Page last updated at 00:33 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 01:33 UK

Obituary: Patrick Swayze

Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in the classic, Dirty Dancing
Swayze was nominated for a Golden Globe for the role of dance instructor Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing

Patrick Swayze will forever be remembered as the snake-hipped Johnny Castle in 1987's Dirty Dancing, a role which cemented his status as the romantic lead of the 90s.

Surprisingly, the trained dancer was not the first choice for the role but his performance earned him award nominations and a place on bedroom walls of lovelorn teenage girls around the world.

Privately, the 57-year-old shied away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, preferring the quiet life on his Californian ranch with Lisa, his wife of 34 years.

The attitude extended to his professional work. The actor always rejected the notion of himself as the sexy lead. He once said: "It's the cult movies that have given me a career for 30 years.

"It wouldn't have been worth it if I had been stuck as the leading man or the dance guy."

Dance training

Patrick Wayne Swayze was born on 18 August, 1952 in Houston, Texas, the son of a choreographer and dance instructor and an engineer.

Patrick Swayze speaking in 2006: "I'm torn between guy movies and heart movies"

A natural athlete, the youngster pursued ice skating, classical ballet and acting.

Swayze studied gymnastics for two years and in 1972 moved to New York to complete his dance training at the Harkness and Joffrey ballet schools.

He started dancing professionally with Disney on Parade, where he played Prince Charming before appearing in the Broadway production of the musical Grease.

In 1979, the 27-year-old got his first role as Ace Johnson in the forgettable roller-skating movie Skatetown USA, a film which capitalised on the new mania for roller disco.

Swayze's big break, however, came at 31 alongside Rob Lowe and C Thomas Howell in The Outsiders.

The 1983 drama, which also starred then-newcomers Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez and Matt Dillon, gave birth to Hollywood's Brat Pack.

His TV breakthrough came in the Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated American civil war mini-series North and South.

Patrick Swayze and wife Lisa Niemi
Swayze and wife Lisa Niemi were married for 34 years

Swayze played the son of a slave owning family from South Carolina who struck up an enduring friendship with a northerner.

The first two series followed the progress of the characters who, as war approached, found themselves on opposing sides.

North and South was well received by critics and public alike and became one of the most successful TV mini-series of all time.

Global stardom

In 1987, came the role that defined Swayze's career as the bad-boy dance instructor with a heart of gold in Dirty Dancing.

With dance scenes making up more than a third of the film, it was an ideal vehicle for Swayze's talents.

The low-budget project was intended for a brief cinema run before going straight to video. Instead, it catapulted Swayze to stardom.

Stars including Sharon Osbourne, Nick Cannon and David Hasselhoff paid tribute

It was the first film to sell one million copies on video and has earned over $300m (£180m) worldwide.

Swayze was rewarded with a Golden Globe nomination and sang one of the songs on the soundtrack, She's Like the Wind, which gave him a number 3 hit on the US Billboard chart.

Sexiest Man Alive

But the movie's success and his new heart-throb status didn't sit well with Swayze, who found himself typecast in a string of run-of-the-mill action films.

Two movies in 1989, Next of Kin and Roadhouse pitched him head-to-head with himself in the worst actor category at the Razzies.

But in 1990, Swayze again found his form at the box-office, starring opposite Demi Moore in the smash hit Ghost.

Ghost
A scene from Ghost was voted one of the top love scenes of all time

The role, of a man who comes back from the dead to protect his girlfriend and avenge his own murder, was turned down by several of Hollywood's A-list including Tom Hanks, Paul Hogan and Moore's then husband, Bruce Willis.

Ghost made over $500m (£301m) and was nominated for several Academy Awards, winning two including a best supporting actress for Whoopi Goldberg.

Swayze followed it with Point Break, a white knuckle action movie about thrill-seeking surfers turned bank robbers. The film earned Swayze People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive title.

The actor's career never reached the same heights again, although he went on to make a number of film and TV appearances.

Swayze poked fun at his "sexy man" tag by playing transvestite Vida Boheme alongside action star Wesley Snipes in To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.

He was seriously injured in 1996 when he fell from a horse and hit a tree while filming a TV series.

Both of his legs were broken and he damaged his shoulder. Though Swayze eventually recovered from his injuries, a long battle with alcoholism further stalled his career.

Stage to screen

In 2001, Swayze hit the headlines after crash landing a plane he himself was piloting. He was unharmed in the accident.

An all too brief but acclaimed performance as a self-help guru and closet paedophile in the cult movie Donnie Darko was followed by a cameo appearance in Dirty Dancing, Havana Nights, a poorly-received sequel to the original film.

In 2006, Swayze moved to London to make his West End stage debut in the four-month run of the musical Guys and Dolls.

Patrick Swayze
Swayze's role as a grizzled FBI agent has won rave reviews

In early 2008, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the following weeks and months of press speculation about the extent of his disease, prompted the actor to release a statement claiming he was responding well to treatment.

Living on a ranch in California, Swayze talked about the importance of his health.

He said: "I live to keep fit. I don't have any option. I have to flank cattle every day of my life, and train horses, ride fences and dance with my wife."

He returned to work, playing veteran FBI agent Charles Barker in The Beast. Swayze's performance was praised by critics as "one of the performances of his career".

In early 2009, Swayze was admitted to hospital and treated for pneumonia. He was released after a few days and insisted he was fighting his cancer as best he could.

In May, his publicist criticised "reckless" reports that the actor was already dead.



SEE ALSO
US film star Patrick Swayze dies
15 Sep 09 |  Entertainment
How Swayze danced into fans' hearts
06 Mar 08 |  Entertainment
Star Swayze diagnosed with cancer
06 Mar 08 |  Entertainment

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