John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John have been friends for a very long time. Of course, the duo played the leads in the iconic movie Grease in 1978, and they’ve been making news together ever since. It seems logical that the two on-screen lovebirds would date in real life. Alas, they have not, and the death of Travolta’s girlfriend Diana Hyland might explain why.
When Travolta and Newton-John starred in Grease, both were riding career highs. Newton-John’s country music career was exploding and Travolta’s first major film, Saturday Night Fever had become one of the most successful movies of all time in 1977. Both actors were young and beautiful and the envy of people worldwide. So what did keep them from dating?
Travolta was on a roll professionally
Sadly, it might have been a tragedy. Despite all of Travolta’s professional success, his personal life was a different story. Travolta first shot to stardom as Vinnie Barbarino on Welcome Back Kotter. His success as one of the “Sweat Hogs” led to a starring role in the TV movie, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. It’s a movie that seared into the memory of Gen Xers, who probably don’t remember the plot but definitely remember the vision of Travolta’s character stuck in a plastic bubble because of his compromised immune system. It’s an enduring moment in TV history.
Something else Gen Xers might not remember about the movie: John Travolta started dating the actress who played his mother in the film, Diana Hyland. Hyland also starred in one of the top sitcoms of the day, Eight Is Enough, playing the mother of the rambunctious family. While Travolta and Hyland’s relationship was a little controversial at the time — as she was 18 years older than the up-and-coming superstar — age couldn’t stop love. There is no doubt they loved each other.
His personal life, however, was much harder
In an interview with People in 1977, after Hyland’s death, Travolta revealed that she died in his arms. Hyland’s cancer took a devastating turn as Travolta was in New York shooting Saturday Night Fever. The day before she died, he flew back to LA, knowing the end was near. They spent a day together and the next day, Hyland passed away in Travolta’s arms. “I felt the breath go out of her,” Travolta told the magazine. Weeks later, production on Grease began.
Were there sparks between Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta?
Which brings us back to Olivia Newton-John. The Australian singer and actress has admitted there may have been something between her and John Travolta. Newton-John commented on the No Filter podcast that it was for the best — both professionally and personally. Newton-John explained, “I think it was good, because I think it kept the tension there and the chemistry. It might have been a real disaster had we decided to date or we had a falling out or something. So I think it was just as well that it didn’t happen. But we’re still great friends.”
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John remain great friends to this day, and despite the tabloids taking weird shots at them, they are still just that. Travolta has been happily married to actress Kelly Preston for almost 30 years now. Together, they have three children, though tragedy struck again for the actor when his son passed away in 2009 at age 16. Newton-John been married since 2008 to businessman John Easterling.
Travolta hasn’t talked much about that time in his life, understandably, and as in most relationships, there are likely many factors that went into Travolta and Newton-John keeping theirs platonic.