While “Grease” focuses on the lives of high school students, the actors who played the principal characters had graduated from high school many years before filming.
In fact, director Randal Kleiser told Vanity Fair he had to do a “crow’s-feet” test to make sure none of the cast looked too old for the part.
“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 told Vanity Fair in 2016. “High-school kids could not have crow’s-feet.”
Keep reading to see each “Grease” star’s actual age compared to that of their on-screen character.
Danny Zuko is 18 during his senior year at Rydell High School.
The film “Grease” is based on a 1971 musical of the same name. It focuses on the relationship of American high school student Danny Zuko and Australian vacationer Sandy Olsson, who fall in love during the summer but fear they won’t see each other again.
But Sandy’s parents decide not to return to Australia and she enrolls at Rydell High, where Danny is the leader of the T-Birds greaser gang. After realizing they now attend the same school, Danny proves his “coolness” by making fun of her in front of his friends, Sandy joins the Pink Ladies, and the two play a game of cat and mouse until finally confessing their mutual love for one another.
John Travolta was 23 when “Grease” was filmed in 1977.
Although Sandy tells the Pink Ladies during “Summer Nights” that Danny “was sweet, just turned 18,” Travolta is older than his character by a few years.
However, Travolta — who had already starred in “Saturday Night Fever” when “Grease” came out — was still younger than some of his castmates.
Sandy Olsson, Danny’s love interest, is 17 or 18 in “Grease.”
After Danny messes things up, Sandy spends some time with the jock Tom but eventually realizes Danny is the one that she wants. At the end of the film, she dresses as a female T-Bird to win him back.
Olivia Newton-John turned 29 while filming “Grease.”
The British-Australian singer-songwriter was more than 10 years older than her character while filming “Grease.”
When Newton-John was cast for “Grease,” she had almost no acting experience but was already a bona fide pop star, with five No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100.
Betty Rizzo, leader of the Pink Ladies, is also 18 in the movie.
Rizzo spends most of the movie acting as the tough leader of the female greaser gang. But when a rumor about her pregnancy scare starts to circulate through the halls of Rydell High School, she realizes she isn’t as tough as she acts.
She was played by then-33-year-old Stockard Channing, the oldest of the main cast.
That’s right, Channing was almost double the age of her “Grease” character. According to Vanity Fair, the 33-year-old actress “was the oldest of the principal actors cast.”
Two years after the movie was released, she went on to star in her own sitcom, “The Stockard Channing Show.”
She was played by the second-youngest main cast member, Dinah Manoff, who was 21 at the time.
Manoff was only older than Marty by four years, making her one of the actors closest in age to their characters in “Grease.” It was her film debut.
Michael Tucci was the second-oldest cast member at 31.
Michael Tucci was more than 10 years older than his character and older than all of his co-stars except Stockard Channing, who was 33.
Following his role in “Grease,” Tucci appeared in multiple TV shows throughout the ’80s and ’90s including “People’s Court,” “Diagnosis: Murder,” and “The Paper Chase.”
The pink-haired Pink Ladies member Frenchy is also 17 or 18.
With just a few days left until graduation from Rydell High School, Frenchy drops out to enroll in beauty school and accidentally dyes her hair pink. Her most famous scene is arguably when Frankie Avalon appears as her guardian angel and sings “Beauty School Dropout,” which, paired with her pink hair, persuades her to return to Rydell.
The goofy T-Bird, Doody, is also 17 or 18.
Doody is the T-Birds’ comedic relief. During the movie, he ends up with Frenchy and, based on her scrapbook, got his nickname for supposedly looking like the TV-famous puppet Howdy Doody.
Kelly Ward was the youngest of the main cast members at 20.
Ward was only two or three years older than his character, making for the most realistic portrayal of a high school student among the main cast.
Leo Balmudo, who was also 17 or 18, was the leader of the T-Birds’ rival gang, the Scorpions.
Leo wasn’t a Rydell student so he either attended St. Bernadette’s with his girlfriend, Cha-Cha, or was a dropout.
Actress Annette Charles was 29 at the time.
Following her role in “Grease” and a string of TV appearances in the ’70s and ’80s, the actress went back to school as Annette Cardona. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and theater from Antioch University Los Angeles and a master’s degree in social work from New York University, according to California State University, Northridge, where she was a professor.
Cardona died in 2011 at the age of 63.