Jennifer Grey made a leap of faith when she took on a “low-budget” film called “Dirty Dancing.”
“I was just so happy to be getting a lead because I don’t look like leading ladies,” the actress recently told Closer Weekly. “And I was also doing a part that felt it was made for me. I was so grateful, but it was such a hard movie to shoot.”
The 1987 romantic drama follows Frances “Baby” Houseman (Grey) who spends the summer at a Catskills resort with her family. Along the way, she falls head over heels for the camp’s dance instructor Johnny Castle (Swayze).
But bringing the feel-good flick was far from smooth sailing.
“It was almost cursed,” Grey insisted. “Everything went wrong, and everything was hard. Everything was on a shoestring. We really were struggling with rain delays and people getting fired and quitting. [That shoot] became something to survive. But everyone was great at their jobs, and they just did them well in spite of how challenging it was.”
Despite her on-set struggles, Grey said Swayze put her at ease – especially when it came time to film one of the most iconic scenes from the storyline.
“He was such a great dancer,” she said. “He was really masculine, like a real cowboy who had been trained as a ballet dancer. I had to fully leap into his arms, in spite of how terrified I was. Literally.”
The coming-of-age tale proved to be a major hit with audiences. According to the outlet, “Dirty Dancing” grossed more than $214 million worldwide and it became the first home video to sell 1 million copies. It also made Grey a star.
“It was a tiny, tiny, tiny, low, low, low budget movie,” Grey reflected. “I was thinking that maybe it’s terrible. Maybe no one will ever see it. And then all of a sudden, it was like people really like this movie.”
In looking back at her experience, Grey said it’s easy to see why “Dirty Dancing” has become a beloved classic.
“It’s about a loss of innocence,” she said. “The girl loses her virginity and goes from being a daddy’s girl to a woman. She discovers that she’s more than she thought she was, and she gets the guy that she never thought she could get. And he’s going to feel that she sees something more in him than he thought he was. It’s not a preachy movie, it’s a feel-good movie. But there are some very serious themes happening under the surface about not letting anybody put you in the corner.”
In 2009, Swayze passed away after a 15-month battle with advanced pancreatic cancer. He was 57.
Over the years, Grey has kept busy pursuing acting in Hollywood. Still, Grey continues to cherish her memories from her time on “Dirty Dancing.”
And today, there’s a key piece of advice she would share with her younger self.
“I’d say that it’s going to be a wild, wild ride and a crazy adventure,” said Grey. “It is going to feel really scary, but you’re going to rise to it. You have what it takes, and you are going to be changed from everything that is hard. It is going to change you for the better. You are going to learn the skills to handle all of it.”