Director Opens Up: Inside Peek Behind-The-Scenes Of ‘Dirty Dancing’

Published on 02/10/2019
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Dirty Dancing

Director Opens Up: Inside Peek Behind-The-Scenes Of ‘Dirty Dancing’

The film Dirty Dancing was supposedly a low-budget movie produced by a new and promising studio, but it unexpectedly became the movie of the century after its release in 1987. Aside from that, this favorite classic which starred Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze became an inspiration to many generations around the world! However, the stories behind the scenes may not be what most people had imagined. Continue to read about what was going through Patrick and Jennifer’s minds while doing the film together and many more.

Baby Was Based On A Real Person

Dirty Dancing, one of the most celebrated movies in the 1980’s, had Eleanor Bergstein as its producer. What everyone did not know was that Bergstein was actually the inspiration behind the main character Baby. Baby’s life was in fact based on Bergstein’s life story. In the movie, Baby’s character was so well-developed that even the smallest details about her life were included in the film. She was Jewish and she came from Brooklyn. Her father was a doctor, too. Bergstein’s passion for dancing is unquestionable but that is not the only thing about her that was included in the movie.

Bergstein

Baby Was Based On A Real Person

Dirty Dancing Wasn’t Its Original Title

Eleanor Bergstein, Dirty Dancing‘s director, grew up in the 1950’s and was a dancer herself. She used to join dancing competitions. Although her dancing was not as wild as the ones we see in clubs or bars these days, it was seen as something provocative in that era. To be more specific, Bergstein was a huge fan of Mambo. That must have been what inspired the producers to initially call the movie I Was a Teenage Mambo Queen. They thought that calling the film Dirty Dancing was much too provocative. The first title doesn’t feel quite right, does it?

Title

Dirty Dancing Wasn’t Its Original Title

The Movie Setting

The setting of the film was in the Catskill Mountains, in the southern New York State, where the Houseman family goes on a vacation in 1963. The place is where our heroine, Baby, meets Johnny, and the rest, well, you know what happens after. However, the Catskills, known for the beautiful wildlife and scenery, is not the actual place where the film was shot. The cast was filmed at a lodge with the same vibe in Virginia instead. Their only problem was that they were supposed to shoot a scene for a summer vacation right at the end of summer. So, the crew had to spray paint the autumn leaves with green paint to make it look like summer!

Virginia

The Movie Setting

Cursed Cast?

It is uncommon for famous movies to be rumored as cursed. Most of those films are usually horror movies such as The Conjuring and Psycho, which were said to have some creepy stories on their movie sets. At the beginning of Dirty Dancing‘s filming, the cast members actually believed that they were also cursed because of a series of unfortunate events. The said events included a broken set, crew members injured and cast members food poisoned – all of which happened 24 hours apart.

Cast

Cursed Cast?

Iconic Crawling Scene

One of Dirty Dancing‘s iconic scenes was not planned or choreographed at all. It’s set in a dance studio where Baby and Johnny are practicing. They are lip syncing to “Love is Strange” and end up crawling on the floor. What made this scene even more interesting was that it wasn’t scripted at all. It might be difficult to believe, but the producers only wanted to routine to be the two actors’ warm up. Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze’s impromptu skit was so natural that Emile Ardolino, the film’s director, decided to add it in. Continue reading to see some unbelievable secrets that surround the film.

Crawling

Iconic Crawling Scene

Instant Hit Song

Aside from having a lot of fans from various generations, Dirty Dancing also made a song extremely famous right after it was released. It was “I’ve Had the Time of My Life,” sang by Jennifer Warne and Bill Medley. The song was perfect for the scene at the end of the film – the one where Baby and Johnny dance for the audience, which include Baby’s parents. The song even bagged an Oscar! It has also resurfaced quite recently after it was played by someone over a video of the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the two presidential candidates of 2016.

Song

Instant Hit Song

Corny Lines

Many audiences want to hear cheesy lines in the movies that they watch. This is actually true especially for the line, “nobody puts Baby in a corner” that Patrick Swayze delivered in the film. Everyone ate it up. Even Patrick Swayze himself turned out to find the line very cheesy. He wrote about it in his biography in 2009, saying, “I could hardly bring myself to say: ‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner.’ It sounded so corn.”

Patrick

Corny Lines

A Conservative Generation

Dirty Dancing was filmed during the time when American society was still very conservative – it was shot during the 1980’s after all, during the time when Ronald Reagan was still President. One thing that made the film seem problematic to one of the sponsors was the fact that Penny, one of the film’s characters, got an abortion. The said sponsor pulled out their support as the management had a pro-life conviction. What made it even more controversial was the way abortion was negatively portrayed in the movie.

Conservative

A Conservative Generation

Not Exactly An Instant Hit

Dirty Dancing was not an immediate hit in the box office. In fact, there was even a time when it wasn’t – at least to its producers, it wasn’t. After the director, Emile Ardolino, and the other movie editors showed the first cut to the producers, they didn’t like it. They hated it so much that they wanted to put an end to it. One sponsor even told the director to “burn the negative and collect the insurance.” Those words may seem harsh, but they obviously gave him another chance and he obviously nailed it.

Not an Instant Hit

Not Exactly An Instant Hit

Tickles And Giggles

People can be ticklish on different levels and everyone has experienced having a giggling fit before. The main character who played Baby – Jennifer Grey – seemed to have had this issue on set. It also happened during one of the most iconic scenes in the movie. She couldn’t stop laughing in the scene where Johnny ran his hand along her armpit down to her side. Her reaction was so natural, just as natural as Johnny’s annoyed reaction. You’ll know even bigger secrets as you continue to read this article.

Giggles

Tickles And Giggles

The Dirty Dancing Lodge

The set for this popular film is at the Mountain Lake Lodge in Virginia. The said lodge actually exists in real life. If you are a fan of the movie, you can actually stay there, in the exact place where Baby and Johnny fell in love. Rest assured, you’ll know where it is as Mountain Lake made sure that their connection to the film is well known. They also made sure that there are fun activities hosted in there facilities which are similar to that of the movie, watermelon tossing included! The guests can also stay in the same cabin that Baby occupied in the film. What an interesting summer trip!

Dirty Dancing Lodge

The Dirty Dancing Lodge

Dancing Genes

Dirty Dancing is considered to be the best dance film in history, and for Jennifer Grey, the actress who played the leading role of Baby Houseman, dancing came naturally. Jennifer Grey’s father is Joel Grey, the dance legend from Cabaret. Not only that, it appears that the entertainment roots run deeper in this family. Joel’s father was the Californian actor, comedian and musician Mickey Katz. It was unclear whether he helped coach Jennifer at all, but it is pretty obvious that dancing is in their family genes.

Dancing

Dancing Genes

Another Johnny?

Some rumors have surfaced that Patrick Swayze wasn’t meant to play the role of Johnny Castle. There were also talks about Val Kilmer turning down the role and that Billy Zane, the director’s second choice didn’t work out because he didn’t look good with Jennifer Grey. However, Eleanor Bergstein, the producer and writer of the movie, pronounced the rumors to be untrue. She set the record straight in her interview with Yahoo Movies in 2017 saying, “Patrick was the only actor who was ever offered this [role], and he’s the only one we ever wanted.”

Johnny

Another Johnny?

Too Dirty?

Dirty Dancing got its title from the kind of dancing done in the film which was considered very provocative at the said time. It could be compared to today’s “twerking.” However, the main point of the film was girl power or empowering women. The movie’s editor, who obviously had a more conservative view, didn’t see it in the same way. While they were shooting the scenes that feature Baby, he apparently kept asking the producer and writer Eleanor Bergstein, “How can you have respect for a girl who dances that way?” Bergstein chose not to respond.

Dirty Dancing

Too Dirty?

No Dancing Off Set!

Dirty Dancing was indeed an appropriate title for the film as it had some very suggestive routines. The people in charge of the movie had to make sure that the all too sexy vibe would stay on set and not off it. Complications in the said matter could have meant more problems for the film. This is why Eleanor Bergstein, the writer and producer of the said film banned the movie’s dancers to hang out with each other when they were not on the dance floor. More secrets of our favorite dancing film to come. Read on!

No Dancing Off Set

No Dancing Off Set!

Not In Love

Jennifer Grey’s and Patrick Swayze’s chemistry on screen was so powerful that people started to think that their characters’ love affair may have reached their personal lives. It’s a bit difficult to break it to you but, the two weren’t in love with each other! As a matter of fact, they didn’t like each other all that much and didn’t even get along. The tension was said to have been seen on set. Swayze even mentioned his co-star in his autobiography. He wrote that she “couldn’t stand” him when they auditioned. Ironically, they met again and starred in another movie called Red Dawn.

Not In Love

Not In Love

Disaster In Europe

Jennifer Grey was involved in an accident shortly before Dirty Dancing was released. She was travelling around Europe with Matthew Broderick, her boyfriend. You may have seen them playing brother and sister in the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The two were involved in a tragic car accident in Ireland. While Broderick was driving, he crossed the line separating the opposite lane, slamming right into another car. The said accident caused a mother and daughter to die. Broderick was convicted of driving dangerously and was only fined for it, to the absolute dismay of the victim’s family. Dirty Dancing shot Jennifer Grey to fame, but at the worst possible time.

Disaster in Europe

Disaster In Europe

Twenty-Seven Going On Seventeen

Could you possibly pretend to be a 17-year-old when you are twenty-something and pull it off? That’s exactly what Jennifer Grey did at the age of 27 when she took the role of Baby Houseman in the movie. What made it even more difficult for her was the time given her – five minutes! She had to convince the producers that she could handle a character who was a decade younger than she actually was. Well, as we all know, she got the role and did more than successfully portraying it. Interestingly, she wasn’t the only one in the movie who played a role with a different age than herself.

Jennifer

Twenty-Seven Going On Seventeen

The Country That Loves Dirty Dancing

There is one country aside from the US that really loves Dirty Dancing as much as the Americans do – if not more. It’s not a country that you would expect. Eleanor Bergstein, the film’s writer and producer, talked about it in her interview with The Guardian in 2006. Apparently, it was Russia! She said, “[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.”

Russia

The Country That Loves Dirty Dancing

Too Pretty

Most people use makeup to make themselves prettier, not less attractive. However, that was what happened to Cynthia Rhodes who played the role of Penny, Johnny’s dance partner in Dirty Dancing. They said Rhodes was too pretty on camera! Rhode’s character was supposed to look anguished, so the makeup team had their work cut out for them in making her less attractive. It must have been an amazing compliment to Rhodes as not everyone is fond of makeup. How many people in the world can actually claim that they’re too beautiful on screen?

Too Beautiful

Too Pretty

Johnny Was Also Inspired By A Real Person

Apparently, Baby is not the only Dirty Dancing character who was based on a real person. Johnny, as it turns out, is also based on someone that Eleanor Bergstein knew in real life. His real name is Michael Terrace and he was a dancer who came from Brooklyn. The film was heavily influenced by Bergstein’s personal life so much so, the choreographer as well as the director even suggested that she recruit some of her former dances partners for the movie. She remembers saying, “‘My old partners are either in jail or out on parole.’” She further explained that, “It was a very rough neighborhood.”

Johnny

Johnny Was Also Inspired By A Real Person

Could Have Been Played by Someone Else

Mrs. Houseman, Baby’s mother, was a role which was portrayed well by Kelly Bishop. However, it wasn’t the original role that she auditioned for. She was actually supposed to play the cougar Vivian Pressman and Lynne Lipton was supposed to portray Mrs. Houseman’s role. However, Lipton became so sick that she had to give up the role. That was when Bishop took over the said role. Her performance in the movie helped her land the role of Emily Gilmore on the series, Gilmore Girls.

Bishop

Could Have Been Played by Someone Else

No Sequels, Please!

The fame of Dirty Dancing transcends many generations, so much so that even the youth today know about it. Those who created the movie wanted to capitalize on the film’s huge success by producing a sequel. However, they had one problem. Patrick Swayze. Would he work in a sequel? The producers were reported to have offered Swayze six million dollars to do a sequel, but the famous actor turned it down. The reason? He didn’t like sequels. However, he seemed to be okay with prequels as he appeared in the Dirty Dancing prequel called Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. He did not have a leading role in the said film, however.

Sequel

No Sequels, Please!

She’s Like the Wind

The song “She’s Like The Wind”, which was considered one of the most popular ballads in the film, was actually not made for the said movie. However, it was Patrick Swayze himself, along with Stacy Widelitz, who wrote it. They originally composed the song for Swayze’s other film. Apparently, the movie it was intended for, Grandview U.S.A., didn’t get the song, and Swayze did not want it to rot. While filming Dirty Dancing, he gave the song to the producers who immediately fell in love with it. This was how the song ended up describing Swayze’s co-star, Jennifer Grey.

Song

She’s Like the Wind

Blue Lips And Goosebumps

Another highlight in the movie was when Johnny lifted Baby in the lake. The reality was actually far less perfect than it looked. Although the storyline was set in summer, filming actually happened in October. Therefore, the water temperature in the lake was so cold that Patrick’s and Jennifer’s lips turned blue. This is precisely why there were no close ups. You got that right. It was intentional! Keep reading to find out more about what happened behind the scene of our favorite dance film.

Blue Lips

Blue Lips And Goosebumps

Jewish Movie?

We wouldn’t normally classify Dirty Dancing as a “Jewish Movie.” But Bergstein, the writer and producer of the film, said that if seen in a certain perspective, it could be a Jewish film. There may be some truth in what she said. The Houseman family is not the only Jews we can spot on the film. The lodge where the movie was filmed was actually inspired by the Grossinger’s Hotel, located on Catskills’ “Borscht Belt.” The Belt was famous for accepting Jewish tourists during the time when many establishments wouldn’t.

Jewish

Jewish Movie?

Hollywood Star

Dirty Dancing‘s success really launched Jennifer Grey’s career in Hollywood. She became more famous in the late 1980’s to the early 1990’s. When celebrities become stars, they start behaving like one, and Jennifer Grey is not an exception. There was a noticeable change since she starred in the said movie. She has since gone under the knife and gotten two rhinoplasty surgeries – the first one was not so good. After that, she was so unhappy about the failure that she briefly considered changing her name legally and starting her career all over again. Of course, she didn’t go that route. It was just a small challenge for her after all.

Grey

Hollywood Star

New Crush

One of Dirty Dancing‘s iconic scenes where Johnny lifts Baby was so deeply ingrained in our pop culture that it has been recreated many times. It was also done in Crazy, Stupid, Love starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Jennifer saw the movie in 2012 with her husband. She was so surprised to see it recreated in the movie. She said, “I’m such a fan of Ryan Gosling and all of a sudden he’s saying my name [in the movie]. 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?’”

New Crush

New Crush

Amazing Lift

Dirty Dancing has become such an important piece of the American pop culture for many reasons. For sure dancing is one, another is the amazing scene where Baby jumps into Johnny’s arms, nailing the perfect lift. Interestingly, Grey didn’t rehearse for the said move at all. She was so proud about how she pulled it off. She even boasted about it in 2015 saying, “I only did it on the day I shot it. Never rehearsed it, never done it since.”

Lift

Amazing Lift

Why It Did So Well

Dirty Dancing‘s astronomical success was so iconic that it has become engraved in today’s pop culture. So, what made it so appealing to the audience? What made it so famous? Patrick Swayze talked about it in an interview with AFI. He said that to him, it wasn’t just about the sensuality that existed in Baby and Johnny’s love story – it was something more. He said, “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.”

Successful

Why It Did So Well

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