Patrick Swayze documentary reveals moving moments in beloved actor’s life
After Swayze had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told he had a 5 percent chance of surviving it, he didn’t think it was time to stop working. The actor shot the 2009 series “The Beast” while fighting the disease.
Ten years since the world lost Patrick Swayze, there’s still no one quite like the gracefully masculine good guy. And speaking on behalf of the world, we’re definitely still mourning the loss of the likable actor who took Baby out of the corner in “Dirty Dancing,”turned pottery-making into foreplay in “Ghost” and paid the ultimate price in “Point Break.”
Swayze, 57, died in 2009 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, but his life story is retold in Paramount Network’s new documentary, “I Am Patrick Swayze” (8 p.m. Sunday).
Here are five ways the charming entertainer known as “Buddy” still inspires us.
1. The future ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ overcame bullying and abuse
Swayze’s widow, Lisa Niemi, opens up in “I Am Patrick Swayze” about the abuse that her late husband dealt with at the hands of his strict mother, Patsy Swayze, who was also his dance teacher. At one point, Swayze’s dad, Jesse, had to stop Patsy from ”laying into him” and threatened to divorce her if she continued to harm their son.
“Patsy was an example of what happens in families in a cycle of abuse,” says Niemi.
When Swayze was young, he became an easy target for bullies, because he was the boy in ballet tights. But the man who would go on to become People’s Sexiest Man Alive (in 1991, when they called him “Hollywood’s hunk with a heart”) was equipped to defend himself against his peers. As Swayze’s brother Don recalls in the documentary, Patrick finally got fed up with being teased.
Without putting down his books or violin (Swayze was a well-rounded artist), “he did a little sweep with his legs and took both of them out,” Don says. “I grew up with a superhero in my family.”
2. Swayze had to convince filmmakers to cast him in ‘Ghost’
When “Ghost” director Jerry Zucker was looking to cast his romantic lead, Swayze, the actor he knew as the combative bouncer from the absurdly violent action film “Road House,” was not who he had in mind.
In fact, Zucker was convinced that there was absolutely no way Swayze would star in his film. He was ready to quickly dismiss the actor who came to audition.
But Swayze wound up reading through the entire script to filmmakers. Everyone in the room was so moved by Swayze’s performance, they were in tears. Swayze got the part.
“His appreciation and his openness were wonderful attributes to have in a partner,” co-star Demi Moore says of sharing scenes with Swayze in “Ghost.”
3. He ultimately won over Jennifer Grey on ‘Dirty Dancing’
Before Jennifer Grey and Swayze partnered in “Dirty Dancing,” the two had worked together on 1984’s “Red Dawn.” As Grey remembers it, Swayze was part of a group who pranked her by setting off firecrackers at her door when she was trying to sleep.
So when he was cast, Grey was less than pleased. “Not that guy. Oh, God,” she remembers thinking. “There was a very complex dynamic between Patrick and myself for the whole movie.”
But when they got to dancing, the vibe changed.
“There was a feeling like an easy chair, a hot easy chair,” she says. Swayze ultimately proved he was a stable partner who had her back. She remembers him promising, “I’ll never drop you, I’ll never let you get hurt. I might throw myself around. I might be careless with my own body, but I will stand in front of a train for you.”
Grey thinks back, with wet eyes, to performing the movie’s iconic lift. She was scared to do it, but Swayze convinced her she could.
”I was doing things that I had never been capable of doing before, because of my ability to allow him to take care of me,” she says. “That (was) life imitating art imitating life.”
4. A horrific sports injury drove Swayze to work harder
When Swayze was 18, “his leg broke inward” while playing football, as Don says. It was so bad that the athlete had to be in “a full-length cast from his hip to his toes for six months.” By the time the cast came off, Patrick’s leg had atrophied.
The injury “became what drove him,” Don says.
Patrick dedicated himself to daily dance classes. A couple of years later, he had become a world-class dancer in a ballet company. Broadway followed. Later, of course, he took on Hollywood.
5. He shot a TV series in between cancer treatments
After Swayze had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told he had a 5 percent chance of surviving it, he didn’t think it was time to stop working.
To the contrary, the performer shot the 2009 series “The Beast” while fighting the disease. He would work 14- to 16-hour days and get chemotherapy on the weekends, his widow Lisa Niemi says. He completed the season before he died.
“You’re only on this planet for so long,” Swayze says in the documentary. “You could be dead tomorrow, go for it now.”
Read more at usatoday.com.