An Australian miniseries biopic about Olivia Newton-John will come to American audiences this month, but viewers may be wondering whether Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted To You is a true story. The two-part series stars Delta Goodrem as the Grammy-winning, cancer-surviving Newton-John, and it spans the five decades of her career. According to Deadline, "the film delves into both Olivia's public persona as well as the private woman behind-the-scenes, including her multiple battles with cancer and her intense fight to survive," but the series is not without controversy.
In an interview with Woman's Day last May, Newton-John's daughter condemned the series as "made up," and was very vocal about the fact that it was unauthorized, made without the family's consent or consultation, and green-lit while her mother was suffering her latest bout with cancer.
"It made me so angry that additional stress was being put on her at a time when all she really needed to be doing was concentrating all her energy on getting better," Newton-John's daughter Chloe Lattanzi said in the interview.
"We didn't want people to see some of the toughest periods we have endured as a family and view them simply as lighthearted TV," Lattanzi continued. "We are people with feelings like anyone else, and it's weird that some of the heaviest and saddest times of our lives have been turned into a fictional TV miniseries for the sole purpose of entertainment."
Ultimately, Newton-John reached a compromise with production in which she agreed to record two songs with Goodrem in exchange for soundtrack proceeds going to her cancer and wellness center in Melbourne. According to Lattanzi, her mother had also been a mentor to Goodrem, who is also Australian, and so the fact that she had a relationship with the person who'd be portraying her in the biopic was also a comfort. "The fact mum agreed to do the songs says everything about the kind of big-hearted woman she is," Lattanzi added. "Because no matter how much she hated the idea of the show, she was determined to turn a negative into a positive."
According to Woman's Day, Newton-John did try to stop the miniseries from being made, but her efforts proved futile. In the end, she gave Goodrem — who called the story "lovely" — her blessing to go ahead with the role. Lattanzi, however, continues to be upset that the series chose to depict some of the family's darker moments without their input.
Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, according to USA Today, and her cancer returned in 2013 and 2017. Ironically, Goodrem is also a cancer survivor, following a Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosis at age 18. Lifetime will air an hourlong documentary following the miniseries, titled Biography: Olivia Newton-John, which can hopefully offers some additional context to the story.
In the end, Lattanzi says she feels heartened by her mother's reputation and seems determined to focus on her legacy. Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted To You premieres on Lifetime Saturday, Feb. 16.