It’s one of the greatest rom-com moments of all time, complete with the often-quoted line. Yet, it turns out that Johnny would have quite happily left Baby in the corner if the film’s leading man had anything to do with it. Swayze and Grey’s difficulties actually stayed long before the film shoot. They had starred together previously in 1984’s Red Dawn and the actress had disliked his on-set behaviour so much that she tried to have his casting in Dirty Dancing blocked. There is a strong argument that the clash of personalities is a major part of why their chemistry ignited on screen, but it made it very uncomfortable for both stars and everyone around them. Not helped by Swayze’s belief that Johnny should not end up with Baby.
Not many know that Swayze himself worked on the script behind the scenes with his wife, actor and dancer Lisa Niemi.
In his autobiography, The Time of My Life (also written with Lisa), he said: ” “Whether rewriting scripts or honing my performance, she and I have worked together on every movie I have ever done – she has an amazing ear for dialogue, a great sense of story and knows how to zero in on performance.
“More importantly, she’s absolutely truthful, even if it’s something I don’t want to hear.”
They worked intensively on the Dirty Dancing, inserting the scene where Johnny has a fight with the sleazy waiter, and spending all night polishing his final big speech.
Swayze said: “When some on the set suggested I tone down the dancing with Penny early on, I put my foot down. They were worried the dance scenes between Johnny and Penny were too sexy, that they would overshadow the later scenes with Johnny and Baby.
“I knew that wasn’t true based on my audition with Jennifer. There was no doubt we’d be able to create the heat – and we did.”
Despite this tribute, Swayze was still adamant that he didn’t believe Johnny and Baby would realistically end up together.
Swayze said: “I felt all along that Johnny should ultimately end up with Penny, as they were so much more alike and a more realistic couple than Johnny and Baby.”
This time, however, he did not get his way: “That change got overruled, which was probably for the best.”
He probably had a very good point, but romcoms have never succeeded on realism. And they almost never have to then show what happened after the fairytale big ending. Swayze apparently turned down $1million to make a sequel.
Instead, four decades later, a sequel has just been announced, with a projected 2024 release date. Grey with return as Baby and director Jonathan Levine confirmed that Swayze, who died in 2009, will also somehow feature.
He said: “Johnny is a part of Baby’s journey in the story.This film exists in a dialogue with the original. We want to introduce this story to a whole new generation. That said, Johnny’s absence looms large over the story, so it’s a coming-of-age story but also a coming-of-age for Baby’s character in a way.”