Score Tonight scene.
11. The film ruined Maxwell Caulfield’s career
While the film turned out to be something of a breakthrough role for Michelle Pfeiffer, the movie managed to kill Maxwell Caulfield’s career stone dead. He has been quoted as saying: “Before Grease 2 came out, I was being hailed as the next Richard Gere or John Travolta. However, when Grease 2 flopped, nobody would touch me. It felt like a bucket of cold water had been thrown in my face. It took me 10 years to get over Grease 2.”
In a recent interview, he said: “The first sign that there was trouble […] I picked up TIME magazine and there was a review for the film in there, and Michelle was reviewed as a possible new Tuesday Weld, and yours truly wasn’t really mentioned. I think the critic was reserving judgement. But it was a big thumbs down on the film and that was an ominous sign.”
10. John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John weren’t interested
You’d think that Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta would have been excited to get involved with a sequel to Grease, given that the original film cemented their status as stars. But a meeting between the studio and the two actors did not go as productively as hoped, and ultimately they were not offered roles in the film.
According to director and choreographer Patricia Birch, one idea for the sequel’s ending would have seen Michael and Stephanie ride off on Michael’s bike, only for the motorcycle to run out of gas. The two would have then made a pitstop at Danny and Sandy’s gas station – allowing for a Travolta/Newton-John cameo. However, this idea was scrapped early on.
9. Judy Garland’s daughter is in the film
Lorna Luft – the daughter of Judy Garland and Sidney Luft – appears in the film as Pink Lady and Johnny Nogerelli’s girlfriend Paulette Rebchuck. It’s not a huge part, but it was one of the first movie roles of Luft’s career. She went on to play Peppermint Patty in the off-Broadway production of Snoopy! The Musical, which was the sequel to You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
She later co-starred in Extremities with Farrah Fawcett, before appearing as Nurse Libby Kegler on the CBS television series Trapper John, M.D. Sadly, Judy Garland died of a barbiturate overdose back in 1969 (when Luft was 16) and so she never witnessed Luft’s appearance in the 1982 film, nor any of her other acting successes.
8. Christopher McDonald auditioned for the role of Johnny Nogerelli five times
You might know Christopher McDonald from classics like Thelma & Louise or Requiem for a Dream, but before McDonald’s career took off he was cast in a supporting role in Grease 2. If you look closely, you’ll see that Johnny Nogerelli’s sidekick – called Goose McKenzie – is played by the young McDonald. The part was one of his first roles.
McDonald was so determined to be in the film that he actually auditioned five times. He had his heart set on the role of Johnny Nogerelli but filmmakers decided that Adrian Zmed would be a better fit. Still, they clearly respected McDonald’s determination and decided to give him the role of Goose McKenzie. It was McDonald’s second-ever film role.
7. The film was initially going to be called Son of Grease
The sequel was initially going to be called Son of Grease, but producers wanted to go with something more straightforward and so changed the title to ‘Grease 2.’ Maxwell Caulfield was not happy with the decision and tried to have it changed back to Son of Grease. Evidently, his attempts to push back on the name ‘Grease 2’ failed.
A contemporary issue of New York Magazine noted: “On the front of his T-shirt he had stencilled SON OF GREASE, one of many attempts in his one-man campaign to change the film’s title, which he considers too drab for words. He wore the shirt because a crew from Entertainment Tonight was lurking, waiting to interview him, and he wanted to carry the message to the viewing audience that his film deserved a better name.”
6. Lorna Luft had a painful experience while getting into character
It’s a common saying that artists have to ‘suffer for their art’, but Lorna Luft went through excruciating pain to get into character for Grease 2. In a recent interview, she revealed that bleaching her hair to play the character of Paulette Rebchuck was an extremely agonising experience and even caused her hair to fall out.
“Allan [Carr] wanted me to be literally platinum blonde. He sent me to a hairdresser in Westwood and she bleached out my hair and I gotta tell you it was really painful. In those days they didn’t have the real bleach that they have now that isn’t painful […] I was weeping,” she recalled. “And the next day I went into hair and makeup for a test for the film and the hairdresser went like this… and it came out in her hand. They had broken off all my hair.” Luft ended up wearing a wig in the film.
5. Didi Conn was told that she was “no longer needed” halfway through filming
Didi Conn was one of the few actors from the original Grease film to reprise their role in the sequel. But, oddly, viewers will notice that Frenchy – Conn’s character – seemed to disappear halfway through Grease 2. In a 2003 interview, Conn revealed that Frenchy disappears halfway through the movie because the character was written out after filming had begun.
Apparently, the script was unfinished when they began filming, but the draft they were initially using still included Frenchy. After Frenchy was cut from the script, Conn was told that she was no longer needed. However, filmmakers ultimately decided to include Frenchy in the film’s final cut, even if Conn was axed midway through shooting.
4. Patricia Birch thinks the opening to the film is one of the “best things anybody has ever done”
Grease 2 opens with the cast dancing along to ‘Back to School Again.’ While most pull up in the school bus, the Pink Ladies arrive in a baby pink Studebaker and wait around for their leader, Stephanie Zinone (Michelle Pfeiffer), who is late. It’s a memorable scene, and director-choreographer Patricia Birch is particularly proud of it.
“I think the opening of Grease 2 is one of the best things anybody has ever done,” she said in a recent interview when asked about her favourite musical number from the film. “I managed to do a seven-minute, non-stop, informational number. That’s where you got to know them [the characters]. It’s a good opening, I know it’s a good opening.”
3. Olivia Newton-John’s future husband was in the film
Olivia Newton-John met her future husband, Matt Lattanzi, on the set of Xanadu back in the early 80s. Lattanzi went on to have a small role in Grease 2, as Brad, one of the Prep-Tones. “All of the original people in Grease were our champions,” Lorna Luft recalled in a recent interview. “Olivia Newton-John gave us a great New Year’s Eve party. She was fantastic.”
She continued: “She was also in love with Matt Lattanzi – who then became her husband. And he was on Grease 2, so there was a connection between the first movie and our movie.” The couple had one daughter, Chloe Rose Lattanzi, who was born in 1986. In 1993 the family moved to Australia so that Lattanzi could work on a new soap opera called Paradise Beach. Sadly, on April 24, 1995, Lattanzi and Newton-John announced their divorce.
2. Patricia Birch put the film’s failure down to the absence of the original film’s stars
Although the opening scene was Patricia Birch’s favourite part of the movie, she puts the film’s commercial failure down to one moment in the first scene. “We didn’t open well, and I think there were two reasons why we didn’t open well, looking back on it now,” she hypothesised in a recent interview. “Partially, the school bus arrived, and the only person they saw get off it was Eugene. And Didi Conn. I don’t think we had anybody else [from the first film] on that bus.”
“At one of the try-outs of it I remember sitting there and feeling it all around me – that people were waiting for Stockard, they were waiting for this one […] and none of them were there! Oh I knew they missed them, right away. They had to get to know a whole new bunch of people on a sequel to something they had watched at least five times.”
1. The sorority twins didn’t know they had both been cast
You might remember the two sorority, cheerleader twins Stacie and Gracie from the film. Amazingly, the producers didn’t plan for the film to include twins, but each sister auditioned without the other knowing and after both landed roles producers decided to write a pair of twins into the script. In an interview from 2007, Jean Sagal revealed that she auditioned in New York while her sister Lizzie auditioned in Los Angeles.
“We were both originally cast as backup dancers but we didn’t know until they got us together for rehearsal in LA. Once they realized, they cut my hair to match Jeanie’s and dyed it dark. Then they wrote parts for us,” Lizzie added. “Most of it was scripted last minute, there were constant changes, they kept adding stuff for us to do because our roles weren’t originally planned!”