Grease, and in particular Danny de Travolta, is full of homages to The King’s style and music, but it also extends to some of the all-female scenes. The iconic Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee moment in Grease wouldn’t be complete without Rizzo’s sarcastic wit. One of the song’s most beloved lines is when the Pink Lady frontman, played by Stockard Channing, calls Elvis Presley himself. She playfully refers to the King of Rock and Roll singing, “Elvis, Elvis, let me be. Keep that pelvis away from me.” Later, the actors revealed their horror while filming the scene and devastating news broke across the world. More disturbingly, Elvis’ name had been swapped in the song to replace another famous star who died.
Sal Mineo was an American actor best known for starring alongside James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. However, in 1976 he was assassinated. The Grease writers decided to drop the tragic star’s name from the song.
After that, they put Elvis in the place, not knowing that when they shot the movie scene, they would hear the terrible news of Elvis’ death on the radio.
Randall Kleiser – the director of Grease – later described the “scary” atmosphere on set that day and everyone’s perturbed reactions.
Elvis was approached by the film’s creators to make an appearance in Frenchy’s dream sequence in the restaurant. In the film, Frenchy, played by Deedee Conn, doesn’t know what to do with her life. She then sees real life Frankie Avalon sing Beauty School Dropout to help her make up her mind.
Originally, the role of Frankie Avalon was to be played by Elvis alongside a 1950s doo wop band. It was perfect timing as Elvis was working on a return to the public eye. He had just returned to the stage and was desperate to return to acting in Hollywood after his film career ended in the late 1960s.
A few years earlier, Elvis had been offered the lead role in the 1976 version of Barbara Streisand’s A Star Is Born. He had always dreamed of proving his acting ability and the role of John Norman Howard, the troubled rock star in the image, excited him.
A formal offer has been made. It could have changed Elvis’ career and potentially his life. But there was one problem: Colonel Tom Parker.
Elvis’ manager demanded a staggering $1 million salary for the role of John Norman Howard. Memphis Mafia member Jerry Schilling said at the time: “There was no way the movie budget could support two superstar salaries and Elvis didn’t care about the money. He was smart enough to know that this kind of supporting role could be his return in the movies.”
A Star Is Born ultimately cast Kris Kristofferson in the role instead. It became a major box office hit and won Golden Globes from Streisand and Kristofferson.
Soon after, he was offered the dream sequence spot in Grease. But things didn’t work out there either. Elvis turned down the role in Grease. The producers then approached Frankie who happily took over.
GREASE IN ON CHANNEL 4 AT 4:20 PM TODAY