Friend and fellow singer-actress plays superstar in movie drama
Being a friend of Olivia Newton-John made it more comfortable for another Australia-raised singer-actress to play the superstar on Lifetime.
Delta Goodrem has her own career – extending to headlining concert tours and being a coach on her continent’s version of “The Voice” – but her strongest U.S. identification to date may come from her starring role in “Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted to You” Saturday, Feb. 16. Familiar songs re-recorded by Goodrem are used to mark chapters of Newton-John’s story, encompassing the latter’s bouts with cancer and the disappearance of her then-boyfriend Patrick McDermott (played in the film by Anthony Brandon Wong).
“My first interaction with her was when I was about seven years old, by chance,” the pleasant Goodrem says of Newton-John. “My family was on holiday, and my mom and I were having a hot chocolate in New York, and she walked in. And I said, ‘There’s Sandy! There’s Sandy!’ (referencing Newton-John’s ‘Grease’ movie character). She heard my Australian accent and came over and spoke to my mom and I, and I remember how amazing that was.”
The women continued to cross paths, and Goodrem recalls that when she received her own Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis at age 18, “Olivia sent me a beautiful letter, and she became my mentor as well as my friend. We talk a lot about the kindred nature of our friendship, and we’ve written songs about it. And it’s full-circle to have this moment now. It’s very special.”
Insisting she wouldn’t have accepted the role of Newton-John “without Olivia’s blessing,” Goodrem explains, “I’d just come off a tour, and we had to make the decision quickly. I said to her on the phone, ‘Olivia, it would break my heart not to do everything to make this a wonderful thing for you, so you have to say you really want me to do it.’ She said, ’All right,’ and I said, ‘OK. I’m doing it.’”
Having had a recent hit herself with “Think About You,” Goodrem performed with Newton-John – who isn’t involved in the project otherwise – on a soundtrack for the film, which was acquired from Australia’s Channel Seven. Goodrem remembers “finding that joy that I had growing up with the music” in covering the best-known tunes, “and I discovered moments that I had no idea about, so that was really fascinating.”
While lending her own technique to Newton-John’s songs, Goodrem was determined not to stray too far. “I would never want to dance all over them musically,” she notes. “I went into this with an open heart of staying true to the classics, but also appreciating the fact that technology has come so far that we can really enjoy their sound.”