How old was patrick swayze in the movie dirty dancing

How Old Baby & Johnny Are In Dirty Dancing

By Quinn Hough


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Dirty Dancing features an iconic pairing in Patrick Swayze's Johnny and Jennifer Grey's Baby, but their characters are far from the same age.

Dirty Dancing features an iconic pairing in Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, but how big is their age gap, and does it make the movie problematic? Dirty Dancing is somewhat autobiographical for screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein, as it's based on her own teenage experiences. This fact only brings the question of Baby and Johnny's age difference further into the light. While the movie doesn't explicitly state the two protagonists' ages, there's enough evidence to suggest that the years between them borders on creepy.

Now streaming on HBO and HBO Max, the 1987 film explores the romance between a teenage girl and her much older dance partner, who meet at a New York resort.  Dirty Dancing became a pop culture phenomenon due to its soundtrack and central performances, and was Directed by Emile Ardolino. Set in the early '60s, Dirty Dancing stars Grey as Frances “Baby” Houseman and Swayze as Johnny Castle. The storyline takes place at a Catskills resort called Kellerman's (actually the Mountain Lake Lodge in Mountain, Lake Virginia), where Jake Houseman (Jerry Orbach) and wife Marjorie (Kelly Bishop) spend time with their daughters, Baby and Lisa (Jane Brucker). Meanwhile, Patrick Swayze's Johnny teaches classes and performs with his long-time friend Penny Johnson (Cynthia Rhodes). When Penny becomes pregnant and contemplates an abortion, Baby accepts an offer to train and perform with Johnny so that he can keep his job. In the process, the partners bond through the power of dance.

Related: All HBO Max Original Shows & Movies Releasing In 2022

Johnny and Baby's ages in Dirty Dancing come into question simply by looking at Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray. The two don't even look like they're in the same age group, and the movie takes no strides to explain any part of it. While this could be a product of the time it was made, Dirty Dancing might not hold up well under today's magnifying glass in terms of its more problematic areas. Here's exactly how old Baby and Johnny are in Dirty Dancing, and whether or not their age is far too wide.

How Old Are Baby And Johnny

Clues in Dirty Dancing place Johnny's age at 25 years old and Baby’s age at 17. At the beginning of Dirty Dancing on HBO, Baby's narration references the "summer of '63." Early dialogue reveals that she's planning to attend Mount Holyoke (an all-female private college in Massachusetts) to study the economics of underdeveloped countries. In Dirty Dancing, Baby also states that she plans to join the Peace Corps shortly before laying eyes on Johnny for the first time. Some reports have suggested that Baby is supposed to be 18 or even 19 years old. However, based on iMDB's trivia notes and a 2017 interview with Grey (via Closer Weekly), it seems that Baby was presumably born in 1946 and is supposed to be 17 years old. The character doesn't actually reveal her age in Dirty Dancing, nor does Johnny ask on-camera. If Baby is indeed a minor, that would explain her father's confrontational attitude with Mr. Castle throughout most of the film.

In Dirty Dancing, Johnny's 1938 birth date makes him 25 years old. The character initially questions why Baby gained access to a private dancing area, but then invites her to boogie and subsequently teaches her some moves. Johnny and Baby slowly become friends while dealing with Penny's medical procedures (Jake Houseman provides the appropriate assistance), and they eventually become romantic partners. Dirty Dancing on HBO never addresses the eight-year age difference between the two characters, which makes the film somewhat controversial – both then and now – because Baby is indeed a minor.  In 1963 America, though, it wasn't uncommon for men and women to commit at a young age. The focal Dirty Dancing relationship may not be appropriate, but the age gap isn't enough to make Baby's father concerned during the climactic performance. In fact, Jake Houseman essentially apologizes to Johnny.

How Old Were Patrick Swayze And Jennifer Grey During Dirty Dancing?

The late Swayze was approximately seven years older than Grey in real life. When Dirty Dancing premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1987, Patrick Swayze was 34 years old and was best known for portraying Darrel "Darry" Curtis in The Outsiders and Jed Eckert in Red Dawn. As for Grey, she had just turned 27 and had previously portrayed Jeanie Bueller in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. She also appeared alongside Swayze in Red Dawn as Toni Mason. In 2010, Grey won Dancing with the Stars season 11, just over a year after her Dirty Dancing co-star, Swayze, passed away at age 57 from pancreatic cancer.

Related: Why Road House Is Patrick Swayze's Most Misunderstood Movie

Johnny And Baby’s Age Gap In Dirty Dancing Is Questionable At Best

Johnny and Baby's ages in Dirty Dancing are certainly problematic. And worse still, if she was 17 years old and he was 25, then New York state law would deem nothing wrong with their relationship. This is a problem, as the age gap is discomforting to think about, technically legal, and would definitely raise concerned discussions were a movie to feature it today. Despite this, age gaps like in Dirty Dancing are unfortunately too common. Movies like Licorice Pizza can get away with extensive lovers' age differences, and people seem to be forgiving of its inclusion. After all, Dirty Dancing is still a beloved and critically acclaimed movie when it comes down to it. The film is so prolific that it got a (pretty terrible) TV remake in 2017. Dirty Dancing remains popular, but when put up to today's standards, the age gap between Johnny and Baby wouldn't fly unquestioned were a script to include it today.

Next: What Happened To Dirty Dancing's Jennifer Grey

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About The Author

Quinn Hough (1894 Articles Published)

Q.V. Hough is a senior writer at Screen Rant. He's also the founding editor at Vague Visages, and has contributed to and Fandor.

More From Quinn Hough

How Old Was Patrick Swayze In ‘Dirty Dancing’?

Ahh, Dirty Dancing, such an ‘80s classic. It’s won two Academy Awards, a Grammy, and a loyal following that’s lasted decades. But what do we know about the age difference between the two lead stars?

Patrick Swayze was 35 years old when the cult classic Dirty Dancing was released in the United States, although he may have been 34 years old when they filmed. His costar, Jennifer Grey, was in her late 20s. 

Let’s take a closer look at how Patrick landed the role, including a background on his career before and after the film.

Starting Out

Swayze was athletic from a young age, participating in ice skating and ballet at 20 years old. A football career could have been on the cards, but he suffered from a knee injury that ultimately ended that dream.

Instead, he made the move to New York City, where he finished formal dance training at Joffrey Ballet School and Harkness Ballet school.

His debut professional dance career began at the Disney Theatrical Group, which was followed by a main role as Danny Zuko in the Broadway production of Grease. The first film he starred in was called Skatetown, U.S.A., where he played a character called Ace.

While his first big break was arguable in North and South, a miniseries on TV in 1985, Swayze really cemented his place in the movie industry with Dirty Dancing. The film was actually a low-budget project and was planned to be released for only one week.

A Life-Changing Role

As well as showing off his dancing chops, Swayze co-composed and performed “She’s Like the Wind”, a song that was featured on the film’s soundtrack. 

Considering the fact that he was born in 1952 on the 18th of August, Swayze was 35 years old at the time that the film was released, which was on August 21st, 1987 in the US.

Jennifer Grey, who portrayed Frances “Baby” Houseman, was 27 years old at the time. She was supposed to be portraying a 17-year-old, and Swayze was meant to be 25 years of age in the film.

Funnily enough, Swayze and Grey weren’t the original picks for the roles. Instead, the character of Johnny Castle was offered to Val Kilmer, and Baby was auditioned for by Sharon Stone and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Following the coming of age film, Swayze was bombarded with tons of new acting opportunities. He had roles in Steel Dawn (1987), Road House (1989), Next of Kin (1989), and of course his other massive hit, Ghost (1990) with Demi Moore.

In 1991 at 39 years old, he appeared in Point Break alongside Keanu Reeves, and the following year was nominated for an MTV Movie Award in the “Most Desirable Male” category.

Working With Grey

Despite what the beloved film portrays at its climax, the ‘80s lovebirds apparently weren’t too keen on each other in real life. A lot of the tension seen between the characters in the film is, in fact, real.

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Grey and Swayze had worked together previously on Red Dawn, and things began feeling tense even then.

Since Grey was almost a decade younger than her seasoned costar, she had a different approach when it came to acting. 

Linda Gottlieb, a producer on the set of Dirty Dancing, once shared a glimpse into the dynamics between the two:

“He felt like she was a wimp. She was genuine, naïve; you would do a take eight times and Jennifer would do it differently every time.”

She added, “Patrick was a pro; he would deliver the same thing again and again. She would cry easily, she was emotional and he sort of made fun of her. He was a macho guy.” 

Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter in 2016, Grey reminisced on her time working with Swayze, emphasizing her youth at the time of filming:

“He smelled really good, his skin was really nice. He was really strong and he was very protective and his heart was very much in it,” she said. “It was our second movie we’d done together within a short time — we did Red Dawn first and then Dirty Dancing.  

She continued, “He was a great dancer and he was fearless. His fearlessness with my fearfulness — like his lack of Jewishness and my super Jewishness — together was like a marriage where you have two opposites. He’d do anything and I’d be scared to do anything.”

In the video below, watch Swayze share his experience with Grey before he sadly died in 2009 of pancreatic cancer. 

We remember Patrick Swayze - an actor who was loved by women and rappers

In honor of his birthday, we recall several stories from the life of the actor, as well as his best roles.

Sports and dance childhood

Patrick's mother was a choreographer, so from childhood he had to go to her studio and practice ballroom dancing. Simple Texas guys could not understand Swayze's hobbies, so they often mocked him. In his autobiography, the actor recalls: when he was 12 years old, he was often bullied by five guys from school - one of these episodes was seen by Patrick's father, Jesse, a cowboy and a former rodeo champion. Then he sent his son to martial arts and at the same time he taught him hand-to-hand combat. A few months later, Jesse and Patrick came to football practice - the father asked the team coach to spar Patrick with those hooligans, but this time one at a time. Revenge, as we can guess, was sweet, but in the biography, the actor admitted that this was not the end of the matter. Later, he was often harassed for wearing ballet shoes and a violin case at school, but Patrick was not a coward and always remembered his father’s words: “If I see you start a fight, I will kick your ass. And if I see that you haven't finished the fight, I'll kick your ass."

In addition, in high school, Patrick was successful in swimming, gymnastics and football. Before entering college, he was offered two scholarships to choose from at once: dance and gymnastics. He chose the second and even worked hard with Olympic athletes to get into the national team. However, Patrick realized in time that dancing was closer to his soul, so he dropped out of college and left for New York for the sake of a career as a dancer.

Modesty above all else

Period from 1987 to 1991 years became a turning point for the actor - at that time Dirty Dancing, Ghost, Point Break came out. For these films, Swayze was twice nominated for the Golden Globe and, of course, became a real Hollywood sex symbol. At first, he constantly got into various tops of the most beautiful people, and in 1991 People magazine awarded Swayze the title of "the sexiest man in the world." He always reacted with restraint to this high-profile title: “The main thing is not to believe the hype. I'm still the same high school guy who tried to sleep with a girl and screwed up. "

Love of a lifetime

Despite constant declarations of love and attention from women, Patrick has always remained faithful to his wife, Lisa Niemi. He met her in his mother's workshop - she was 15, he was 19. After 5 years they got married and lived together for more than 30 years, until the death of the actor. Lisa has been with Patrick all his life: when he became the new face of Hollywood in 1991, when he temporarily retired from acting after his sister's suicide in 1994, and, of course, when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2008.

Two months after their diagnosis, Patrick and Lisa decide to renew their vows. The fairy-tale-themed ceremony was held at the family ranch in New Mexico in the circle of the couple's closest people.

Patrick Swayze: “I like being married. I am from the breed of those very “faithful dogs”, sometimes even too much.

You can't fool death

Death has always hovered around the actor, often taking away his relatives. In 1984, the actor's father died - Patrick was very upset by the loss and suffered from alcohol addiction for the next 10 years, but after his sister's suicide, he decided to go for treatment.

In 1996, on the set of the movie "Letters from a Killer" there was an accident - the actor fell from a horse that was galloping at great speed. In the fall, he hit a tree, but still got off lightly: Patrick broke both legs and tore several tendons in his shoulder. In 2000, Patrick, who had a pilot's license, was flying a small plane with his dogs. Due to an engine malfunction, the plane began to fall and collided with the ground, but even then Patrick was lucky - he escaped with a fright and minor bruises. The dogs, by the way, were not hurt either.

However, death could not constantly beat around the bush. In September 2009, after 20 months of fighting cancer, the actor died. His ashes were scattered at the same New Mexico ranch where Patrick and Lisa had renewed their vows a year earlier.

5 main roles of Patrick Swayze

Johnny Castle - Dirty Dancing

Who would have thought, but Patrick could not get a role in the cult film. It turns out that the producers considered the 34-year-old Swayze too old, and for some reason, the already approved Jennifer Gray disliked Patrick after working together on Red Dawn. However, everything turned out well, and the picture became the first "sleeper hit" in Swayze's career and even received an Oscar. Patrick explained the success of the film with his characteristic modesty: "The film thundered not because I moved my ass cool, but because a cheerful Jewish girl got a tough guy not because of her appearance, but because of her big heart."

Sam Wheat - Ghost

Another sleeper hit in Swayze's career, and again the initial disapproval from the filmmakers. Initially, the director and screenwriter of "Ghosts" wanted to see Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks in the lead role, but they all refused to participate in a dubious project, and then Patrick Swayze was given a chance and invited to audition. No one could have predicted the success of "Ghost" and "Dirty Dancing", but they became a sensation at the box office - then the actor got the nickname "King of sleeper hits".

After the success of the picture, Swayze's name became a slang expression - I'm Swayze meant "I'm leaving." Rappers and hip-hop artists of the 90s took advantage of this, so the actor's name sounded in 300+ tracks, one of which belongs to the rap legend - The Notorious B.I.G.

Body - On the crest of a wave

An equally important film in the actor's career, after which he was recognized as "the sexiest man in the world." Swayze himself performed all the stunts in the film and later admitted that he was very glad that he learned skydiving on the set.

Vida – Wong Foo, thanks for everything! Julie Newmar

An important role for an actor who has just returned to acting after his sister's suicide. Swayze has always called himself a chameleon and was especially proud of the fact that femininity is not alien to him - in this film she brought him a third Golden Globe nomination.

Jim Cunningham - Donnie Darko

A small but important role in the cult film in which a young Jake Gyllenhaal takes orders from a man in a frightening bunny suit.

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Patrick Swayze, Actor: photo, biography, filmography, news

American actor, three-time nominee for Golden Globe Dancer, singer and songwriter. Patrick Swayze is best known for the films " Dirty Dancing " (Dirty Dancing, 1987), " Ghost " (Ghost, 1990) and " Point Break " (Point Break, 1991).

In 1991, he was named "Sexiest Man of the Year" by People magazine.

On September 14, 2009, Patrick Swayze died of pancreatic cancer.

Biography of Patrick Swayze / Patrick Swayze

Patrick Wayne Swayze was born on August 18, 1952 in Houston, Texas. The mother of the future actor was a very famous choreographer in America, the owner of her own ballet school. No wonder Patrick Swayze started dancing and music professionally from an early age. As a result, he graduated from two ballet schools at once: Harkness and Joffrey . In addition to dancing, Patrick Swayze has been involved in martial arts since childhood.

Patrick Swayze managed to become a very successful dancer, took part in the Broadway musical " Brilliantine " and even performed on the same stage with the great Mikhail Baryshnikov , but in 1978 he was forced to leave the dream of a serious ballet career due to a number of serious injuries. For a long time he was tormented by a kneecap that had long been damaged during a school match, and after a difficult operation, Patrick Swayze was no longer able to return to the stage.

Swayze was very depressed, because, being a born dancer, he actually could not do anything else. His mother came to the rescue, reminding him that as a boy he had quite successfully played small roles in TV shows. Patrick Swayze began taking acting lessons and made his debut in Skatetown in 1979.

Acting career Patrick Swayze / Patrick Swayze

In the early 80's Patrick Swayze began to appear on the screen. At first there were small roles in not very successful films and TV shows, but after a while he got lucky. At 1985 Patrick Swayze got the lead role in the 12-episode project " North and South ". He played the young southerner Orry Maine, the only son of a slave planter. In 1986, the second part of the series was released, where Patrick Swayze again returned to this role.

Real success came to the actor in 1987, after the release of the film " Dirty Dancing ". Patrick Swayze, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for this work, immediately became one of the most popular actors in Hollywood, with crowds of fans and many awards at film festivals.

In 1990, he starred in the drama " Ghost " along with Demi Moore . The picture became one of the most successful in the career of Patrick Swayze and brought him a second Golden Globe nomination. He later starred in the films Riding the Waves , to Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar ", " Donnie Draco ", " Last Dance " and many more.

Personal life of Patrick Swayze

The actor's only love was his wife Lisa Niemi . They met at a ballet school when Patrick Swayze was 18, and Lisa was only 15. After 3 years, the lovers got married, and after graduating from the ballet school, they went to conquer New York together, where they successfully performed in the Broadway musical "Brilliantine". Lisa always supported her husband, helped him cope with addiction to alcohol. They lived together for over 30 years, until the death of the actor in 2009. Patrick Swayze and his wife Lisa have no children.

Illness and death of Patrick Swayze

On March 5, 2008, Patrick Swayze's doctor officially announced that the actor had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, one of the most aggressive and difficult to treat types of cancer. Despite the disease, he decided not to change his usual way of life - he continued to work, appeared in public and did not even give up smoking. Doctors believed that Patrick Swayze would live no more than six months, but the actor continued to fight the disease for more than a year and a half and hoped to win until the last.

September 14, 2009 Patrick Swayze passed away. He died at the age of 57 surrounded by family.

Filmography of Patrick Swayze / Patrick Swayze

2009 The Beast (TV series)
2008 Oxide / Powder Blue (video)
2007 Million for Christmas / Christmas in Wonderland
2007 Jump / Jump!
2005 Be quiet in a rag / Keeping Mum
2005 Icon / Icon
2004 Retrosexual: 80s / Retrosexual: The 80's (mini-series)
2004 King Solomon's Mines
2004 Dragon Ring / George and the Dragon
2004 Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights / Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
2003 - 2004 Whoopi / Whoopi (TV series)
2003 11:14
2003 Last dance / One Last Dance
2001 Waking Up in Reno
2001 Green Dragon / Green Dragon
2001 Donnie Darko / Donnie Darko
2000 Travelers / Forever Lulu
1998 Letters from a Killer
1998 Black Dog / Black Dog
1995 Three wishes / Three Wishes
1995 Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar / To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar
1995 Legends of the Wild West / Tall Tale
1993 Desperate dad / Father Hood
1992 City of Joy
1991 On the crest of a wave / Point Break
1990 Ghost / Ghost
1989 Next of Kin
1989Roadhouse / Road House
1988 Warsow, nicknamed the Tiger / Tiger Warsaw
1987 Steel dawn / Steel Dawn
1987 Dirty Dancing
1986 North and South 2 / North and South, Book II (mini-series)
1986 Youngblood
1985 North and South / North and South (mini-series)
1985 - 1987 Amazing Stories / Amazing Stories (TV series)
1984 Red Dawn / Red Dawn
1984 Grandview, USA / Grandview, U.

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