Several months after the death of Olivia Newton-John, director R.J. Cutler is developing a documentary around the late actress and singer.
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Working under his production company This Machine, Cutler —who previously released the 2021 documentary Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry, along with Showtime’s Belushi, centered around the late Saturday Night Live comedian John Belushi, and the 2022 release Supreme Models —will explore the late singer’s life and work as an entertainer and environmental and animal rights activist. The film also will highlight Newton-John as an advocate of plant-based medicines.
In partnership with music publisher Primary Wave, Cutler has secured full authorized access to Newton-John’s music and personal archives.
The director will work alongside This Machine producers Elise Pearlstein and Trevor Smith, and executive producers John Easterling, Larry Mestel, Natalia Nastaskin, John Mason, and Mark Hartley to bring Newton-John’s story to life as a documentary.
Known in the 1978 film Grease as Sandy Olsson, the wholesome girl gone bad, alongside John Travolta, Newton-John’s musical catalog stretched beyond the classic musical drama. Starting out in the country genre and moving into pop by the late 1970s, Newton-John’s catalog spans more than 20 albums, in addition to several Christmas albums, and her hits including “Physical,” “I Honestly Love You,” and “Let Me Be There,” among many others.
Cutler is also currently directing the Elton John Disney+ docu-series Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: The Final Elton John Performances and the Years That Made His Legend.
In addition to the Newton-John doc, This Machine is also working on an untitled Martha Stewart documentary, The Devil You Know for HBO, inspired by Charles Blow’s 2021 bestseller, and the Netflix series Big Vape on the rise and fall of the e-cigarette Juul.
Newton-John died on Aug. 8 at her Ranch in Southern California surrounded by family and friends. She was 73.
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