How 'Grease' Dealt With Its Obviously Non-Teenage Stars

Stockard Channing was in her 30s when she played Rizzo.

Twenty-something actors playing high school characters seems like a staple of the modern TV landscape. But even before the teen soap boom brought us "Dawson's Creek" and "Pretty Little Liars," some fully adult actors took on the adolescent experience in the 1978 film "Grease." 

With Fox's production of "Grease: Live!" only a few days away, Vanity Fair took an extensive look back at the unlikely success of the original film, touching on how the production handled its casting of 20- and 30-something stars to play high school students.

The film's director, Randal Kleiser, told Vanity Fair that he administered a "crow's-feet test" during auditions.

"I would get up close to them and see if they had any crow’s-feet around their eyes, and that would show they were beyond the surreal age that we had determined would work,” he said. “High-school kids could not have crow’s-feet.”

“Allan [Carr, a producer] showed up on the set with a brown pencil and started dotting freckles on my nose so I would look younger,” said Stockard Channing, who was 33 when she took on the role of Rizzo. “I said, ‘I don’t look younger! I just look dirtier!’

According to the piece, Olivia Newton-John, who was 29 when she played Sandy, expressed concern before agreeing to the project about looking too old opposite 23-year-old John Travolta's Danny. The contrast was eventually remedied by cinematographer Bill Butler filming her with soft lenses.

The Vanity Fair piece also captured the energy of play on set of the original film -- “in a musical, if it’s not fun, it’s not going to work,” Travolta said -- which has apparently carried over to rehearsals for Fox's upcoming revival, according to singer Carly Rae Jepsen, who plays Frenchy.

“I love the fact that even on breaks, people seem to be breaking out into song,” she told USA Today.

"Grease: Live!" airs Sunday, Jan. 31, on Fox.

For more on the original film, head over to Vanity Fair. 

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