Family & Companions
Patrick Swayze was a Texas-born movie actor whose background in ballet and gymnastics gave him a physique well-suited for his roles as hunky love interest or macho action film hero. His early roles as the only slightly older patriarchal figure of his onscreen teenage families in films like "The Outsiders" (1983) and "Red Dawn" (1984) helped put the heartthrob on the map and on the cover of many a Tiger Beat fan magazine in the early 1980s. But it was only a few years before the teen became a man and it was in these more adult roles that the actor made his mark. He achieved even greater heights of stardom with the romantic blockbusters "Dirty Dancing" (1987) and "Ghost" (1990). But it was his battle against pancreatic cancer for almost two years that would inspire the public and galvanize the actor to bravely give his final performance on A&E's dark drama series, "The Beast." In a year unparalleled in Hollywood loss, Swayze would pass away on Sept. 14, 2009.
Patrick Wayne Swayze was born on Aug. 18, 1952, in Houston, TX. His father, Jesse Wayne, had been a champion rodeo cowboy and Mom, "Patsy" Yvonne Swayze, was a dancer and choreographer who owned the Houston Jazz and Ballet Company. His parents were not the only performers in the family - Swayze was also a distant relation of actors William Holden and Tom Hulce. Swayze began dance training with his hard-driving mother at an early age, focusing on a ballet career even before thoughts of acting. But high school was tough for a teenage boy in a leotard, so for several years, Swayze also developed his sporting side, participating in gymnastics, swimming and football at Waltrip High School in Houston. Consequently, the physical overachiever was offered scholarships for both dance and athletics, opting for the gymnastics program at San Jacinto College in Houston. To add to his impressive skills roster, he had also become an accomplished figure skater. Two years later, he got his first break into show business when he was offered a role as Prince Charming in the "Disney on Parade" touring ice show.
In 1972, Swayze decided to re-focus on his original love of ballet, so he headed for the bright lights and abundant career opportunities of New York City. He got right to work, studying at the Harkness and Joffrey Ballet Companies and getting hired as the principal dancer at the Eliot Feld Ballet Company. Several years into his New York run, his hometown girlfriend, Lisa Niemi, a fellow dancer whom he had met at his mother's studio, joined him in New York. The two were married not long after. When a high school football knee injury reappeared and cut his career with Feld short, Swayze made a lateral move to theater. His rugged looks, winning smile, and studied movements helped him land roles on Broadway's "Goodtime Charley," "West Side Story" and "Grease."
Swayze's high-profile turn as Danny Zuko onstage in "Grease" suddenly brought Hollywood knocking, and he and Lisa answered by packing up and moving West. He began landing parts, appearing as a bad boy on wheels in the big screen roller-skating flop, "Skatetown USA" (1979) and as a leukemia patient on an episode of "M*A*S*H" (CBS, 1972-1983). Swayze's big film breakout came in 1983 when he was cast as eldest greaser Darrel Curtis in Francis Ford Coppola's period teen melodrama, "The Outsiders" - a movie which also launched the careers of Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez and Tom Cruise. Hollywood quickly saw Swayze's leading man potential, giving him the starring role as a young Confederate soldier in the miniseries, "North and South" (ABC, 1985) and as one of the local militants fighting the Russians in the laughable teens vs. Communists action flick, "Red Dawn" (1984).
Everything changed in 1987 when he became an overnight sensation with his starring role in "Dirty Dancing" opposite Jennifer Grey. It may have been the part he had been preparing for his whole life - rakish dance teacher Johnny Castle, who enjoyed tight pants, Cuban heels, and had an eye for the young ladies. He earned a Golden Globe nomination for the film, and also contributed an original song - "She's Like the Wind" - to the soundtrack. The song hit No. 3 on the pop charts and the film soundtrack became one of the top-selling soundtracks in history. Also immortalized: "Nobody puts Baby in the corner," uttered by Swayze to Jennifer Grey's father, Jerry Orbach, during the film's dance-off finale, which in subsequent years, became one of the most beloved and often repeated lines in film history.
The actor's next two titles were action films, but in Swayze-style action, he whirled through fight scenes like a West Side Jet in "Road House" (1989) and leapt into a mob-revenge melee like a gymnast in "Next of Kin" (1989). Only three years after securing leading man status in "Dirty Dancing," Swayze lived up to the hype by turning in another iconic performance in the blockbuster romance, "Ghost" (1990). Setting the ladies' hearts afire with his sensitive portrayal of the dead lover who can never tell his girl he loves her while alive, "Ghost," was a monster hit. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, the film featured Swayze as the slain lover of Demi Moore, who continues to communicate with and protect her in the afterlife. With this role, Swayze showed a range heretofore unseen - most especially witnessed in comic scenes with quack psychic, Whoopi Goldberg and in his tearful, earnest attempts to contact Moore from the great beyond. And much like "Dirty Dancing," Swayze offered up another quotable quote - "Ditto" - to say nothing of another famous film scene in which Swayze and Moore erotically sculpt clay to the Righteous Brothers' ballad, "Unchained Melody." For his work, Swayze received a second Golden Globe nomination and People magazine included him in their "Sexiest Man Alive" issue the following year. Without a doubt, Swayze's impossibly perfect abs and pecs being on full display while sculpting clay shirtless had something to do with his placement that year.
After appearing in two of the most popular films in history, there was no place else to go but down. Inevitably, the actor's next string of films did not fare as well at the box office. It was not surprising when he was overlooked at the Golden Globes for playing a surfing bank robber in "Point Break" (1991) - a film high on machismo, but laughable on plot. Four years later, he surprised audiences who were used to his romantic dramas and gut-punching action movies, when he starred in the quirky, cross-country drag-queen romp, "To Wong Foo, Thanks for everything! Julie Newmar" (1995).
In the late 1990s, Swayze experienced several career setbacks including a broken leg suffered while filming "Letters from a Killer" and increasing problems with alcoholism. His father had died of the disease in 1982, and Swayze admitted to lapsing in and out of periods of heavy drinking. His sister had committed suicide in 1994, and it contributed to the tailspin that landed Swayze in rehab. After his release, he and Niemi decided to get away from the Hollywood atmosphere and relocate to a ranch in Texas, even turning down a $6 million dollar offer to do a "Dirty Dancing" sequel. After a time, Swayze returned to work, appearing in some of the more critically-acclaimed films of his career, including the Sundance nominee "The Green Dragon" (2001) and the cult-classic "Donnie Darko" (2001). Back onstage, he played the tap-dancing Billy Flynn in "Chicago" on Broadway, and "Guys and Dolls" at the Piccadilly Theater in London. In 2006, he appeared alongside Kristin-Scott Thomas and Rowan Atkinson in the independent British film, "Keeping Mum," where he received positive nods for his tongue-in-cheek role as an aging ladies man.
Due to his high-profile roles in fluffy blockbusters of the 1980s and 1990s, Swayze became a bit of a cult icon for the succeeding generation of pop culture hipsters. "Swayze" was transformed into a bona fide adjective in the hip-hop world, with "I'm Swayze" meaning "disappeared" or "gone" like his character in "Ghost." Film parodists "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (Sci Fi Channel, 1988-1999) included an original song called "Patrick Swayze Christmas" in one of their holiday episodes, with the puppet hosts wishing their viewers "the Swayziest Christmas of them all." Indie rockers Kane Hodder even cut a song called "I think Patrick Swayze is Sexy," while, at the same time, The Petition Site.com received signatures of dozens of people who believe "No More Patrick Swayze Movies Should be Made." Love him or hate him, no one could claim the dancer-turned-actor did not inspire great passion from both his fans and his detractors.
It was precisely this passion which led fans and even those ambivalent toward the actor to express their deepest sympathies when the National Enquirer broke the news in March 2008 that Swayze only had five weeks to live, due to terminal pancreatic cancer. The news shocked the masses, leading to a forced rebuttal from Swayze's physician, Dr. George Fisher, who did confirm the cancer, but not the tabloid's prognosis, stating "Patrick has a very limited amount of the disease and he appears to be responding well to the treatment." An outpouring of affection from both fans and former co-stars began pouring in, leading the family to release the statement: "We appreciate the love that's coming back to Patrick from all his fans." The actor had just shot a pilot for A&E, "The Beast," which, despite the news, the network confirmed was a major contender to go to series and that they believed Swayze would be able to continue his role once his cancer treatment was finished. He was able to complete one full season before the show was scrapped due to low ratings. Despite a valiant nearly two-year battle with the disease, the beloved actor succumbed to pancreatic cancer with his family by his side on Sept. 14, 2009.
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Dance (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Special)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Broadway debut as dancer in "Goodtime Charley"
Film debut, "Skatetown USA"
TV series debut, "Renegades"
Returned to features films with roles in "The Outsiders" and "Uncommon Valor"
Played first feature lead in the war drama, "Red Dawn"; first film with Jennifer Grey
First success TV mini-series, "North and South" set during the Civil War
Co-starred with Rob Lowe and Keanu Reeves in the hockey-themed feature, "Youngblood"
Breakthrough role as dance instructor, Johnny Castle in "Dirty Dancing" co-starring Jennifer Grey; earned a Golden Globe nomination for the role; also sang one of the songs on the soundtrack, "She's Like the Wind"
Starred in "Road House" as a bouncer at a seedy roadside bar
Co-starred with Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg in the successful romantic fantasy-thriller, "Ghost"
Became co-owner (with Bobby Ochs) of Mulholland Drive Cafe; restaurant closed in 1996
Re-teamed with actor Keanu Reeves in the action hit, "Point Break"
With Ochs, opened second restaurant, Bobby O's City Bites
Broke right leg and fractured left leg in riding accident during filming of "Letters From a Killer"
Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (August 18)
Acted in the Vietnam-set "The Green Dragon"; screened at Sundance
Co-starred in "Without a Word" a film co-written and directed by Lisa Niemi
Co-starred in "Waking Up in Reno" with Billy Bob Thornton and Charlize Theron
Appeared on Broadway as slick lawyer Billy Flynn in the Tony Award winning musical "Chicago"
Had a cameo appearance as a dance instructor in "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
Played a choreographer in the NBC sitcom "Whoopi"
Played Kristin Scott-Thomas' golf teacher in the British comedy "Keeping Mum"
Made London stage debut in the musical "Guys and Dolls" as Nathan Detroit
Co-starred as an aging rock star, opposite younger brother Don, in the film "Powder Blue" (released straight to DVD)
Played FBI Agent Charles Barker in the A&E drama, "The Beast"