Grease: Elvis rejected last chance at greatest dream then died on day they sang his name | Films | Entertainment

Despite a career packed with movie musicals, Elvis Presley actually said no to being in the biggest one of all time.

During his final tour in 1977, months before he died, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, told his (on the road) ‘girlfriend’ Kathy Westmoreland that he was sad because he hadn’t made a “classic film that would be remembered.”

So why would he turn down Grease? After all, the whole film is packed with references to Elvis, from the way they dance to their quiffed and brilliantined hair, and those achingly cool leather jackets. Everything about Danny Zuko echoes the original movie musical bad boy sweetheart.

Film producer, Allan Carr, who secured the rights to the stage show Grease in 1971, thought from the very start that the main characters should be like “Elvis Presley and Ann Margret.”

When it was time to make Grease into a movie, Carr made no bones about his desire to get Elvis involved – and he knew exactly which part. Something magical that would perfectly represent the star as a dreamy, almost heavenly icon.

Teen Angel memorably sings the song Beauty School Drop-Out to Frenchie and her friends in a lavish dream sequence set in the diner.

1950s heartthrob Frankie Avalon ended up playing the role, but it’s not hard to picture Elvis (perhaps in his prime) making the part his own. He was 41 when he was offered the part, only five years older than teen idol Frankie Avalon, who eventually landed the part, after Donny Osmond was also considered.

In the end, the ghost of The King would loom over Grease even more when the cast found themselves filming a “spooky” scene on the same day that news of the star’s death shocked the world.

During Rizzo’s famous Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee number during the all-girls slumber party, Elvis is directly mentioned in the line: “Elvis, Elvis, let me be. Keep that pelvis far from me.”

The film’s director, Randall Kleiser, shared just how unsettling it was for everyone that day: “It was very eerie. It was all over the news, so everyone knew. We did this number, and everybody kind of looked at each other like: ‘Yeah, this is creepy.'”.

Tragically, accepting the role could even have given Elvis not just a film career boost, it could have helped with his health and lifestyle also. And it wasn’t the first time in those final years that he passed on a fantastic film that would go on to become a timeless classic

It’s undeniable that Elvis’ health was fading in his final few years, but some of this was certainly due to the monotony of his punishing tour schedule and the lack of anything to inspire him. He had certainly made sure he was in impressive shape just a few years earlier for the groundbreaking 1973 globally telecast Aloha From Hawaii concert.

Of course, we will never know what might have happened had he said yes. After all, he had previously turned down another iconic film role that could have revitalised his Hollywood career when he declined Barbra Streisand’s offer (including a formal contract) to star alongside her in the Oscar-winning A Star Is Born.

It’s believed that The King’s manager Colonel Parker torpedoed the deal because Streisand would have been the top-billed star and the film depicted a washed-up star battling his inner demons.

In the end, Elvis was only 42 when he passed away on August 16, 1977, and he certainly seemed to battling some demons.

The exhausted star was incessantly touring and managing his insomnia and the demands of performing with a staggering daily cocktail of prescription medication. Frequently lonely, his fiancée Ginger Alden rarely toured with him, The King often slept over with Kathy, one of his backing singers, primarily, she said, for comfort and company.

On one occasion in May 1977, Kathy described how she was called to his hotel room because he couldn’t sleep. He told her: “How are people going to remember me? No-one is going to remember me. I have never done anything lasting, never done a classic film.'”

He might have passed on Grease and A Star is Born, but this year marks the 60th anniversary of Viva Las Vegas, an eternal glimpse of an extraordinarily talented film star who deserved so much better from that side of his career.

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