8 Surprising Facts About Patrick Swayze

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Between the recent 30th anniversary of Road House and a new Paramount Network documentary, I Am Patrick Swayze, the late actor—born Patrick Wayne Swayze on August 18, 1952—has been the subject of renewed interest. For die-hard Swayze fans, however, the versatile performer has never gone out of sight. For more on the Houston native, check out some facts on Swayze’s upbringing, his detour into carpentry, and why he wasn’t the first choice for 1990’s Ghost.

1. Patrick Swayze was part of a Disney ice show.

While Swayze garnered acclaim for his dramatic works in films like 1983’s The Outsiders and 1987's Dirty Dancing, among others, he was equally adept at roles requiring a high degree of physicality. His agility stemmed from an early love of dance. Growing up in Houston, Swayze’s mother, Patsy, was the director of the Houston Jazz Ballet Company, which provided her son with an early portal of entry to the art form: At eight months old, Swayze would sit in his playpen and dance in time to the music while his mother taught class. Swayze went on to take ballet, which earned him the occasional taunts by classmates but also helped him when he branched out into football and gymnastics. (He also met his future wife, Lisa Niemi, at his mother’s class. The two married in 1975.) Fresh out of college, Swayze toured for one year with the Disney on Parade ice show as Prince Charming. At 19, he moved to New York to pursue a stage career. After his dance aspirations were derailed following a knee injury, he began to focus on acting.

2. Patrick Swayze took over the lead role in Grease from John Travolta.

Actor Patrick Swayze is pictured in London, England in June 2006
MJ Kim, Getty Images

Following complications with his knee, Swayze sought out a lower-impact role. He auditioned for and won the part of Danny Zuko in Broadway’s Grease, which had previously been played by John Travolta. The part paid dividends, and not just in exposure. Swayze invested part of his salary from the show into acting classes for both himself and Lisa at Warren Robertson’s Theater Workshop in New York, where Robert De Niro and James Earl Jones had also studied.

3. Patrick Swayze once owned a carpentry business.

At the time of his feature film debut in 1979’s campy roller rink melodrama Skatetown USA, Swayze feared his career could take a turn into teen idol territory. Rather than accept a multi-film contract where he would have little control over the parts offered, he and Lisa decided to open a carpentry business, Nepotism, Inc. (It employed brothers from both of their families, hence the name.) Swayze knew little about carpentry but studied books on the subject. The business was successful, with jobs ranging from renovating the kitchen of actress Jaclyn Smith to an entire home in Coldwater Canyon. The work kept him busy between acting auditions. With the income, Swayze could also be more selective about the movies he appeared in. After a string of appearances on television, including a TV movie titled The Comeback Kid with John Ritter and an episode of M*A*S*H, Swayze earned his second-ever film role in 1983’s The Outsiders, an adaptation of the S.E. Hinton young adult novel.

4. Patrick Swayze didn’t write “She’s Like the Wind” for Dirty Dancing.

One of the bigger hits to come out of the 1987 Catskills dance drama Dirty Dancing was “She’s Like the Wind,” a song on the film’s soundtrack that Swayze sang and co-wrote. But he actually didn’t compose it for that film. Swayze originally co-wrote it for 1984’s Grandview, USA, a demolition derby comedy featuring Swayze and C. Thomas Howell. When that production passed on using it, Swayze was free to resurrect it for Dirty Dancing. Due to the film’s low budget and lack of funds for music licensing, Swayze and co-writer Stacy Widelitz were able to retain 100 percent of the publishing rights—a lucrative arrangement after the song became a hit.

5. Dirty Dancing almost landed Swayze his own fragrance.

With Dirty Dancing, Swayze became a recognized movie star. That success, he told People in 1988, led to a series of offers that he found bewildering. “There are people who want me to do a cologne,” he said. “They want to call it Patrick. I was offered a fortune to make exercise videos. Posters, all kinds of stuff—something like $10 million worth. It’s insanity. I’m not going to do any of it.” Swayze instead chose to do 1989’s bar bouncer epic Road House, which performed only modestly at the box office but has since become a cult classic.

6. Patrick Swayze wasn’t the first choice for Ghost.

A perennial favorite among Swayze fans, 1990’s Ghost features the actor as Sam Wheat, a murdered man who returns as a spirit to communicate with his widow (Demi Moore). In 1990, director Jerry Zucker told People that Swayze was not his first choice for Wheat, due to a pair of knuckle-dusting action movies the actor had made in 1989: Road House and Next of Kin. That changed once Swayze read a key scene from the script in Zucker’s office. “We all had tears in our eyes, right there in the office—and we knew how it ends,” Zucker said. “I saw a side of Patrick that I never knew existed.” Ghost became Swayze’s biggest hit by far, grossing nearly $218 million.

7. It was surfing, not skydiving, that made Point Break so dangerous for Patrick Swayze.

For 1991’s Point Break, Swayze portrayed Bodhi, a Zen master of a bank robber with a taste for adrenaline. The actor reportedly went on an estimated 50 jumps to prepare for the film, though the insurance company eventually asked him to stop. This was something Swayze found puzzling, as he considered surfing the far more dangerous activity of the two. “The funny thing was, it was a joke for the insurance company to give me such a battle about the skydiving, when, statistically, skydiving has become one of the safest sports around,” Swayze told the Morning Call in 1991. “It’s safer than driving your car to work ... they didn’t say one word about this surfing.” Swayze said he slammed into coral reefs and was held under water, making it substantially more of a threat than anything else.

8. The I Am Patrick Swayze documentary set a ratings record.

Swayze passed away 10 years ago, on September 14, 2009, at age 57 from pancreatic cancer. His life and work were recently celebrated in the Paramount Network documentary I Am Patrick Swayze. The film, which features comments from Lisa Swayze, Demi Moore, Sam Elliott, and several of his friends and co-stars, premiered August 18, 2019, and earned a total of 2 million viewers, making it the most-watched cable personality documentary of the year.

Matt LeBlanc Says "Weird Things" Happened at the Peak of Friends's Popularity

Warner Bros. Television/Getty Images
Warner Bros. Television/Getty Images

Even though it went off the air in 2004, Friends continues find new generations of fans—so much so that there's even an unscripted reunion special in the works. With all the love surrounding the show, one can only imagine that the actors who played the six main characters have experienced the effects of its popularity—both good and bad.

As reported by Digital Spy, Matt LeBlanc, who played Joey Tribbiani, spoke during a pre-recorded interview on The Kelly Clarkson Show about "weird things" that happened while he was filming Friends. When pressed to give an example, LeBlanc recalled a time he saw his house, along with the homes of the five other cast members, on the news—while he was home.

"I remember one time, it was during the week, I had been flipping channels and watching the news and for some reason, they had a split-screen on the TV, six quadrants," he told Clarkson. "Each was a live shot of each one of our houses, like a helicopter shot. I was watching it and there was no information or news, it was just showing [our] houses."

Even though the actor found the situation bizarre, there was a very practical silver lining. “I remember looking closely at my house and thinking, 'F**k I need a new roof.' So the helicopter flies away and I get the ladder and I go up there,” LeBlanc added.

[h/t Digital Spy]

7 Timeless Facts About Paul Rudd

Rich Fury, Getty Images
Rich Fury, Getty Images

Younger fans may know Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, one of the newest members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, the actor has been a Hollywood mainstay for half his life.

Rudd's breakout role came in 1995’s Clueless, where he played Josh, Alicia Silverstone's charming love interest in Amy Heckerling's beloved spin on Jane Austen's Emma. In the 2000s, Rudd became better known for his comedic work when he starred in movies like Wet Hot American Summer (2001), Anchorman (2004), The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005), Knocked Up (2007), and I Love You, Man (2009).

It wasn’t until 2015 that Rudd stepped into the ever-growing world of superhero movies when he was cast as Scott Lang, a.k.a. Ant-Man, and became part of the MCU.

Rudd has proven he can take on any part, serious or goofy. More amazingly, he never seems to age. But in honor of (what is allegedly) his 51st birthday on April 6, here are some things you might not have known about the star.

1. Paul Rudd is technically Paul Rudnitzky.

Though Paul Rudd was born in Passaic, New Jersey, both of his parents hail from London—his father was from Edgware and his mother from Surbiton. Both of his parents were descendants of Jewish immigrants who moved to England from from Russia and Poland. Rudd’s last name was actually Rudnitzky, but it was changed by his grandfather.

2. Paul Rudd's parents are second cousins.

In a 2017 episode of Finding Your Roots, Rudd learned that his parents were actually second cousins. Rudd responded to the discovery in typical comedic fashion: "Which explains why I have six nipples." He also wondered what that meant for his own family. "Does this make my son also my uncle?," he asked.

3. Paul Rudd loved comic books as a kid.

While Rudd did read Marvel Comics as a kid, he preferred Archie Comics and other funny stories. His English cousins would send him British comics, too, like Beano and Dandy, which he loved.

4. Paul Rudd wanted to play Christian in Clueless. And Murray.

Clueless would have been a completely different movie if Rudd had been cast as the suave Christian instead of the cute older step-brother-turned-love-interest Josh. But before he was cast as Cher’s beau, he initially wanted the role of the “ringa ding kid” Christian.

"I thought Justin Walker’s character, Christian, was a really good part," Rudd told Entertainment Weekly in 2012. "It was a cool idea, something I’d never seen in a movie before—the cool gay kid. And then I asked to read for Donald Faison's part, because I thought he was kind of a funny hip-hop wannabe. I didn’t realize that the character was African-American.”

5. Paul Rudd idolizes Paul Newman.

In a 2008 interview for Role Models, which he both co-wrote and starred in, Rudd was asked about his real-life role model. He answered Paul Newman, saying he admired the legendary actor because he gave a lot to the world before leaving it.

6. Before Paul Rudd was Ant-Man, he wanted to be Adam Ant.

In a 2011 interview with Grantland, Rudd talked about his teenage obsession with '80s English rocker Adam Ant. "Puberty hit me like a Mack truck, and my hair went from straight to curly overnight," Rudd explained. "But it was an easier pill to swallow because Adam Ant had curly hair. I used to ask my mom to try and shave my head on the sides to give me a receding hairline because Adam Ant had one. I didn’t know what a receding hairline was. I just thought he looked cool. She said, 'Absolutely not,' but I was used to that."

Ant wasn't the only musician Rudd tried to emulate. "[My mom] also shot me down when I asked if I could bleach just the top of my head like Howard Jones. Any other kid would’ve been like, 'F*** you, mom! I’m bleaching my hair.' I was too nice," he said.

7. Romeo + Juliet wasn’t Paul Rudd's first go as a Shakespearean actor.

Yet another one of Rudd's iconic '90s roles was in Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, but it was far from the actor's first brush with Shakespeare. Rudd spent three years studying Jacobean theater in Oxford, England, and starred in a production of Twelfth Night. He was described by his director, Sir Nicholas Hytner, as having “emotional and intellectual volatility.” Hytner’s praise was a big deal, considering he was the director of London's National Theatre from 2003 until 2015.

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