Grease 2 has long unjustly suffered as a box office bomb and disappointing sequel. It’s actually even better than the classic Grease in many ways, at least when it comes to gender dynamics.
Maxwell Caulfield plays Michael Carrington, a new student at Rydell high. He falls in love with Pink Lady Stephanie (Michelle Pfeiffer) who only dates T-Birds. So Michael creates a mysterious biker persona to woo her.
Filmmaker Brian Herzlinger (My Date with Drew) assembled director Pat Birch and cast members Caulfield, Adrian Zmed, Leif Green, Christopher McDonald, Alison Price, Maureen Teefy, Liz Sagal and Jean Sagal for a screening of Grease 2 in Los Angeles.
Here are 12 things we learned about Grease 2 that night or you can watch the whole Q&A here:
1. Here’s How Sandy And Danny Could Have Appeared In Grease 2
Grease 2 features an entirely new class at Rydell high, except for Eugene (Eddie Deezen). Birch originally had an idea for John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John to appear.
“When they took off on the motorcycle, they would’ve run out of gas,” Birch said. “They would’ve stopped in a gas station and that would’ve been John and Olivia’s gas station.”
Alas, the only Travolta/Newton-John reunion we got was Two of a Kind.
“Then they couldn’t make [it work], political things and no deal was made,” Birch said.
2. What Michael Carrington Whispers To Dolores Finally Revealed
Pamela Adlon (back when she was Pamela Segall) played the youngest Pink Lady, Dolores. At the end of the movie, Michael whispers to her. Caulfield remembered it verbatim.
“Actually, I told her a nursery rhyme,” Caulfield said. “If I remember rightly, it was: Old MacDonald sitting on a fence, beating his meat with a monkey wrench. Missed his meat and hit his balls. Now he pisses in his overalls.”
The final cut only shows a brief whisper.
“In the editing room, needless to say, you just got that little bit and little Pamela goes,
‘Them’s the breaks,’” Caulfield said. “That’s her ad lib. I was just amazed at the kid’s chutzpah to come back at me right away.”
3. It Was Almost Called Son Of Grease.
If Grease 2 struggled at the box office, imagine if it was called Son of Grease.
“They wanted to call it Son of Grease for a while,” Birch said. “I went, ‘Oh my God, I can’t do that movie.’”
Birch said the gender reversal was not stipulated by producers or the studio. There was only one thing they insisted.
“The only thing they told me was they wanted to reverse it where somebody came to school, the John/Olivia thing,” Birch said. “It didn’t need to be from England or from anywhere. It just needed that kind of getting together, and the original show had that as well. Somebody from somewhere else coming to the school.”
4. Leif Green Sings Pamela Adlon’s Voice In One Song
Since Adlon was a teenager when filming Grease 2, she could only work limited hours under child labor laws. Since she was not available for recording the songs, Green filled in during “Score Tonight.”
“We would record after we shot. So all day down in Norwalk, then we’d get in busses and they’d take us up to Burbank somewhere to record the soundtrack,” Green said. “”Pam couldn’t do those kinds of hours because she was a minor. So in the movie when she has a line, that’s me. I’m doing a weird falsetto type voice.”
5. Lorne Michaels Recommended the Screenwriter
Birch needed someone to write Grease 2. Luckily, her boss at her day job knew someone.
“I was doing Saturday Night Live which I did for a long time, choreographing musical numbers,” Birch said. “I told Lorne Michaels that I’d been asked to do this and we needed a writer. He came up with Ken [Finkleman] and that was that.”
6. The Reason Michael Carrington Had The Hair Of A King
“The guy who did my hair had done Elvis Pressly’s hair all through his killer movies in the ‘60s,” Caulfield said. “It was top drawer talent.”
7. Pat Birch Almost Didn’t Cast Her Own Daughter
Alison Price played Pink Lady Rhonda. She almost didn’t get the part, even though she’s Birch’s daughter.
“I gave her a very rough time about getting the part,” Birch said. “Everybody else was sure they wanted her and I wasn’t sure. She’s such a good looking girl. What they wanted was a very fun, not quite so pretty comedian. I thought well, yeah, I guess she can do it.”
Price added, “We actually had a really, really good time. I don’t think she was that different with me than anybody else except I had to get the 40 pound headrest for a tree. Thanks, mom, and I did get put in the box. So when there were things like that that needed to happen, that was Rhonda’s job.”
8. Prowling Originally Had A Different Location
The T-Birds sing “Prowling” on an artificial street in front of a screen. This was a backup for the original plan.
“We were originally going to be in a grocery store,” Green said. “We were originally supposed to go to a grocery store and they said, ‘No, we can’t create a period grocery store interiors and all that.’ That’s when you came up with [that].”
The song itself was a last minute addition.
“We recorded it and we were running so late in production, we weren’t quite sure that we were going to really shoot it other than use the end of it at the talent show,” Zmed said. “When they heard it, they said, ‘We gotta shoot this.’ So Pat literally that day figured out a way to shoot an entire number in 24 hours.”
9. Davey Might Be Related To A Grease Original
Caulfield and Green came up with a theory about Davey.
“Maxwell said, ‘You kind of look like Stockard Channing, so maybe Davey is somehow related to Rizzo from the first movie. We should actually see if we can get that together,’” Green shared.
Wardrobe had Channing’s jacket from Grease. With that and a wig, Green played Rizzo for the producers watching dailies.
“I have on an old pointy brassiere and a skirt and heels and everything,” Green said. “The screen is projecting the movie. I have the sunglasses just like the first one. I lowered them and I say, ‘This movie is sh*t. The first one is much better.’”
10. Zmed Beat Out Rock Stars For The Role Of Johnny
Casting for Grease 2 was highly competitive. Zmed won Birch over despite the producers insisting she audition famous singers.
“I would not have done Johnny Nogerelli had it not been for her,” Zmed said. “Alan Carr and Robert Stigwood wanted a rock star in my role. She kept on bringing me back right after a rock star would audition and Robert and Alan said, ‘All right, it’s still his. It’s still his.’”
11. Christopher McDonald Wanted To Play Johnny
McDonald has a tough audition story too. He was going for Zmed’s part.
“I came in five times for Johnny Nogerelli,” McDonald said. “You can’t wash the Irish off of my face, so Pat was smart and said no. And at home I cried.”
Nevertheless, Birch called McDonald back to try chemistry reads with different actors in different roles. That landed him the role of Goose.
“Any actors in the room?” McDonald asked the audience. “Show up. I could’ve been that guy, ‘I’m not going back. They don’t want me.’ But I went back in and they mixed and matched. This was a life changer.”
12. The Truth About Johnny’s Cigarette Trick
Caught smoking in the hallway, Johnny swallows his cigarette. This, of course, was movie magic.
“It was a real cigarette that went into my mouth but I did not swallow it,” Zmed said. “That bit, the writer Ken Finkleman did that in high school all the time. He said that this bit has to be in this movie. He told me this on day one of shooting. He said, ‘You better start practicing.’”
Zmed had two months to practice swallowing the cigarette. In between cuts, he spits it out.
“I did swallow it but when the camera came on my back, I didn’t have a cigarette in my mouth anymore,” Zmed said. “I just had smoke.”