Why 'Dirty Dancing' Almost Wasn't Made


Here's a dirty little secret about everyone's favorite classic dance movie Dirty Dancing: it actually almost didn't get made. Take a moment, let that sink in. The iconic film starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey that has captivated audiences for 30 years and counting had to fight tooth-and-nail to get made and released. Thankfully, the movie's writer and creator Eleanor Bergstein wouldn't take no for an answer.

The screenplay writer, who based the script off her own life, called Bustle to celebrate the release of the Dirty Dancing 30th Anniversary Edition, available on Limited Edition Collector's Box Set, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD on February 7th, and it's shocking to hear her talk of the long journey she endured to bring the film to life. It's so popular that it's even being remade into a TV movie!

"We couldn't get anybody to make it," Bergstein says." It took me a long time before anybody agreed to make it. And then they made it planning to shove it right into video, so it was made by a video company."


That's why she is so amazed to see how Dirty Dancing captured the hearts of audiences for 30 years after facing so much rejection. "We didn't expect any of this at all," Bergstein says. "We had no encouragement. Everyone told us it was terrible while we were making it. And even when it first came out, everyone told us it was terrible. But we eventually got these wonderful, wonderful audiences that we've had now for 30 years. All ages, men, women, kids. I've met kids who's parents hadn't even met or had sex before we made this film. [Laughs] It's really all generations. I'm very beholden to my audiences because they're wonderful."

Bergstein's commitment to making Dirty Dancing happen is truly inspirational. It's no wonder why the film's main character, Baby (Grey), is such an iconic role model — Eleanor is basically the real-life Baby! "'Dirty Dancing' was actually a specific type of dancing that I did, and people did in basements all over back then," she says. "I even have trophies that say 'Dirty Dancing' on them because it was actually a type of dancing that was popular back then."

But she isn't just a dancer like Baby, she also shares the same conviction and inner strength. "I don't give up," she says without hesitation. "The reason we're on a stage instead of in the audience isn't because of the things we do right, but because of the numbers of times we've picked ourselves up off the floor. That's the secret of it. Every time a door slams in your face, pick yourself up again. I think that's the truth for all our stories, even yours. Get up again and knock on another door. Every studio turned us down, every little company turned us down, so finally we found a little video company that did it."


30 successful years later, it's clear that Bergstein's life philosophy pays off. It even helped her lock in one of Hollywood's most iconic stars for the show's leading man. Just like how she refused to take no for an answer when it came to making Dirty Dancing, she also wouldn't hear of any other actor playing Johnny after meeting Swayze.

"No, absolutely not. It had to be Patrick," Bergstein says. "When I met him, I said, 'Now that I know you exist, if you don't want to do this movie, it's hard for me to make it.' It was always Patrick. We never offered it to anybody else. He was the only one we wanted. He was the only one who could have created that character."

Swayze passed away from pancreatic cancer back in September 2009, and Bergstein remembers the award-winning actor, singer, songwriter and dancer as one of the best people she knew. "He was wonderful, not only brilliantly talented but a very good man," she says. "He very much wanted to be a good person and he was, it's very important for me to say that. I loved him."

So does the rest of the world, and everyone owes it all to her.