There is a moment in Seven's latest biopic where things come full-circle for Delta Goodrem.

The singer and actress, who plays Olivia Newton-John in the two-part drama, sits in a doctor's office, her face falling as she learns she has cancer. As most Australians would know, these are words Goodrem has heard before.

At the height of her breakthrough success, the Neighbours star was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. It was winter 2003 and her debut album Innocent Eyes was topping the ARIA Charts. She was 18 years old.

Delta Goodrem as Olivia Newton-John in Seven's latest biopic, Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted to You.

Photo: Supplied


Filming Newton-John's diagnosis and subsequent treatment for Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted to You was "full-on", according to Goodrem. It didn't help that the crucial scenes were filmed inside a working hospital, with real patients coming and going.

"As an artist you definitely draw from your own experiences," Goodrem says. "There was something cathartic about it. I did have to open up some cuts within me."

The singer admits it took her a while to recover emotionally from filming. However, she says she powered on because so many Australians have gone through what she and Newton-John experienced.

"I care so much about Olivia that I wanted to make sure I did [the performance] justice," she says. "I feel like I've been preparing for this my whole life."

Delta Goodrem as Olivia Newton-John in Seven's latest biopic, Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted to You.

Photo: Supplied

Surely, then, Goodrem felt immense pressure to get the performance right? It's one thing to play a fictional character, but entirely different when the character is a living and breathing person.

Not so, according to Goodrem, who says her childhood acting credentials innoculated her against any nerves. Instead, she put herself to work – watching YouTube clips of Newton-John "all day" and printing pictures from the '60s, '70s and '80s to see how her style and demeanour changed over the years.

Morgan Griffiths as Olivia Newton-John in Seven's latest biopic, Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted to You.

Photo: Seven

"I've been born and bred doing music and entertainment," she says. "As life went on, Olivia became a friend and a mentor. When this role came up, I talked to her about it a lot. I couldn't have imagined not doing this role.

"All you can do is do the best job you can and then send it out to the world. [But] I knew I was in good hands. I loved the script as soon as I read it."

Filming a biopic for Seven was always going to be high-stakes. The network was disappointed by its previous project, about Crocodile Dundee star Paul Hogan, while fellow biopic The House of Bond also bombed in the ratings.

Then, there were the rumours that began circulating around the time Goodrem was cast that Newton-John didn't want to be played by the Innocent Eyes singer. Some outlets went as far as to report the Grease star had stopped speaking to Goodrem altogether.

"It was mean and completely made up," Goodrem says. "It's really disappointing when you see anybody try to make up something that's just not true. I know what's true. I have the utmost respect for her [and we have] a real, genuine friendship.

"What's exciting about this project is, while I'm honoured to be a mentor on The Voice – it's truly wonderful – this is a different side of me that has to be nurtured. I have to be an artist also."

While the biopic covers a lot of ground, it essentially tracks the two sides of Newton-John's career: struggling to make it as a backup singer in London and what happens after she begins to breakthrough on her own. Australian actress Morgan Griffin plays young Olivia. (In an Inception-style twist of fate, Griffin also played a young Goodrem in the Innocent Eyes film clip.)

"I have only had someone play a younger me two times," Goodrem says. "And can you believe both moments have been Morgan? She was cast without me knowing. I looked at the cast and said, 'Oh my god, that's crazy.'"

Griffin says what excited her about this biopic was that things are "definitely not all rosy".

"Everything is in this story," she says. "Every moment [Newton-John] has gone through, from breakups, sickness, family members passing away or friends changing. If she knew how much I stalked her, I think she'd be worried."

WHAT Olivia Newton-John: Hopelessly Devoted to You

WHEN Seven Network on Sunday, May 13 at 8.30pm.

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Broede Carmody

Broede Carmody is an entertainment reporter at Fairfax Media.

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