The Real Reason Val Kilmer Turned Down The Lead Role In Dirty Dancing

No one puts baby in the corner! Known for his muscular figure, husky voice, and electrifying dance moves, the late Patrick Swayze created a classic for the ages when he starred as Johnny Castle in "Dirty Dancing." Though Swayze also starred in other works like "Roadhouse," "Ghost" or "Red Dawn," "Dirty Dancing" remains his most popular and talked-about film.

His co-star Jennifer Grey even explained how important that Swayze was to the success of the movie. For one, she told The Guardian she would have never trusted another actor to do that iconic dance lift at the end of the film. After Swayze passed from a battle with cancer, Grey reflected on the singer's legacy. "Patrick was a rare and beautiful combination of raw masculinity and amazing grace," she wrote (via the Mirror). "When I think of him, I think of being in his arms when we were kids, dancing, practicing the lift in the freezing lake, having a blast doing this tiny little movie we thought no one would ever see."

So it's tough to imagine someone else in the part, but did you know that Patrick Swayze wasn't the first choice for the film? No, instead actor Val Kilmer could have had the role, but ultimately turned it down.

Dirty Dancing isn't the only role Val Kilmer turned down

Val Kilmer reportedly turned down "Dirty Dancing" because he didn't want to get typecast in the role as a hunk. Johnny Castle probably shouldn't get offended though, because Kilmer garnered a reputation for being highly selective of his projects. In fact, he turned down the following films as well: "Dune," "The Godfather: Part III," "Interview with the Vampire," "The Matrix," and "Se7en."

"I only cared about the acting and that did not translate to caring about the film or all that money," Kilmer said of his career in a Reddit Q&A, according to The Things. For what it's worth, Swayze did find trouble getting cast after "Dirty Dancing." For instance, he almost lost out on a role in "Ghost" because the producer "made the mistake of seeing some of his other movies," via People.

But Swayze isn't the only one who almost didn't star in "Dirty Dancing." His co-star Jennifer Grey almost lost out to the role to Winona Ryder and Sarah Jessica Parker. But producer Linda Gottlieb said, "Jennifer Grey was pushed into the audition room by her father and we were in love."

How Patrick Swayze landed the role

So we know that Val Kilmer turned down the starring role in "Dirty Dancing." But how did Patrick Swayze wind up getting the gig? Well, you can say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein picked Swayze from a series of photos of eyes that production had put together. "I wanted hooded eyes," Bergstein said in "Movies That Made Us." "So we went through picture after picture and I said, 'Ah! Those are the eyes I want.'"

Nothing against Kilmer, but the film's production struck gold when they cast Swayze in the title role. For one, the actor could actually dance in real life, and it wasn't a skill that he would have to fake for the film. Swayze's mother Patsy was a major figure of the Houston dance scene and had taught her son similarly how to cut a move, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile, not only did Swayze act and dance in the film, but he also produced one of the film's classic songs as well. Swayze wrote the song "She's Like the Wind" years prior, but given the shoe-string budget of the film, he offered it to producers. The tune ended up reaching No. 3 on the charts proving Swayze will always remain king.