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Love for Olivia
Delta Goodrem pays fond tribute to her friend and mentor in Seven’s blockbuster miniseries, writes Ross McRae
The West Australian
12 May 2018
Delta Goodrem plays Olivia Newton-John in the miniseries Hopelessly Devoted To You.
In 1991 a wide-eyed seven-year-old Delta Goodrem had a chance encounter with Olivia Newton-John while on holiday in New York.
Goodrem and her mum Lea had just seen The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway when they spotted Newton-John in a cafe.
“I saw Olivia walk in and I said, ‘Oh my God, Sandy, Sandy’s here’,” Goodrem recalls.
“She heard my Australian accent and walked over to my table. I’ll never forget it. She said, ‘Are you from Australia?’ and I said, ‘Yes’.”
By 1998 Goodrem had caught the performing bug herself and was preparing to sign with Sony Australia.
“When I got signed at 14 years old they said to me, ‘Who is it that you want to be?’ and I said, ‘Oh, you know, I’d like to be Olivia Newton-John’,” she says.
“And then I didn’t know that that would literally come into my life, where I’d literally play her.
“So it is amazing how the world works. And if I go back to the seven-year-old, no, she wouldn’t possibly believe that, no.”
Goodrem is discussing her leading role playing her idol and mentor, Australian icon Newton-John, in a blockbuster two-part miniseries, which starts tomorrow night on Seven/GWN7.
The 33-year-old first heard of the project “on the grapevine” and immediately checked in with Newton-John before proceeding.
“I realised that it would have broken my heart to not play this role because there is a part of me that just wanted to love and protect it, and make sure that I did it justice, and make sure that she was looked after,” she says.
“At first, I was like, ‘Are you sure, Olivia, about this?’ She was like, ‘Yes, you can do it’.
“I would have absolutely not done it,” she says, had Newton-John been reluctant for her to take the part. “And I think that’s friendship and mentorship.
“I have my respect for Olivia and this is a real friendship, so I check in with my mentor.”
Newton-John has said she was initially apprehensive about the small-screen adaptation of her life, but Goodrem says she can’t wait for her to watch it. “Of course, this is her life and there’s nothing like the original,” Goodrem says.
“But the exciting part is when we made it and where it’s come from is complete love and celebration for her and her life, and her beautiful musicianship and her as an artist. And I’m excited for her to see it.”
Newton-John, 69, officially joined the project by teaming up with Goodrem for the accompanying soundtrack, I Honestly Love You, where the pair recorded two songs together for it in Los Angeles.
“Olivia was so kind to do the soundtrack of it, and she did Love is a Gift, and Let Me Be There with me,” she says.
“Love is a Gift was like the first song that I had just loved from her album (1998’s) Back with a Heart.
“And it seemed like the right kind of song for us, because it’s saying, ‘This is our moment, this is our time,’ and it’s just a beautiful song about friendship.”
Olivia Newton John: Hopelessly Devoted To You spans years of the entertainer’s incredible life and career, from making it as a country singer in the US to the smash hit success of Grease to her failed marriage to actor Matt Lattanzi and the collapse of her Koala Blue business.
Goodrem cites being able to recreate Newton-John’s Xanadu and Physical eras from the late 70s and early 80s as her highlights during the filming process. “It was that time when the outfits were just so much fun,” she says.
“And what a great job to get to be able to go to YouTube and go back and see all the different pictures from different eras.”
While making the miniseries, Goodrem says there were also some “spooky moments” where she saw the real-life similarities between her and Newton-John, such as their well-documented cancer battles, which both played out in the public eye.
“There were definitely some spooky moments for sure,” she says. “Like, I have been in that position before.
“I had to open up certain parts of my heart, even just little cuts that you just have to open up for a minute. “The week when we shot the hospital scenes, it was a week at the hospital, from different moments in the story, and I can safely say that it definitely took me a second to stitch (myself) back up.
“Being able to kind of draw on personal experience in that moment, it’s very real.”
Playing a younger Newton-John is actress Morgan Griffin, who previously appeared as a young Goodrem in her music video for Innocent Eyes in 2003. Griffin appears on screen for the first 40 minutes, following Newton-John from living in Melbourne, to winning an Aussie talent show which saw her move to London in the “swinging 60s” to record her first single.
“How crazy is that?” Goodrem exclaims. “So I’ve only ever had someone play me younger once, and that was in Innocent Eyes.
“Then when I got to the set on Olivia and I looked at the board, and I went, ‘Morgan?’ And it was like, playing younger Olivia, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh’.”
Appearing as Grizabella in a stage production of Cats in 2015-16 was the catalyst for Goodrem to pursue more acting opportunities, such as Olivia.
“Acting is a part of, you know, a part of my soul,” she says.
“I grew up on set. And I was a TV kid. I think Cats really ignited that flame.
“Every night walking out there on stage and going to a certain place was so healing and beautiful and painful all at once.
“It ignited this space in me that was a very fulfilling area, again that I needed to go back to, and I missed greatly. And I love TV, cameras are on me every day with The Voice, with all different sides.
“But the artist in me was very, very happy to be on set and delving into a script.”
Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted To You airs on Sunday and May 20 at 8.30pm on Seven/GWN7.
‘There were definitely some spooky moments.’ DELTA GOODREM
.@DeltaGoodrem has met hundreds of fans at the Logan Hyperdome ahead of tomorrow nights premiere of 'Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted To You'. https://t.co/Y8XaZHyZe5 #7News pic.twitter.com/IB8scjZxQI— 7 News Brisbane (@7NewsBrisbane) 12 mai 2018
Olivia Newton-John brings down the House, singing to Premier, Dan Andrews and Health Minister, Jill Hennessy at Parliament to celebrate the Victorian Government’s $18 million funding so more families can access life savings technology to fight cancer. pic.twitter.com/9AWsxZ6Rji— Frank McGuire MP (@Frank_McGuire) 8 mai 2018