Not-So-Dirty Facts About the Iconic Film, Dirty Dancing

What started off as a teen-flick film has turned into a full cult-classic over the past thirty-plus years. No one, not even Jennifer Grey or Patrick Swayze, could have predicted the global sensation that has become of Dirty Dancing.

The Dirty Dancing movie poster / Patrick Swayze lifting Jennifer Grey up for the infamous final lift in their dance

Photo by Vestron, Kobal, Shutterstock / Moviestore Collection, Shutterstock

For fans around the world, it’s the perfect ugly duckling gets the guy storyline, filled with real-life issues and, of course, lots of dancing that makes you wish you could spend next summer at the Kellerman’s resort. If you’re anything like me, you’ve watched this movie more than 1,000 times. But what if I told you that there are loads of behind the scenes facts that you didn’t know about?

Well, what are you waiting for then? Let’s check them out!

Johnny Was Supposed to Be Italian

Usually, directors find actors who fit the character descriptions in the script, but that wasn’t the case for Dirty Dancing. Many fans don’t know this, but Johnny Castle was actually written as an Italian dancer, and directors thought that 20-year-old actor Billy Zane was the perfect candidate.

Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze on stage behind the microphone in Dirty Dancing

Photo Snap / Shutterstock

But there was just one problem: Zane’s dancing skills were all that great. Thankfully, the film’s directors found Swayze, who was a seasoned dancer. Since Swayze doesn’t exactly look like a suave Italian, they made his character an Irish lad.

Pulling From Real-Life

Great characters are usually inspired by real-life people, and Dirty Dancing was no exception. Baby, played by Jennifer Grey, was actually based on writer Eleanor Bergstein’s own experience in dirty dancing competitions in the Catskill Mountains when she was younger.

Jennifer Grey with Jerry Orbach and others dancing around a ballroom

Photo by Vestron / Kobal / Shutterstock

Bergstein even said that Baby was one of her nicknames! While the former dancer reflects fondly on her time in the Catskills, she couldn’t contact any of her former dancing partners while researching the movie. “My old partners are either in jail or out on parole. It was a very rough neighborhood.”