Ghost was on another level. The supernatural fantasy romance film, in which the “bedroom scene” took place on a potter’s wheel, started off the ‘90s with a bang (pun intended). The 1990 classic was a surprise hit at the time, making over a half-billion dollars and becoming the third highest-grossing movie of all time (back then).
No one saw the cultural phenomenon coming. And not everyone knows what really went down off-screen and behind the scenes. From Patrick Swayze saying the pottery scene was his favorite ever to Demi Moore cutting off all her hair at the last minute, these are some fun facts behind the scenes of Ghost.
It Turned Demi Moore Into the Highest-Paid Actress
Before Ghost, Demi Moore was already famous for her St. Elmo’s Fire and About Last Night roles. By the time Ghost was released. However, she wasn’t yet considered to be a bankable star. But then the unexpected $200 million domestic gross rolled in, and Moore hit box office gold with a trifecta of hits, including 1992’s A Few Good Men, 1993’s Indecent Proposal, and 1994’s Disclosure.
All of Demi’s film grosses in those years come out to more than $1 billion. In 1995, for her role in Striptease, she was paid an unprecedented $12.5 million. The film wasn’t a big hit, though, and a few years later, she left Hollywood for Idaho.
The Director Didn’t Want Patrick Swayze at All
In fact, director Jerry Zucker used the words “over my dead body” when referring to casting Swayze in the lead role. In the Ghost DVD commentary, screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin (who won the Oscar for his script) spoke about how Zucker was against casting Swayze as Sam, at least at first…
“Jerry wanted to see him on film, so he went out and saw the movie Roadhouse, and we walked out of that movie, and Jerry said to me, ‘Over my dead body,’” Rubin recalled. Swayze, however, was gung-ho about the role and wanted it badly. Since Zucker appreciated Swayze’s enthusiasm, he let the actor audition. Once Swayze read the end of the script aloud, the director changed his mind.
The Role of Sam Almost Went to Bruce Willis
“We all had tears in our eyes, right there in the office… and we knew how it ends,” Zucker told People in 1990. “I saw a side of Patrick that I never knew existed.” It was a complete 180 from what the director initially thought. What became an iconic role almost didn’t happen. The role of Sam was almost given to Bruce Willis instead.
When Ghost was in production, Moore was married to Willis. So, before the role of Sam went to Swayze, Willis was asked to film opposite his wife for the upcoming film. Thankfully Willis declined the offer. Maybe he thought acting as a ghost for an entire movie wouldn’t suit him (wink wink).
She Thought It Was a “Recipe for Disaster”
In 2013, at an AFI Night at the Movies screening of Ghost, Demi Moore revealed to the audience what her first thoughts and feelings about the film were. “It’s a love story, and it’s a guy — a dead guy — trying to save his wife, and there is a comedy part, but really, really it’s a love story,” she started off saying.
“And I thought, wow, this is really a recipe for disaster.” Moore explained that she initially thought it was either going to be something “really special” or an “absolute bust.” I think it’s safe to say that Moore realized that the former proved to be true. During that 2013 appearance, she ultimately described the film as “magic.”
The Screenwriter Cried When He Heard Zucker Was Directing
Jerry Zucker was an established comedy writer-director (he was the man behind Airplane! after all), so it’s understandable that people raised their eyebrows when they heard he was directing this drama. Screenwriter Rubin was also skeptical when he discovered that Zucker would be directing his script (he wanted Milos Forman or Stanley Kubrick).
“When I was told that the guy who made Airplane! was going to direct Ghost, I cried,” Rubin confessed. Zucker and Rubin reportedly went through 19 drafts of the screenplay together, and Zucker ultimately gave the script more structure. And, yes, he added more humor.
Bringing the Righteous Brothers Back
After the Righteous Brothers’ 1965 version of Unchained Melody was used in the movie and featured on the soundtrack, the single was re-released. The group decided to re-record the song and released it as a second single. It was the 1990 version that hit no.1 on the Billboard U.S. Adult Contemporary chart, beating the 1965 cover.
“I didn’t know what it was going to do to the song, but, boy, when it came out in that movie, that song became a monster,” Righteous Brother Bill Medley said. “I mean, a monster. I didn’t see that coming, that’s for sure.”
Fun fact: Medley’s other hit song, (I’ve Had) the Time of My Life, was featured in another Patrick Swayze movie: Dirty Dancing.
The Parodied Pottery Scene
Sam and Molly’s unforgettable pottery/lovemaking scene formed such a lasting impression on viewers that for decades, multiple homages have been filmed. In 1991, for example, Zucker’s brother David directed The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear, and in it, you see Priscilla Presley and Leslie Nielsen re-enacting the famous scene (obviously in a much funnier way).
Then, there was the 2010 episode of Community where the pottery class instructor scolds the class: “I will tolerate no re-creating, whether it’s ironic or sincere, of the Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore pottery scene in Ghost,” the teacher begins, and hilariously continues with: “I’ve had to adopt a zero Ghost tolerance policy. If you so much as hum three notes from that Righteous Brothers song, with god as my witness, I will come at you with everything I’ve got.”
It Became a “Sleeper” Hit
When a low-budget movie makes an unexpected sum of money, they call it a “sleeper” hit, and that’s exactly what happened with Ghost. Production cost “only” $22 million, but it ended the year with an international gross of $505,702,588.
According to Box Office Mojo, the 1990 film Home Alone ranked as the highest-grossing domestic film that year, with Ghost coming in at a close second. Ghost hit another milestone: It spent 19 consecutive weekends in the box office’s top five, coming in at no.5 on the all-time weekend list.
Tony Goldwyn Fought His Way Into the Movie
Before his role as President Fitz on Scandal, Tony Goldwyn was a struggling actor before becoming a film director. When casting started for the role of Sam’s friend and murderer, Carl, Goldwyn had his foot in the door – and it wasn’t because of his lineage (his grandfather was Samuel Goldwyn). It was his wife who did the guy a favor.
“I fought my way into an audition on Ghost,” Goldwyn admitted. His wife was the production designer on the film, and she kept nudging him to audition since the part was still up for grabs. So, Goldwyn nagged his agent, who would never return his phone calls.
People Hated Him for It, Too
Goldwyn managed to get an audition, and “by a fluke,” they stumbled on his audition tape and said, “That guy was really good.” Zucker said in 1990 that he was skeptical of Goldwyn (it seems like he’s just a skeptical guy at this point). “We saw his tape and were immediately struck by how good he was, but I wasn’t sure he was right for the part. He seemed too nice.”
Goldwyn’s portrayal as the villain resulted in a lot of hate towards the actor. In 2014, he told A.V. Club that he was once denied service by a waitress in a restaurant who gave the actor death stares instead. Apparently, she didn’t know he was an actor and simply couldn’t figure out where she knew him from.
Flashbacks to His Father’s Funeral
Certain scenes in the movie gave Swayze flashbacks to his father’s death eight years earlier. Swayze said that the plaster dummy representing Sam’s body reminded him of his father’s funeral. He admitted that at the funeral, he almost passed out from the shock when touching his father’s body as it lay in its coffin.
“I had pushed that memory out of my life until that moment on location when it all came back, big time,” he said. “There were a few scenes where something happened to me that was very scary.”
Ghosts Don’t Breathe, of Course
Filming Ghost was harder than fans realize, and Swayze admitted that Sam was the hardest role he ever had to take on. Why? Because as a ghost, he was an observer rather than an active participant. One scene, in particular, caused some issues to film, and that was the night chase scene.
It was winter in New York City, and while everyone in the cast and crew got to be bundled up, the cold wasn’t supposed to bother Sam since he’s a ghost. In reality, obviously, he was freezing. In order to make sure his breath wasn’t seen on screen, the crew had him chew ice.
From the Mouths of Babes
Ghost is a romance, yes, but the supernatural theme also had some truly creepy moments. Take the dark shadows, for example – the ones that take bad people over to the afterlife. The noise these dark spirits made stood out to moviegoers.
But when you hear where the noises actually came from, it may be even creepier than the idea of dark spirits itself. It was later revealed that the noises came from a recording of a baby crying which was then played backward and very slowly. I told you it was creepy!
Japan Re-Made the Film
Ghost did really well in Japan – it grossed $48,449,689. Naturally, they wanted to monopolize the Ghost market, so they decided to remake the movie. But, in their version, a woman was the ghost. Paramount, the studio that released the original Ghost, was involved in the film’s production and release (along with some other companies).
The Japanese film is called Ghost: Mouichido Dakishimetai, which roughly translates to “Ghost: In Your Arms Again.” In 2013, Paramount TV hired writer-producer Akiva Goldsman and showrunner Jeff Pinkner to write a TV show based on the movie. But it never came to fruition.
Wanna Live in Sam and Molly’s Loft?
The Soho loft where Molly and Sam lived? If you’re a fan (and very rich), it can all be yours for a pretty penny. The spacious 4,341-square-foot loft is located at 102 Prince Street and was recently on the market.
So, if you’re looking to re-enact the pottery scene in the best place possible, you should start saving now. The place has three bedrooms, three-and-a-half baths, and a Sub-Zero refrigerator. The loft was listed at $10.5 million at first but went down to just over $9 million. It sounds like a bargain to me!
Whoopi Goldberg Has Swayze to Thank
On The View, Whoopi Goldberg revealed that she only got the role of Oda Mae Brown because Swayze fought for her. And they weren’t even friends at that point! The filmmakers resisted casting her (we’re looking at you, Zucker), but Swayze gave them an ultimatum.
He told the producers that he wouldn’t do the film unless Whoopi was in it. Beyond that, he insisted that she was right for the part. Keep in mind that the two had never even met. “I won an Oscar because of Patrick Swayze,” Goldberg stated. In her 1991 Academy Award speech, she thanked him, calling him “a stand-up guy.”
She Made History at the Oscars
In a 1990 interview with the Associated Press, Goldberg said she loved playing Oda Mae Brown, but the producers originally wanted an unknown actress for the role. Goldberg won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in Ghost, which made her the first Black actress to be nominated for that category.
She was previously nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress in 1985 for her role in The Color Purple (where she played alongside Oprah). While she didn’t win that one, her award for Ghost marked her first win toward her EGOT. She later won a Tony Award in 2002 for Thoroughly Modern Millie.
The Final Scene Was Shot Separately
The final scene in Ghost required Swayze and Moore to shoot their emotional farewell separately. If you remember, Oda Mae and Molly look on as Sam departs for good. “He just kind of kneeled down in front of a green screen,” Zucker recalled.
Zucker also said that Swayze didn’t hold back when he was filming his closed-eyes kiss solo, which was in New York. It’s not the standard way of shooting such an important and emotional scene, but Swayze wasn’t worried. As for Moore, she shot her scenes back on the Los Angeles set, and, yes, she mustered up those impressive tears on command.
How She Made the Tears Flow
Zucker recalled how the actress did it: “Demi would go off by herself for a few minutes, and then she’d give me a little signal that she was ready.” He said that he wouldn’t call “Action” to start the scene.
Instead, he would quietly tell the camera operator to start rolling and the sound guy to roll sound. Then Moore would step in. Her tears came “at exactly the right time in the scene, and they would flow,” Zucker said. “She could do this take after take.” She shot the final kiss in the precise position to match Swayze’s puckered lips.
A Very Big Machine Was Used
Sam’s ascension into the white light was actually Swayze walking toward a green screen on a mylar platform. The actors who played the waiting souls were shot separately. The scene was transformed with what was then considered cutting-edge special effects.
Special effects cinematographer Richard Edlund was using a new “very big machine” called “The Harry,” Zucker revealed, explaining that it was one of the first uses of CGI. “Because it’s this ethereal scene, we could get away with the quality not being that crisp.” But the trick wasn’t the effects; it was Moore and Swayze.
Molly Could Have Been Played by Madonna
And not just Madonna – many other actresses were considered for the leading role of Molly Jensen. Demi Moore was among a slew of names up for the part. Other actresses considered included Madonna, Kim Basinger, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Molly Ringwald.
But it was Moore who had the upper hand thanks to her ability to cry on demand. Not just that – she can choose which eye to cry from! Obviously, this rare talent fascinated the movie makers, and obviously, she got the part. And we’re happy she did.
She Wasn’t Supposed to Have Short Hair
Moore’s look in the movie is a memorable one, for sure. The short hair suits her. But believe it or not, she was never meant to have the short haircut. The actress went to the salon to chop her hair off after her audition without even informing the film’s director about her decision.
Initially, Zucker was unsure of what to think about it (is he ever? Jeez), but he was soon convinced that her short “do” was the best for Molly’s look. Good choice, Demi! You should do it again.
Swayze Loved the Pottery Scene
Swayze referred to the pottery scene as “the sweetest, sexiest love scene that I’ve ever been involved with.” That says a lot for an actor who has been in multiple steamy scenes (his role in Dirt Dancing, by the way, is what made Zucker wary about his role in Ghost).
In an interview, Swayze explained that, for him, the scene wasn’t about physical love as much as it was about a deep personal connection. “We were very passionate about not having the love scene be about sucking face and jumping each other’s bones, but the connection between two human beings.”
The Word of a Ghost
In 1990, after the film debuted in theaters, Swayze told PEOPLE what he thought Ghost’s message was. “Ghost was about living your life for the moment because that’s all you’ve got. If you don’t communicate with the people you love, you set yourself up for incredible pain if you lose them.”
As we know, Swayze died of pancreatic cancer at age 57 in 2009. Eerily, Vincent Schiavelli, the actor who played the ghost in the subway, also died at the age of 57. Schiavelli died from lung cancer.
He Stuck to His Guns
There was a period of time when Ghost was nearly left on the cutting room floor. Screenwriter Rubin began pitching his idea to studios in 1984 and had to fight to get the film made. Many studios weren’t keen on the idea, and even the actors who got involved were reluctant.
Zucker explained that Ghost was set out to make “you laugh, cry, and get scared,” adding that the movie is “a roller-coaster ride.” Zucker turned out to be right (this time) as it proved to be a winning combination.
Bromance Turned Betrayal
The chemistry between Swayze and Tony Goldwyn was just as essential to the movie as the chemistry between Swayze and Moore. The betrayal driving the story needed to be totally convincing, and Goldwyn remembers that an early scene was important in making sure the audience bought into the two guys’ friendship.
In an opportunity to establish a genuine friendship between Carl and Sam, Swayze and Goldwyn were playing around in the elevator. “I think I was coughing on the guy in front of me and making a joke about having an infection,” Goldwyn recalled.
Tony Goldwyn’s “Spasmodic” Dance
Ghost used rotoscoping for Goldwyn’s final scene as Carl, but Goldwyn remembers it being a lot less sophisticated. “We had dancers in black tights on roller skates choreographing the scene where they drag me back,” he explained.
When they filmed it, there was a cable pulling Goldwyn while it looked like he was wrestling with the dancers. There was nobody there, though, so he said he “did this spasmodic dance,” adding that it “was effective, but in a rudimentary way if you think about special effects nowadays.”
The Fight Scene Really Hurt
Carl’s “fight” with Oda Mae was more dramatic than it appeared on the screen. Whoopi Goldberg had a stunt double for the scene when Goldwyn tackled her on the ground. He had his hand on her face and was “being quite threatening,” Goldwyn recalled, and said to her, “Let me know if I hurt you.”
She told him she was fine, so they kept doing the scene. Then, all of a sudden, he sees tears in her eyes. “I’d got over-exuberant, and I was hurting her.” She was fine, but the actor felt really bad about it. “Luckily, Whoopi wasn’t the recipient of that!”
A Burning Feeling
In late December 2007, fresh from filming the pilot episode for The Beast, Swayze started suffering from a burning feeling in his stomach, which he later learned was caused by a blockage of his bile ducts. Three weeks later, he was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer.
He was reportedly given chemotherapy and treated with the experimental drug Vatalanib. In March of 2008, Reuters reported that Swayze “has a very limited amount of disease, and he appears to be responding well to treatment thus far.” Swayze’s doctor even insisted that Swayze was not as close to death as reports suggested.
All Eyes on Swayze
Despite repeated tabloid headlines saying that his death was imminent, Swayze kept on pursuing his career. In May 2008, tabloids reported that Swayze underwent surgery to remove part of his stomach following the spread of the cancer.
It was also reported that he rewrote his will, transferring his property to his wife of nearly three decades, Lisa Niemi. His first public appearance since his diagnosis was at a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game in late May of 2008. Come June 2008, and he said, “My treatments are working, and I am winning the battle.”
He Wasn’t Really “Kicking It.”
In September 2008, Swayze appeared on Stand Up to Cancer and announced to a standing ovation: “I dream that the word ‘cure’ will no longer be followed by the words ‘it’s impossible.’ Together, we can make a world where cancer no longer means living with fear, without hope, or worse.”
By December of that year, Swayze denied claims that the cancer had spread to his liver. A month later, he was featured in an interview with Barbara Walters, where he admitted that he had a “tiny little mass” in his liver. But he told Walters that he wanted the media to report that he was “kicking it.”
His Chain Smoking “Probably Had Something To Do With It”
On January 9, 2009, he was hospitalized with pneumonia, which is often a complication of chemotherapy. A week later, he was released to rest at home with his wife. A few days later, he was informed that the cancer had metastasized to his liver.
Swayze, who had been a heavy smoker for 40 years, stated that his chain smoking probably “had something to do with” it. He actually kept smoking cigarettes even while undergoing treatment. He passed away on September 14, 2009 – 20 months after his cancer diagnosis. His body was cremated, and his ashes scattered over his New Mexico ranch.
What’s Demi Moore Been Up To?
Moore has definitely been busy in the last few years. The now 58-year-old joined the cast of Empire in 2017 as a take-charge nurse with a mysterious past. That year, she starred in the comedy Rough Night as one half of a nymphomaniacal couple.
She then played Selma in the Indian drama film Love Sonia in 2018, followed by the comedy horror film Corporate Animals in 2019. It was around then that her memoir, Inside Out, came out and debuted at number one on The New York Times Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction best-sellers list. In June 2020, Moore played Piper Griffin in the pandemic-themed thriller Songbird.
Coming Clean in Her Memoir
In her memoir, Moore finally came clean about her traumatic childhood. The family was constantly moving – from New Mexico to Pennsylvania to Ohio to Washington State and finally to Southern California. Her father, Danny Guynes, asked the young Demi to help him prevent her mother Ginny from actually going through with one of her frequent suicide attempts.
After her parents separated, Demi learned that Danny wasn’t even her biological father. She also wrote about being raped at 15 and moving out of her mom’s home to live with a guitarist as soon as she turned 16.
An Honor She Paid the Price For
Today, Moore says she sees herself as the scapegoat of an industry that doesn’t tolerate its female stars getting paid as much as male ones (at the time, Willis was earning more for his films). To have been a trailblazer – earning as much as she did for her movies like Striptease – was “was an honor,” but it came with a lot of negativity, and a lot of judgment towards her.
Moore eventually stepped back from acting after her divorce from Willis and her mother’s death from cancer. It was the right time to focus on raising her daughters. She still produced films, though, like the Austin Powers franchise.
Her Healing Journey
Moore said that her book went hand-in-hand with her “healing journey.” She wasn’t concerned, in the process, about anything she wrote that could cost her any standing in her industry. “There’s nothing I have to protect… really.”
She also wanted – and said she had the right – to share stories that involved her famous ex-husbands. “I’m definitely not interested in blaming anyone,” she said. “It’s a waste of energy.” As for her daughters, each of them said they were given the opportunity to review a copy of the memoir and ask for changes if they wanted, but they didn’t.
No, It Wasn’t for the Money
At the same time, the book dug up unpleasant memories for the girls, who have dealt with their own substance abuse and body-image issues. According to Moore, she has maintained her own sobriety and that her daughters Rumer and Scout are on a course of spiritual psychology.
Moore’s been asked if she wrote the book for the money, but the actress says that’s definitely not the case. With a laugh, she replied, “Because there’s a lot of easier ways to do that.”