Since it hit screens for the first time in 1987, Dirty Dancing has become a pop culture phenomenon. Not only did it rake in millions in theaters worldwide – it also has a huge cult following, and is the go-to movie for a girly night in.
As famous and beloved as the movie is, there is still a bunch of stuff that most people don’t know, and some of it is really interesting. Check out this list of Dirty Dancing trivia!
1. When filming was underway, Jennifer Grey was 10 years older than her on-screen character
Although her character Frances “Baby” Houseman was just 17 years old, Jennifer Green was actually in her late 20s when filming started. This is often the case with actors who play teenage roles in Hollywood – another one that springs to mind is Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. Maybe it’s because they don’t trust actual teenage actors to turn up and be professional?
2. Patrick Swayze wanted to do all of his own stunts
This was a brave move from Swayze, or perhaps a little stupid. He wanted to make the film look as real as possible, but fell foul of this when the ‘log dancing’ scene caused Swayze to fall repeatedly, aggravating a pre-existing knee injury.
He had to be driven to hospital and have his joint drained of fluid. I guess all good actors suffer for their art!
3. Jennifer Grey’s character Baby was actually named after Frances C Perkins
During the film, you might have caught on to Baby telling Johnny that her real name was actually Frances.
Frances C. Perkins, was the secretary of Labor from 1933 all the way to 1947 and she was the first woman in cabinet. But why was she named after her, you ask? Well, all will be revealed further down the list…
4. Patrick Swayze continuously got his fingers stuck in Cynthia Rhode’s dress
This was a bit of an awkward one – during filming, Swayze kept having a wardrobe problem – not with him, but with his co-star.
During the dance scene between Patrick Swayze’s character Johnny and Cynthia Rhodes’ character Penny, he kept getting his fingers caught in the back of her dress – cue lots and lots of retakes, and a frustrated director.
5. This was Wayne Knight’s very first film
Wayne Knight is now a very familiar face in the world of screen acting. In the 90s, he achieved fame playing Newman in Seinfeld, and Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park..
He also featured in the hit kids film Toy Story. But, before all those, he got his big break in Dirty Dancing – one of the biggest films of all time. Not bad for a first movie!
6. The producers offered Patrick Swayze big money to return for a sequel
What’s even crazier about this is that he turned it down! A reported $6 million was being prepared for Patrick to don the heartthrob role of Johnny Castle once more, but he decided against it due to not being a fan of filming sequels.
Then again, maybe he was right do so – I’m not sure a sequel would’ve worked. 6 million would probably change my mind though.
7. Remember that ‘Water Dancing’ scene? Those trees were actually spray painted
Filming for this scene actually took place in the Fall, so much of the surrounding vegetation had already turned orange/brown. Which, kind of makes it seem a little less ‘at one with nature’ now. Saying that, I bet the water temperature definitely made them feel at one with it!
It’s a shame, really – like a lot of people, I love autumnal scenery.
8. The famous ‘Crawling’ scene wasn’t planned
Nope. Believe it or not, what ended up being one of the most famous scenes from the movie was actually filmed whilst the pair spontaneously decided to do it whilst warming up. The director liked what he saw so much that he ended up including it in the final cut.
And I think I can speak for everyone when I say we’re glad that he did!
9. Grey And Swayze Did NOT Get Along During Filming
You might already be aware of the fact that the two of them didn’t get along, but did you know they actually strongly disliked each other? They rubbed each other the wrong way to the point that they would often have huge blow-ups before filming scenes. I suppose we should give kudos to the director for managing their off-screen relationship! Must’ve been pretty difficult.
10. That ‘Arm Tickling’ scene was spontaneous too… and Swayze was genuinely annoyed
Baby was not supposed to laugh in the original script, but she couldn’t contain her laughter. So, the clip of Swayze getting frustrated was real as he didn’t want to keep doing retakes.
There are a lot of moments like this in Dirty Dancing – things that just happened naturally and ended up making the film much better. I love the director’s improvisational approach!
11. Some big names auditioned for roles in the film, including Sarah Jessica Parker and Billy Zane
That’s right – Sarah Jessica Parker, now world-famous for her lead role in Sex and the City, auditioned for the role of Baby back in the day. Billy Zane also went for the male leading role, and was obviously rejected.
It just goes to show – even some of the biggest names in Hollywood have to deal with rejection at some point throughout their career.
12. The film gave birth to one of the most romantic quotes ever.
This is hardly surprising. But it seems that this isn’t just the opinion of a handful of avid fans. The Daily Mail actually ranked one particular line within the film as the most romantic movie quote EVER.
It’s the one pictured above – “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.” Of course.
13. The story took its inspiration from screenwriter Eleanor Bergsteins life
Her family used to visit the Catskills during the 60’s and she was even called “Baby” until she was 22. She learned how to ‘dirty dance’ at house parties during the time.
We mentioned earlier on in the article that the character of Frances was likely named after Frances C Perkins, and we said we’d elaborate on that at a later point. Well, here goes – it’s a little complicated, but bear with me.
Eleanor was likely named after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, hence Baby in the film being named after a political figure too, to ensure an element of symmetry. Given the family’s penchant for political names it’s likely that Eleanor’s real-life older sister Frances was also named after Frances C Perkins. We got there in the end!
14. Val Kilmer was originally offered the role of Johnny but said no
Yup, that’s right – Val Kilmer could’ve been the star of Dirty Dancing. I think he’d probably agree that turning it down might not have been the smartest move, considering the films huge success and longevity. But then again, when you don’t feel a role is right for you then I guess you have to go with your gut.
On a somewhat-related note, did you know that Will Smith turned down the role of Neo in the Matrix, in order to appear in his 1999 film Wild Wild West? Not such a good move…
15. Dirty Dancing has become one of the most ‘mimicked’ films of all time
They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. I just hope that those who were involved with movie feel the same way when they see the endless parodies, such as the one featured above by British comedian Keith Lemon. If you haven’t seen this yet, I’d recommend you look it up on YouTube – but be warned, it’s pretty rude!
16. Swayze and Grey go way back
We mentioned earlier on in this piece that the two stars of this movie simply didn’t get on, and regularly had huge fights before shooting scenes together. What we didn’t mention was that this apparent bad blood went back for some years prior, and nearly led to them not working together on this movie.
Dirty Dancing wasn’t the first movie that the two stars did together. Grey and Swayze were in the 1984 movie Red Dawn and it seems that is where their tension started – they didn’t get on then, either. The producers were definitely aware of their relationship and were hesitant to cast Swayze as Grey’s love interest.
I guess in the end they decided that the couple’s on-screen chemistry was powerful enough to justify putting up with their backstage drama.
17. Swayze was much older than his character
Just like his co-star, Patrick Swayze played a much-younger character on-screen. He was 34 when he appeared in Dirty Dancing, whereas his character Johnny was just 25. I suppose we should give him huge props for being able to pass for a 25 year-old heartthrob when he was almost 10 years older. I guess we’ll put it down to a combination of good genes and healthy eating.
18. Johnny was supposed to be Italian
When the movie was in its early production stages, the character of Johnny was initially supposed to be an olive-skinned Italian-american with dark hair. This is why they auditioned Billy Zane, who at the time was just 20 years old. Once they auditioned Swayze, they decided to change up the look based on his performance. When you’re the right guy for the job, you’re the right guy for the job!
19. None of the movie was actually shot in New York
As you know, Dirty Dancing takes place at Kellerman’s, a resort in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York but the characters were never actually there.
All of the outside scenes were actually shot in at a camp in Lake Lure, North Carolina, whereas the indoor scenes were shot in at a resort in Mountain Lake, Virginia. You can actually visit the resort the movie was filmed in – it’s called the Mountain Lake Resort. Sorry to disappoint, New Yorkers!
20. The movie’s execs thought it was going to flop
In late 1986, Dirty Dancing was complete, but the executives at Vestron didn’t think the film was going to be successful. This was down to the fact that they didn’t get positive results on the screen testings, and they also had a hard time finding a corporate sponsor for the film, as many people in the test audiences didn’t like the abortion scene.
When the premiere of the movie was set for August 16, 1987, Vestron has already decided that they were only going to keep it in theaters for the weekend, before sending it to home video. It is a good thing they didn’t do that because the film ended up $64 million in North America and $170 million worldwide! They simply couldn’t have been more wrong, in the best possible way!
21. It has one of the box office returns of all time
As mentioned in the last point, the movie raked in over $200 million in theatres worldwide. Not bad! What makes this success even more remarkable is that Dirty Dancing had a budget of just $6 million in total. This means that they made back over 35 times what they spent – and that’s before you even consider video sales and merchandising.
22. Patrick Swayze knew the movie had too much heart to fail
We already told you about how the execs thought the movie would flop, but the male lead didn’t believe that for a minute. When being interviewed by the American Film Institute (AFI), Patrick Swayze talked about filming the movie and how he thought it was more than just a “coming of age” film:
“It’s got so much heart, to me. It’s not about the sensuality; it’s really about people trying to find themselves—this young dance instructor feeling like he’s nothing but a product, and this young girl trying to find out who she is in a society of restrictions when she has such an amazing take on things. On a certain level, it’s really about the fabulous, funky little Jewish girl getting the guy because what she’s got in her heart.”
Well, I guess time proved him right.
23. Bill Medley nearly turned down performing “The Time of my Life”
When Kenny Ortega and his assistant Miranda Garrison were trying to find the perfect song for the finale, “The Time of My Life”, seemed like a perfect fit. The music supervisor, Jimmy Ienner immediately wanted Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes to record, it but The Righteous Brothers singer was a bit skeptical.
When he was first told about the movie, his reaction was, “It sounds like a bad porno movie,” and thus, turned down the job. Eventually, Ienner was able to convince him to do it and I bet Medley was glad he did because the song ended up winning an Oscar, Golden Globe, Grammy and becoming a global hit! It’s also become an iconic song that immediately takes the listener back to 1987.
24. There was a Dirty Dancing TV spin-off
Those of you who weren’t around at the time may not remember this – then again, you might not remember even if you were! Dirty Dancing was turned into a TV series following the success of the film. It featured Patrick Cassidy and Melora Hardin in the lead roles, and also featured Paul Feig, who produced the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot. It wasn’t a great success, and only ran for one year. The lesson here? Quit while you’re ahead!
25. There was also a British TV show
The UK loves Dirty Dancing, and British TV execs eventually decided to get in on the action. Their show, however, was a reality TV series called Dirty Dancing: The Time of Your Life that aired for two seasons, starting in 2007.
It was filmed in the same location as the original movie and it was about groups of dancers who would compete to get a year-long contract with Bloc, a Los Angeles-based dance agency.
As you can probably imagine, it was an even bigger flop than the first TV series.
26. Mountain Lake Lodge is still cashing in on Dirty Dancing
Mountain lake Lodge in Virginia, where the film was shot, hosts three Dirty Dancing-themed weekends a year. These include activities like dance lessons, a walking tour of the resort, a scavenger hunt, trivia games and more.
Heidi Stone, the hotel’s general manager says, “It is amazing how many thousands of ‘Dirty Dancing’ fans we meet every summer. We have guests from all over the world that come to Mountain Lake Lodge just for the ‘Dirty Dancing’ weekends.”
Count me in!
27. Cynthia Rhodes was a pop star at one point
As you will already know, Cynthia Rhodes played the pregnant Penny Johnson who ends up getting an abortion in the movie. She was already a well-known actress at the time, having starred in the 80’s films, Flashdance and Staying Alive, but Dirty Dancing was probably the peak of her career.
What you might not have known is that Rhodes also had something of a pop career. After the film ended, she joined the L.A. synthpop group Animotion, to replace the singer Astrid Plane, and was their lead singer from 1988-1990.
28. Jennifer Grey freaked out when Ryan Gosling said her name
As it is such an iconic movie, Dirty Dancing is commonly referenced in TV shows and movies, even to this day. The 2012 rom-com ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ made a reference to Dirty Dancing when Ryan Gosling reenacted the lift scene to woo Emma Stone.
In an interview with Yahoo, Jennifer Grey said that she was shocked when she heard her name.
“I’m just in the theater with my husband and I look at him like, ‘Oh my God, Ryan Gosling just said my name. What’s going on?’ she said.
“I was so scared. I was like, ‘Oh, no. What are they about to do?’ All of a sudden there I was, part of their movie.”
It’s so funny to hear Jennifer Grey fangirling over Ryan Gosling, just like the rest of us.
29. Jennifer Grey appeared as herself in a sitcom
It’s not uncommon for celebrities to get nose jobs – after all, Hollywood is basically the plastic surgery capital of the world. However, when Jennifer Grey did, it was considered a disaster for her career, because no one recognized her after that.
This was something that was referenced when she starred in the ABC sitcom ‘It’s Like, You Know…’ (1999-2000) as herself. It became a running gag that people didn’t realize she was, in fact, the Dirty Dancing actress.
When the main character, Arthur Garment (Chris Eigeman) meets Jennifer Grey in one episode and after she introduces herself, he says, “Oh, like the actress. Dirty Dancing. You spell it the same way as her?” She responded by clarifying, “I am Jennifer Grey,” and then doing a dance move to further prove it. He says, “You look different,” to which Grey replies, “Nose job!”
I love it when celebrities make fun of themselves.
30. The movie was (and still is) incredibly popular in Eastern Europe
We all know that Dirty Dancing was not only a big hit in the United States but also worldwide. According to Bergstein in a 2006 interview with The Guardian, the movie had a particularly big fan base in Eastern Europe. They love the movie to the point where it’s considered part of therapy and rehabilitation, as Bergstein explained:
“And in Russia, it’s policy in the battered women’s shelters, when a woman comes in for help. First, they wash and dress her wounds, then they give her soup. Then they sit her down and 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!’”
31. They only rehearsed that famous lift once
You’ll remember in the movie how Baby was really nervous about performing the lift? Well, that is actually what happened in real life! After Grey and Swayze did the infamous lift for their audition, Grey never wanted to rehearse it again because it was really scary for her. The producers insisted that she had to rehearse it a few more times, but Grey just refused. For her, it was a case of “It will be okay on the day”
As it turned out, she was right – when it came time to film that last dance scene where Baby runs towards Johnny and he lifts her up ever so graciously, they only filmed it once for Grey’s sake. Luckily for the director, they nailed it on the first take! Phew.
BONUS: Patrick Swayze originally hated THAT line
One of the most popular lines from Dirty Dancing was when Johnny says, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner,” during the end-of-season talent show. Even if you’ve never seen the movie (yes, apparently those people do exist), you know the line, and what it means in the context of that scene. It’s an iconic line that has been endlessly quoted, and parodied probably thousands of times.
Patrick Swayze, however, didn’t like his line very much at all. In fact, he disliked it so much that he even asked the writers to delete it from the script. In the end, though, he saw that it worked perfectly in that scene and came around to it. It’s a line that ended up defining his career on screen.
I hope you guys learned a little something today! Follow Aunty Acid on Facebook for more.