LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Patrick Swayze, whose turn as a smoldering dance instructor in “Dirty Dancing” made him one of the iconic film stars of the 1980s, died on Monday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.
Swayze, an actor and dancer who cemented his status as sex symbol opposite Demi Moore in the 1990 romance “Ghost”, died at his home.
“Patrick Swayze passed away peacefully today with family at his side after facing the challenges of his illness for the last 20 months,” publicist Annett Wolf said in a statement.
Swayze became one of Hollywood’s top stars with 1987’s “Dirty Dancing,” which defied Hollywood expectations to become one of the most-watched movies of all time.
The Texas-born actor played the swaggering dance instructor Johnny Castle in the film opposite Jennifer Grey’s sheltered teenager Frances “Baby” Houseman, who becomes smitten with him while on vacation at a New York resort during the 1960s.
Swayze was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly forms of the disease, in January 2008. He said at the time that the cancer had already spread to his liver.
But he vowed to fight the disease and had treatment with an experimental drug, surprising Hollywood by filming a new detective series for television called “The Beast” in which he played the grueling lead role.
The series was broadcast earlier this year.
“I think everybody thought I was out of my mind ... thinking I‘m gonna pull off a TV show,” Swayze said in an interview in January 2009, adding that he was scared and angry at his diagnosis.
Swayze was working on a memoir with his wife of more than 30 years, Lisa Niemi, earlier this year.
“Dirty Dancing,” which was made for a modest budget and almost scrapped by its studio, became a massive box-office hit, earning Golden Globe nominations for both stars and spawning the Oscar-winning hit single “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.”
Producers did not have high hopes for the film but it reaped $64 million at the U.S. box office and $214 million worldwide.
Swayze co-wrote and performed the song “She’s Like the Wind” for the movie’s soundtrack, which went to No. 3 on the pop music charts. The film remained widely popular more than two decades later and recently spawned a stage musical version.
In 1990, “Ghost” was an even bigger hit than “Dirty Dancing,” with a domestic box office take of more than $217 million and $505 million around the world.
Swayze starred as Demi Moore’s deceased lover, Sam, in the tear-jerker romance, which was nominated for a best film Academy Award.
Whoopi Goldberg won an Oscar for her supporting role as a spiritual medium who helps Sam communicate with his girlfriend from beyond the grave. Goldberg said it was Swayze who convinced director Jerry Zucker to cast her.
Swayze was born in Houston on August 18, 1952, and was introduced to performing early. His father was a champion rodeo cowboy and his mother owned a ballet studio.
Swayze trained in dance from a young age and performed for New York City ballet companies before moving to Broadway.
His portrayal of Danny Zuko on Broadway in “Grease” caught the attention of Hollywood and he moved to the West Coast in the late 1970s, appearing in small TV and film parts.
His breakout roles came in 1983’s boyhood drama “The Outsiders” and 1984’s “Red Dawn” in which he and future “Dirty Dancing” co-star Grey played teenagers fighting invading Russians.
After “Dirty Dancing” and “Ghost,” Swayze suffered several career setbacks, including a battle with alcohol.
Attributing some of his problems with drinking to his sudden fame and the Hollywood lifestyle, he moved back to Texas with his wife but worked in such films as “The Green Dragon” and “Donnie Darko,” both in 2001.
Editing by Philip Barbara