Nobody puts Baby in the corner but Dirty Dancing hunk Patrick Swayze wanted Johnny to leave Jennifer Grey’s Baby right there
It’s one of the greatest rom-com moments of all time, complete with the often-quoted line. Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray’s bickering and love-hate relationship on screen is part of what makes the movie such an enduringly beloved romantic success. But by now it is also well-known that the two actors started off on the wrong foot and continued to clash throughout the shoot. They had starred together previously in 1984’s Red Dawn and the actress had been so horrified by his on-set behaviour that she tried to have his casting in Dirty Dancing blocked. Matters weren’t helped by Swayze’s belief that Johnny should not end up with Baby.
Grey told The View about their Red Dawn problems: “Patrick was playing pranks on me and everybody, and late, and the boss of everybody. It was just, like, macho, and I just couldn’t take it. I was just like, ‘Please, this guy, that’s enough with him. So, when they said, ‘What about Patrick for the (Dirty Dancing) movie?’ I said, ‘Oh no, no, no.'”
Early last year, she revealed that when Swayze was brought in to screen test with her, he apparently knew he needed to clear the air because she was strongly opposed to him starring opposite her again.
Grey said: “He pulled me down the hall and said to me, ‘I love you, I love you, and I’m so sorry. And I know you don’t want me to do the movie.'”
Their screen tests together convinced the producers to cast Swayze. Grey tried to put aside her reservations but the set was abuzz about their strained relationship.
Lonny Price, who played the sleazy Neil Kellerman, son of the holiday park’s owner, said: “When I first got to the set there was a lot of talks about them not getting along.”
Swayze had previously opened up about their time together and their clash of personalities in his autobiography, The Time of My Life.
He wrote: “She seemed particularly emotional, sometimes bursting into tears if someone criticized her. Other times, she slipped into silly moods, forcing us to do scenes over and over again when she’d start laughing… I didn’t have a whole lot of patience for doing multiple retakes.”
Grey was also terrified of the daring lifts and hated perfectionist Swayze’s insistence on multiple takes. It didn’t help that Swayze was also in considerable physical pain during most of the now-iconic dance scenes (even ending up in hospital), due to a recurring injury from his dancing days.
Yet the star’s personal differences often resulted in fantastic moments, like the rehearsal montage to the song Hungry Eyes. Grey’s constant giggling “ruined” multiple takes as Swayze’s irritation grew.
Gottlieb said: “They were doing the scene in which they are standing together and he is running his finger down the side of her arm and he did it and she burst out laughing. It tickled her. And Patrick was pissed off. It’s one of the best known and best-loved sequences in the film, which really came from the clash in their personalities.”
Swayze, however, also believed that Baby and Johnny were ultimately ill-suited. Not many know that the actor himself worked on the script behind the scenes with his wife, actor and dancer Lisa Niemi.
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