Olivia Newton-John: a life in pictures

Tributes are being paid to Olivia Newton-John after the award-winning actor, singer and activist died yesterday morning following a long battle with breast cancer. 

The British-born star’s death at the age of 73 was announced on her Facebook page by her husband, John Easterling. “Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer,” he wrote. She “passed away peacefully”, said Easterling, “surrounded by family and friends”, at her ranch in Southern California.

John Travolta, who starred opposite Newton-John as Danny in hit 1978 musical Grease, described her impact as “incredible”. “My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better,” he wrote in an Instagram post. “Yours from the first moment I saw you and forever! Your Danny, your John!”

Grease director Randal Kleiser told The Hollywood Reporter that “she was one of a kind, and so very kind”. He added: “For over four decades of our friendship, she exuded nothing but love to everyone she met. Olivia was exactly the way you imagined her. I will miss her forever.”

Newton-John was born in Cambridge but moved to Australia with her family in 1954, when her father – a former MI5 agent who was attached to the WWII Enigma project at Bletchley Park – took a job at the University of Melbourne.

She was offered her iconic part as Sandy in Grease at the age of 28, but insisted on a screen test with Travolta before accepting, because she was worried that she might be “too old for the teenage role”, said the BBC. Despite her initial concerns, the film became “the biggest box-office hit of 1978”, and  gave Newton-John three hit singles, You’re The One That I Want, Hopelessly Devoted to You and Summer Nights, as well as a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress”.

She went on to be honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, in 1981. Just over a decade later, Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer – a disease that she battled for the next 30 years.

“Cancer can engulf your mind and engulf your being,” she told NBC’s Today show in 2020. “And I try not to live my life with that in my mind all the time.” 

Here are some memorable images from both her life and career.

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