The romantic drama dance film, Dirty Dancing, started from humble beginnings, but the forces behind it never gave up on their story, fervently pushing forward despite all obstacles. While the film was nearly scrapped, the cast and crew did all that they could do to keep it going, undeterred by challenges. They believed in their work, and so they should have, considering it triumphantly turned out to become an 80s classic.
The movie gave us a timeless story that shall keep on inspiring us, and gain new audiences, year after year. It also gifted us a soundtrack that forever links us to it—the feel of the times synonymous to life love, and romance. Revisit Dirty Dancing through this article. Learn for the first time what happened behind the scenes between its actors, and crew; all the concomitant events that led to its worldwide success.
Baby Was A Real Person
When writer, Eleanor Bergstein, was asked to conceive a story for a new screenplay, she paused to look back at her own experiences. Curating her past, this one experience she had with a dance instructor stood out, and she made this the foundation of Baby’s story; essentially the first draft had been stowed in her mind for years.
Eleanor’s nickname as a young girl was Baby, and that name quickly transitioned into the character. Adding more details to Baby, she was Jewish, and her family was from Brooklyn, taking a regular summer vacation in the Catskill Mountains. Her father was a doctor. She liked to dance. She even competed in dance competitions at the time, and the story goes on closely interwoven with the writer’s own childhood.
She Was A Mambo Queen
Writer Eleanor Bergstein has a zest for life she likes to translate into dance steps. Back in her time, she used to participate in dance contests at local dance halls, and parties. She was specifically fond of the Mambo, and she thought about it while writing the Dirty Dancing story.
Mambo has its origins in Cuba, and is considered by those with conservative views to be salacious. Not wanting to become too suggestive, the producers considered changing the title of the movie to I Was a Teenage Mambo Queen, but it sounded awkward, and they eventually decided against it.
The filming of Dirty Dancing was initially spoiled by many challenges. First off, the two main stars just couldn’t stand each other right from the outset. Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey both worked together in Red Dawn, a story about the United States being invaded by the Soviets, and the two were almost like that on the set.
Their performances were marred with tension, and they simply couldn’t get along. It is a testament to their professionalism how they would eventually overcome their personal differences to work on the story as if they really were in love, convincing millions of viewers of their supposed shared affection.
Not Really The Catskills
The story of the film revolves around the Catskills. Baby and her family would take a summer vacation there to enjoy its provincial scenery. The mountain ranges are located in the southern region of New York state, overlooking the city bustle from a peaceful vantage point.
In reality, the movie was actually filmed somewhere else to save on expenses. The set was put up in Virginia to give it a similar feel, and time wasn’t on their side. Summer was about to end, and the stage crew had to paint the leaves as it began to adapt to autumn. They planted more foliage, spray painted it with green to make it all look summery still.
The Dirty Dancing movie was known for many things, including its being a number one source of romantic quotes. The line “Nobody puts baby in a corner,” was a heavy favorite among its fans that had girls swooning over their versions of Johnny in the private resorts of their minds.
However, Patrick Swayze, the actor who actually spoke that beloved line hated it. In his autobiography in 2009, he said that he could hardly stomach saying those words because “it sounded so corny.”
Whether the lines of the film are corny or not, the plot remarkable or average, one cannot deny the one sure-fire facet of the film: the dancing skills exhibited in it are one major factor that makes it live on through generations.
Actor, Patrick Swayze, showed off his outstanding dancing ability that helped him pull off a tough move in one scene: Baby being lifted up in the air and leaping back into Johnny’s arms in a perfectly timed catch and fit. Both characters in the movie rehearsed that maneuver many times, but the real actors surprisingly performed an impromptu. When asked about it, Jennifer Grey said, “I only did it on the day I shot it. Never rehearsed it, never done it since.”
The production of Dirty Dancing was done on a very low budget and, therefore, getting corporate sponsorship was key to keeping it going. The film struggled to gain interest from companies that didn’t want to be involved in a movie that carried a subplot on abortion.
An American brand of skincare initially showed interest in the film because it felt that it could reach out to a teen audience. They were already into the work of promoting it when they found out about the abortion scene regarding Penny. They wanted it cut, but this request was rejected. This impasse led to their mutually agreed plans to promote the film being dropped.
A Cursed Set?
The production team of Dirty Dancing aren’t necessarily superstitious, but a series of events happened that would lead them to think the set was cursed. We can’t really blame them, not after all the reports about the strange happenings on the sets of The Poltergeist and The Exorcist. While Dirty Dancing wasn’t in the horror genre, the “curse” left male star, Patrick Swayze, injured. He hurt his knee badly while balancing on a log and had to be brought to the hospital.
An intruder stole property from the set, then a deluge caused the roads to be blocked by landslides and scraps that destroyed their van. Aside from Swayze’s injury, other cast members were hurt, too, while at working on-set. Plus, a number of crew members fell ill due to food poisoning. How would you explain all that happening in a day?
The Famous Crawling Scene
What makes Dirty Dancing such an iconic movie are its many improvisations by its actors. That way, the flow of the story seems very natural and artistic, and this was greatly encouraged by its director. It contrasts with other films marked by its staginess, and hammed up behavior.
When Johnny and Baby practiced at the studio one afternoon, they spontaneously crawled to each other while they lip synched to “Love is Strange,” eyes intent upon the other until they touch and kiss. None of it was planned, it just came upon them, as if the moment’s honesty demanded it. And there we have one of the most memorable scenes in the film ever.
A Memorable Soundtrack
When it was decided that “I’ve Had The Time Of My life” was going to be the played at the finale of the film, there was a special request to have it recorded by Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers, and Jennifer Warnes.
The song was an instant success. It won a number of awards including an Academy award for Best Original Song, a Grammy award, and a Golden Globe award. Oddly enough, the song was listed among those most popularly played during funerals in a 2006 survey.
Not Impressed With The Film
Not many were impressed with the vision of the Dirty Dancing movie when it was first presented. It was rejected 43 times by different producers, and many of those who read the script were skeptical at best. Bill Medley, who was asked to record “The Time of My Life,” was among those who doubted the film at first.
When told about the production, he had a strange feeling about it and even described the whole project as sounding like a “bad porno.” He checked out the cast, and was equally doubtful of its outcome, as he had never heard of Patrick Swayze or Jennifer Grey at the time.
In spite of the efforts of its cast, the post-production of the film came out a disappointment. Nobody liked how the movie was strung together, and the producers gave director, Emile Ardolino, the impression that they believed the whole project was going to be a flop.
When they approached producer, Aaron Russo, with raw results, his reaction was to “burn the negative, and collect the insurance.” Unfazed, and given the chance to polish things up, now we have a movie that has netted more than $200 million worldwide.
Jennifer’s Laughing Fit
They were both practicing alone in a room, and Johnny stood behind Baby’s back. She reached up and put her arms behind his head, and he slowly ran his fingers down her arms, and the scene would be cut a number of times as Baby couldn’t help herself from giggling. Patrick Swayze started to be annoyed, and wanted the scene to be over with.
The director felt they should try it again, and instead capture the whole scene and make it part of the movie. It turned out to be one of the most honest moments shot on that film, and moviegoers really love it. This was way better than originally planned, and Grey’s giggling, and Swayze’s annoyed look was encapsulated into one of the most memorable moments of Dirty Dancing.
Swayze Got Injured
One of Patrick Swayze’s main advantages in auditioning for the film was his dancing background. Casting directors were really impressed with his talent, and decided to give him the lead role over the others. His mother owned a dance studio, and taught him the moves growing up. She even worked on the film with him.
However, just as in sports, dancing can cause practitioners regular injuries. Swayze had already injured his knee after failing to balance on a log, and as he lifted Baby at the lake, practicing the famous “water lift” and the dance down the log scene, he was hurting. It was so bad that he could hardly wade across to get out of the water.
Jennifer Also Got Injured
The filming of the movie was so curious, beset by unusual events; injuries, property destruction, theft, and whatnot. Apparently, Jennifer Grey was not immune to “the curse” that followed the Dirty Dancing cast. Patrick Swayze and the others had been injured, so she made sure to be careful.
The set was prepared outdoors, and as they were about to wrap it up for the day, Grey was suddenly swarmed with stingy wasps. She got stung multiple times on her arm; swollen, they called for a makeup artist only to find out she had just quit. They were able to find a new one, but a week later, by some weird circumstance, she broke her wrist and two fingers.
The Lodge Actually Exists
Because the movie was granted a very low budget to start, they set up to film it in two places, hoping it would have a similar environmental effect on-screen as the Catskills mountains they were supposed to be ensconced in. Besides, by this time, many hotels and resorts in the Catskills had been closed down. The first location was in Lake Lure, North Carolina. The boys camp they used has now been converted into a residential community called Firefly Cove.
The second location was at the Mountain Lake Lodge in Virginia, where they shot the dining scenes, and Kellerman’s hotel. Those who visit the lodge nowadays get to enjoy the treat of participating in events shown in the movie such as watermelon tossing. An overnight stay is possible in the cabin that used to accommodate Baby Houseman.
No One Other Than Patrick
After the movie had gained worldwide popularity, as is almost always the case, rumors about it started to surface. One specifically targeted Patrick Swayze who, as gossips would have it, wasn’t the original choice for the lead role. This, however, was denied by writer, Eleanor Bergstein, during her 2017 interview with Yahoo! Movies.
“Patrick was the only actor who was ever offered this [role], and he’s the only one we ever wanted,” Bergstein said. And this makes sense, because their main focus was to look for an actor who could also dance. And Swayze sure had the moves.
A Puritanical Editor
Dirty Dancing as a choice for the title of the movie underwent some sort of filtering among producers. First, they were afraid that it might be too suggestive, and people might find it too salacious. This effect might ruin the film’s chances of gaining commercial success, especially among those who are deemed conservative.
When the raw film was forwarded to its editor, he didn’t find the dance scenes “proper” for a woman to perform. He was unaware of its full context, the message of which was to empower women. He finally had the nerve to ask Eleanor, “how can you have respect for a girl who dances that way?”
Rules Of The Dance Floor
Pretty much as soon as rehearsals started, so too did excessive drinking and on-set partying. This was not a one-time thing; in fact, it would go on almost non-stop. The objective was to immerse the actors into their roles and, of course, to acclimatize with the whole working environment, to build camaraderie among them.
Bergstein wanted to build up some sexual tension among the dancers, so she created a rule that banned any sexual contact among them for the next six months, regardless of how sensuous the grinding on the dance floor became. As a result, this group chemistry was bound to be palpable on the silver screen.
Jennifer’s Horrible Accident
Jennifer Grey looked forward to the premiere of Dirty Dancing. She was in Northern Ireland taking time off from work to be with actor, Matthew Broderick, whom she co-starred with in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and dated secretly. They planned their day ahead, rented a car to go for a long drive… until everything took an unexpected turn.
They crossed into the wrong lane, and smashed into another vehicle driven by a mother and daughter—Margaret Doherty, and Anna Gallagher—who both died on the spot. Dirty Dancing premiered a few weeks after. Her survivor’s guilt prevented her from relishing her success, and she withdrew from acting for a while.
Much Younger Character
When Jennifer Grey auditioned for the role of Baby Houseman, her first challenge was not just to impress the casting directors with her acting skills. She had to convince them that she was a versatile actress, so much so that she was capable of portraying the role of a character much younger than herself.
Baby Houseman was supposed to be seventeen. Grey was already 26 at the time, and going on 27. She dared to give it a shot, and got the job convincingly. By the same token, Kelly Bishop, who was only 16 years her senior, landed the role as her parent.
Parties On The Set
All the fun and dancing were rampant on the set of Dirty Dancing. Rehearsals would start and, most times, the booze would start to flow not long after. All the rigidity would be dusted off, and everyone would start to become more confident and familiar with one another.
The directors liked it this way. It wasn’t really an unprofessional manner of conducting their business. They just wanted the actors to get accustomed to their roles, and they were encouraged to improvise when they felt inspired to do so. The more natural the actors became with their characters and the dancing, the better things turned out when the cameras started to roll.
Dirty Dancing Is Adored Worldwide
For a film that barely got the go-signal from producers, it is quite incredible to think that it has become such a huge commercial success, not just in America, but across different nations. We bet that not even the actors themselves thought it would become as big as it turned out to be.
When Grey was interviewed by The Guardian back in 2006 about which country really admires Dirty Dancing, her answer surprised everyone. How does Russia love Dirty Dancing so much? “[In] Russia, it’s policy in the battered women’s shelters, when a woman comes in for help.” She added, “First, they wash & dress her wounds, and then they give her some soup. Then they sit her down to show her Dirty Dancing. When the Berlin Wall came down, there were all these pictures of kids wearing Dirty Dancing T-shirts; they were saying, ‘We want to have what they have in the West! We want Dirty Dancing!’” Jennifer Grey said.
She Looked Too Healthy
Actress, Cynthia Rhodes, who played the role of Penny, Johnny’s dance partner, had an unusual dilemma. Perhaps one can call it a constructive problem. Well, Penny had to play a scene where she had to appear to be in agony. The abortion subplot in the story revolved around her character, and this was important.
However, Rhodes was too beautiful and healthy looking to appear genuinely in pain. Believe it or not, makeup artists had to work harder to make her look unwell. And they had to give it a few tries to finally tone down her glowing, healthy beauty, and they were only mildly successful at it.
We’ve talked so much about Baby Houseman so far, and you must be wondering about the character of Johnny by now. After all, this character is played by Patrick Swayze, who would become a sex symbol in the 90s for his tough guy, and romantic lead roles.
While Baby was based on Eleanor Bergstein’s childhood, Johnny Castle was based on the stories of Michael Terrace. Eleanor met Michael, a dance instructor, in the Catskills back in 1985 when she was working on the story, and she fictionalized her childhood experiences with him to make it into a romance.
They Were Very Similar
When Dirty Dancing became such a popular film, it opened itself up to public scrutiny. People would soon find out that Baby was based on Eleanor Bergstein’s own life. It became the talk of the town for a while, and people noted the similarities between writer and character. But little did they know that there was a lot of Eleanor that could be found in Johnny Castle too.
Like Johnny, Eleanor was a dance teacher. She had to support herself as she went through college, and one way of earning money was teaching dance lessons in Art Murray dance school. And she did like to dance the mambo, and the dirty dance. When asked about the similarities between her characters and herself, she said, “so, while everybody thinks I’m Baby, there’s actually a lot of Johnny in me, too.”
An Accidental Success
While the “curse” of the set may have gradually mellowed down, and those who had been affected came back to finish their work, Lynne Lipton became so ill that she wasn’t able to return to the set. She was signed up to play the role of Mrs. Houseman, but she had to be replaced after it became clear that she wouldn’t be able to continue with her task.
Kelly Bishop substituted for her and went on to play the role of Baby’s mother. She performed Mrs. Houseman to a tee. And her initial role as cougar, Vivian Pressman, was filled in by Miranda Garrison. Kelly Bishop was so good in her role as Mrs. Houseman that it became the basis for casting her as Emily Gilmore on Gilmore Girls.
Swayze Loses Money
Patrick Swayze may have had some things in his mind that played against Dirty Dancing, although he never fully revealed it. We know that he found some of the quotes too corny, and that may not be such a big deal. But he was offered $6 million for a role in a sequel to the movie, which he refused for no apparent reason.
However, in 2004, he finally agreed to a cameo role in the prequel Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, where he appeared very briefly as a dance instructor. He was reportedly paid $5 million for it.
Patrick Can Do Everything
Like some young men who want to excel at everything, Patrick Swayze wanted to be great at acting and doing his own stunts. He got the role of Johnny for being a confident and experienced dancer, and he wanted to perform his own stunts, too.
His stunt doubles must have had nothing much to do, except give him some tips and supervise over his tasks. It wasn’t easy, and Patrick Swayze knew what to expect. He fell repeatedly after failing to balance on top of a log, that it hurt his knee badly. He had to be brought to the hospital and the doctor recommended the fluids be drained to reduce the swelling.
A Tight Timeline
There were almost no agreeable circumstances surrounding the filming of Dirty Dancing, nothing much that would tell you the project was going to make it big any time soon. They were merely granted with a below average budget to shoot during summertime, when autumn was just around the corner.
The main stars couldn’t stand each other, the cast would fall victim to food poisoning, and they only had 44 days to complete their work. To finish it, they had to master all the dance steps, and they were left with only two weeks to rehearse. With such a horrendous setup, can you tell us why shouldn’t it be a failure?
She’s Like The Wind
The song “She’s Like the Wind” in the soundtrack of Dirty Dancing was practically as successful as the movie itself. It was performed mainly by Patrick Swayze, and he also co-wrote it with Stacy Widelitz in 1984.
Would the general public have loved it the same way if they knew the song wasn’t originally written for Baby? It was supposedly written for a character played by Jamie Lee Curtis in another Patrick Swayze movie, Grandview, USA, but plans on using it fell through. Swayze showed this song to the director, who was excited about using it. And what do you know? It hit no. 3 on the Billboard Top 100, and was listed at number 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
No Close Ups
It would have been nice if there were close ups of the famous water lift scene. The audience would drool over imaginations of them closer to the screen, their emotions wafting through. But that just wasn’t possible. Due to the delays of the shoot, pushing into autumn, the weather was just too cold for it to be a pleasurable (or even tolerable) experience.
Jennifer Grey later on described it as “horrifically cold.” A close up shot would have meant for their lips to be visibly trembling, and blue. It would just ruin the lovers’ intimate moment and broken the illusion the audience was under that they were summer lovers.
A Strange Coincidence
Who knows why Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze had such a querulous attitude toward each other right at the very start of their professional relationship—from Red Dawn to Dirty Dancing. Swayze later on said they just couldn’t stand each other, and perhaps he couldn’t put his finger on exactly what made it feel so wrong.
But the two stars did have a past which one can describe as a strange connection. Jennifer is the daughter of Joel Grey, who originated the role of Master of Ceremonies in the musical Cabaret. He is also credited for the Broadway musical, Goodtime Charley, where, lo and behold, Patrick Swayze was part of the ensemble of dancers!
Dirty Dancing turned out not only to be a great commercial success, but it also made Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey as successful as they hoped they could ever be. Despite its many shortcomings (during its filming), the outcome was also absolutely favorable to actor, Wayne Knight, whose acting career debuted in the film with his character, Stan.
Knight went on to star in movies such as Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, and Basic Instinct. It kicked of a segue of projects that would showcase his talents, and when Steven Spielberg started to work on Jurassic Park, he was the first one to be called out.
Bad Weather For Filming
The making of Dirty Dancing was very challenging to the actors who had to brave the weather almost every shoot, whether indoors or outside. They were in the middle of a transition, from summer to autumn, and the shift in seasons was at times borderline unbearable.
At one point, the temperature inside (for indoor filming) rose to as high as 120 degrees, and about ten people reportedly passed out in less than half an hour of shooting. And during the lake scene, the swimming was described to be under frigid conditions. The main actors had to strip down, and use summer clothing to dive and withstand the cold water; all while making it look like it was comfortable and refreshing!
Is It A Jewish Film?
American writer Eleanor Bergstein, whose life experiences form part of the character Baby Houseman, comes from a Jewish family. She even described her work as a Jewish movie, “if you know what you’re looking at.” The Houseman family in the story are Jewish, too, and like Bergstein’s family, they loved to spend their summers in Catskill, at the Kellerman Resort.
In reality, the Kellerman Resort is based off Grossinger’s Catskill Resort Hotel, where Eleanor and her family are known habitues. This was located along the “Borscht Belt,” where Jews were known to be always welcome, unlike in other popular destinations around the area.
Dirty Dancing’s Lasting Impression
There wasn’t much promise to Dirty Dancing when the filming was under production. There was an issue about abortion, and the dancing itself was considered by conservatives to be too suggestive. The odds weren’t favorable, however, it has become such a sensational movie. When asked to comment on the matter, Patrick Swayze said, “It’s got so much heart, to me, it’s not about sensuality; it’s really about people trying to find themselves…”
And the movie itself went through an experience not unlike those of its characters—it fought against the odds to find its way out into the open. It’s become a success by sticking to its guns. The message is empowering, not just to women, but to all of us in general.
Success can be a maze where many of those who initially achieve it can lose track of their original objectives in life. After Jennifer Grey rose to prominence for her role as Baby in Dirty Dancing, she decided somehow that she just wasn’t pretty enough, and elected to have a nose job. She was hot material during the early 90s, but she wanted more.
Her first surgery resulted in some complications, so she had to undergo another rhinoplasty procedure. The second couldn’t restore the complexities of the first surgery, and it became so bad that she became hardly recognizable. Desperate, she wanted to change her name, and start her career anew!
Grey Loves Gosling
The iconic lifting scene between Johnny and Baby remains popular to this day. In fact, the idea to revive that popular step in a different setting was manifested in the 2012 movie Crazy, Stupid, Love that starred Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. The two characters tried to re-enact the move, and Jennifer Grey happened to be with her husband in a theater when she first saw it.
She told Yahoo! How much of a fan she was of Gosling, and how shocked she was to hear his character mention her name in the movie. She looked at her husband, still surprised, and said, “Oh my God, Ryan Gosling just said my name. What’s going on?”
A Tragic Passing
Patrick Swayze was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in 2008, after he complained about a burning sensation in his stomach. He was just filming an episode for The Beast, and the doctors gave him two weeks to live. He agreed to seek aggressive measures in dealing with his illness, and was put on an experimental drug. He also underwent chemotherapy.
As always, the actor came out fighting. He always assumed control over all kinds of challenges, and cancer was no different. He was a proud cancer survivor. But his disease would slowly but surely metastasize to his liver. He told his fans he was kicking it, but he was visibly pale, and dry-skinned, and bony. Sadly, he died on Sept. 14, 2009, just 20 months on from his cancer diagnosis. Patrick Swayze was just 57 years old.
Val Kilmer Almost Played Johnny
Nowadays, when we think of Dirty Dancing, we can’t imagine anyone other than Patrick Swayze playing the gorgeous, smooth Johnny. However, to many fans’ surprise, Val Kilmer was director, Emile Ardolino’s first choice! Kilmer turned down the offer, though, and went on to star in Daniel Mann’s “The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains”.
As stunning as Val Kilmer was back then, we’re happy Patrick Swayze eventually auditioned for the role and got it. Can you imagine Kilmer lifting up Jennifer Grey in the lake? Yeah, neither can we.
The Original Writer is Seriously Thinking About a Sequel
Dirty Dancing inspired countless productions: A Broadway play, a British TV series, an American TV series, and the 2004 movie, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. However, an actual sequel has never been made and hadn’t even been in the works, until 2017, when the movie’s original writer, Eleanor Bergstein, revealed she was working on a draft. Despite the movie coming out in 1987, celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2017, many of the film’s topics feel as relevant today as they ever were.
In an interview with E!, Bergstein said, “I always did think they had a future, I just wasn’t ready to go back into it…now I think I am ready to”. She claims that a modern version of Baby would portray women’s equality, and the general theme of the film would certainly resonate with the immigrant rights and abortion issues that are bleeding into the social and political climate of our modern-day society. As Bergstein states, “I think every social issue would be hers…it feels intuitively right for me to do a sequel now, I think…I’m kind of drafting it out in my head.”
There Was an Actual Remake in 2017
In a time when it seems that most of the films taking over the silver screen are remakes of old classics, it seems strange that a Dirty Dancing one hasn’t been done yet. But, in fact, there was an actual remake of the film in 2017, a fact that many people don’t know since most probably haven’t even seen it.
The 2017 remake was created by Wayne Blair and Jessica Sharzer, one of the main writers of American Horror Story. The film was created for television and aired on ABC in May of 2017. The movie is set in 1963, just like the original; it follows the same storyline and adds the element of an older Baby reflecting on the events of that magical summer. Johnny is played by Colt Prattes and Baby is brought back to life by Abigal Breslin, the brilliant daughter from “Little Miss Sunshine”. Even Jennifer Grey was offered a part but turned it down.
Sharon Stone and Sarah Jessica Parker Almost Played Baby
After her part in Dirty Dancing, Jennifer Grey became a Hollywood sensation. But this almost didn’t happen! In fact, Grey almost turned down the part when she heard Patrick Swayze would be playing Johnny since they hadn’t really gotten along in their previous film, Red Dawn. And to add to the dilemma, there were A-list celebrities lining up for the role of Baby, including Sharon Stone and Sarah Jessica Parker!
In the end, it was Grey that wowed the casting crew and got the role. And just as well, because Parker went on to star in the world-renowned TV hit, Sex and the City. As for Sharon Stone, she went on to star in Total Recall and the hit film, Basic Instinct. Not bad, huh?
Johnny Was Almost Played by Billy Zane
Everybody knows the stunning actor, Billy Zane, from classic films like Dead Calm, The Phantom, Back to the Future and of course, Titanic. What many don’t know is that Dirty Dancing was almost added to that list. Back in 1987, before Swayze was cast as Johnny, a 20-year-old Billy Zane almost took the lead role. Producers thought Zane looked like a young Marlon Brando, and he was actually their first pick to play Johnny Castle. Considering Billy already had the young Italian-American, ‘dark, exotic’, look, he was perfect for the part.
The only reason the director went with Patrick Swayze was that he was a far better dancer. However, Jennifer Grey did say in an interview that “Billy was one of my partners and I thought he was going to get it because he was very like Marlon Brando and his dancing was pretty good.” “But then I remember Patrick and I dancing together and all of a sudden it was very easy.”
Swayze Wore a Girdle
Back in the 80s and 90s, there wasn’t a single person that would’ve said Swayze was anything short of stunning. He had an almost perfect figure, a sculpted frame that was the embodiment of manhood. But even Swayze felt insecure when it came to playing a 25-year-old, considering he was actually 34 at the time.
Apart from one or two scenes where Swayze was shirtless, he wore a waist-tightening girdle sometimes in order to look more fit. Swayze said it made him look thinner, and thus, younger and more suited to Johnny’s character.
Jennifer Grey’s Nude Scene Was Cut
For Dirty Dancing’s 20th anniversary, there was a home video release of the film, and devoted fans got to see many deleted, uncut, and extended scenes that had never been seen before. One of them was an extended version of one of the film’s most memorable scenes: when Johnny and Baby go to bed for the first time, listening to Solomon Burke’s ‘Cry to Me’.
Even though what follows is pretty implied and obvious, it isn’t actually shown. In the released version, that is. In the original, uncut version, there was a fully nude scene of Jennifer Grey, that was edited out after test screenings saw audiences’ vehement rejection to it.
The Film is Called ‘Swirling Sex’ in Poland
Outside of English speaking countries, Dirty Dancing is known by many different names: In France, it is ‘Danse Lascive’ (Lustful Dance), in Brazil it’s known as ‘Hot Pace’, and in Spanish speaking countries, it is known as ‘Hot Dance’. Indeed, even though these are pretty much straightforward translations, there are a few that are downright hilarious.
For example, in Turkish, the film was translated to ‘First Dance, First Hang’. And one of the more weird ones was the Polish movie poster that read ‘Wirujacy Seks’, or ‘Swirling Sex’. However, for the Polish home video release, the name was changed to ‘Dirty Dance’.
The Film With ‘The Most Romantic Line Ever’
Dirty Dancing has many memorable quotes that are remembered by viewers’ even today. Who can forget the famous ‘Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner’ line? But out of all the quotes, there was one that was actually voted “the most romantic line ever” to be heard in a film.
Surely you remember the scene when Johnny and Baby are talking about Penny’s abortion, and he tells her that it ‘took a lot of guts’ to go to her father and ask for help, saying that she’s not scared of anything. To this, Baby says, “I’m scared of everything, I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.” The famous British publication, the Daily Mail, rated this the No 1 most romantic movie line ever!
One of the Most Parodied Films in History
Since its release, Dirty Dancing has been one of the most parodied films in the history of cinema and TV. From the famous lift-up lake scene, which has been mimicked ad nauseam in countless films, including Crazy, Stupid Love, to people simply dancing to the trademark soundtrack, ‘(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life’, it seems Dirty Dancing has stayed on our screens for over 30 years.
In fact, one of the funnier renditions of the film was done in The Muppets, when Kermit The Frog struggles to lift up Miss Piggy in a hilarious scene where they’re dressed like Johnny and Baby.
Experienced Dancers Only
Dirty Dancing director, Emile Ardolino, only wanted to cast experienced dancers in the film’s lead roles. He wanted the make sure every scene looked as authentic and real as possible. In fact, most of the lead roles had a professional background in dance.
Patrick Swayze had formal ballet training, Jennifer Grey studied dancing in a private school in New York, Cynthia Rhodes had worked as a singer and dancer in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. And the list goes on.
Dr. Ruth Almost Played Mrs. Schumacher
Remember the cute, little, sneaky-looking old woman that swiped purses when she got a chance? Yes, we’re talking about Mrs. Schumacher. In the film, she is portrayed by an 89-year old Paula Trueman, a famous actress from the 60s and 70s. However, the role was originally meant to go to famous sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer.
As it turns out, Dr. Ruth was a close friend of Bergstein’s and was perfect for the part. Unfortunately, she turned down the role because she didn’t want to play a thief. Ironic, right? You’d think a sex therapist would be more open to the idea of playing a fake thief. But hey, everybody has a line they don’t cross.
The Film Was Re-released in 1997 Thanks to Conan O’Brien
On its 10 year anniversary, in 1997, Dirty Dancing was released in theaters. but what you may not know is what actually caused this to happen – it was thanks to a gag by Conan O’Brien! In 1997, O’Brien asked his fans to flood the studio with letters demanding to see Dirty Dancing on the big screen again.
Even though the whole thing was meant as a joke, it actually worked! What’s even funnier, O’Brien later admitted to not even liking the movie that much.
Clearasil Sponsors Backed Out
The famous skin-care brand from the 50s, Clearasil, was going to sponsor the film. It made sense since they knew the movie would be a hit among teenagers at the time, and what are teenagers most known for? Acne problems. Hence, Clearasil was very interested in becoming one of the movie’s main sponsors. However, there was one tiny detail.
Once the company found out about the abortion plot in the movie, they became uneasy. They approached Bergstein about cutting the storyline altogether, but she refused. Thus, Clearasil quickly backed out.
The Entire Movie Was Basically Done in Two Months
Because of its huge success, many people thought that Dirty Dancing was a big-budget, Hollywood movie. But that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, the film had a relatively low budget, and it was basically done in just over two months!
Considering a film usually takes at least a few months to produce, it’s quite impressive that Dirty Dancing was able to be completed in such a short time. This meant there were only two weeks for rehearsals – which were a lot – and only 44 days of filming. Unbelievable!
The Best Dance Scene Was Done in One Take
Since there was very little time to rehearse, Jennifer Grey was very uneasy about the final dance scene, when Swayze lifts her up into the air. At first, Grey was really scared of losing her balance mid-air, so much so that she refused to practice the move even once. When the time came to shoot the scene, it was actually the first time they’d ever done it! Needless to say, they both got it perfectly in just one take.
Funnily enough, Grey said it was the first and last time she would ever do the lift; she refuses to do it even to this day. It’s a good thing they nailed it in that first take!
1988 Was a Big Year for Dirty Dancing
Dirty Dancing was a worldwide success, grossing $215 million in movie theaters around the world. Even more impressive, it was done with a budget of only $5 million. Talk about return on investment! Even though 1987 was a huge year for the film, it was actually the year after that made waves for Dirty Dancing. Why? Because in 1988, the hit soundtrack song, “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life”, won an Oscar for Best Original Song. Additionally, the movie became the most popular home video rental of the year!
In the photo above, you can see songwriters, Franke Previte, John DeNicola and Donald Markowitz holding their Oscar at the 1988 Academy Awards in Los Angeles, California.
A Dirty Dancing TV Series?
Did you know that there was actually a Dirty Dancing TV series? Neither did we! It turns out that in 1988, CBS aired an 11-episode Dirty Dancing TV Series. It starred Patrick Cassidy and Melora Harding as Johnny and Baby.
Even though the show was based on the same plot as the movie, it didn’t get critical acclaim, and so, after 11 episodes, it was over.
Dirty Dancing: The Video Game
As we’ve mentioned before, Dirty Dancing brought about an onslaught of parodies, products, remakes, and spin-offs. But one of the strangest was the movie’s 20th-anniversary video game. Yes, you read that right. In 2007, Dirty Dancing: The Video Game was released.
The official marketing text for the computer game read: “Learn how to dance with Johnny and Penny. Start slow and try your best, see how fast you progress with their expert help! Create your own character and check into Kellerman’s – personalize your cabin with tons of amazing collectibles and furniture. Take part in 10 great games as soon as you learn the moves needed to take part in the End of Season Dance Contest!” Pretty much self-explanatory, isn’t it?
Lionel Richie Was Asked to Do the Soundtrack
Bill Medley wasn’t the only artists to refuse to do the movie’s soundtrack. In fact, one of the film’s music supervisors, Michael Lloyd, told Rolling Stone Magazine that Lionel Richie, Donna Summer, Daryl Hall, and Kim Carnes all turned down the offer to sing “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”
Lloyd even said, “I went through all these people, and they said no. I didn’t blame them — it was hard to imagine that this would have been something special.” It’s a good thing they were all proven wrong.