Kelly Bishop admits cast of 'Dirty Dancing' didn't think it would be good
Kelly Bishop, from left and Alexis Bledel arrive at the premiere of "Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life" on Friday, Nov. 18, 2016 ,in Los Angeles. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, August 17, 2017 10:21AM EDT
TORONTO - Actress Kelly Bishop of “Gilmore Girls” fame was still getting her screen career off the ground in the 1980s when she signed on to a film that fit perfectly with her background as a dancer.
The trained ballerina, who won a Tony Award for “A Chorus Line” in 1976, was excited about the possibility of moving and shaking on the big screen.
But the title - “Dirty Dancing” - made her nervous.
“We didn't think it was going to be a good movie. We didn't. We thought the title was weird,” Bishop, who played Baby's mother, recalled in a recent phone interview.
“They actually called it 'dirty dancing,' that kind of dancing. But we all thought that they were just trying to do something a little exploitive and trick people into coming to see it because they thought it would be light porn or something like that.”
Thirty years after its debut, which led to Golden Globe and Oscar wins for best original song, Cineplex Entertainment will screen “Dirty Dancing” in its VIP theatres across the country on Monday. It's part of Cineplex's new One Nighters â†• VIP series. Tickets are $10 and Bishop will attend the screening at Toronto's Yonge-Eglinton location.
Jennifer Grey stars in the romantic drama as teenage Frances (Baby) Houseman, who vacations with her family at a posh resort in the Catskill Mountains in the summer of 1963. Defying her parents, she falls for the resort's working-class dance instructor, Johnny Castle, played by Patrick Swayze. Eleanor Bergstein wrote and Emile Ardolino directed.
Bishop said she was originally cast as glamorous resort guest Vivian Pressman, who tries to seduce Johnny. But when she got to the set at Virginia's Mountain Lake Lodge for rehearsal, producers had let go of the actress playing Baby's mom and asked Bishop to fill the role alongside Jerry Orbach as Baby's father.
Bishop couldn't resist the larger part.
“What was good about the role was that I'd always played the other woman, that character I was cast for originally, and this changed me into more of a mom, which broadened my outlook a little bit,” said Bishop, 73, who played sharped-tongued matriarch Emily Gilmore on “Gilmore Girls.”
“Although I have to admit I found being a nice mom not nearly as much fun as being a bad girl.”
Swayze “was a sweet, sweet guy, very serious about the work and about the film,” said Bishop.
“I just liked him very much. He was a decent guy and a real dancer. All dancers have some sort of an intrinsic connection to each other.”
The famous finale where Johnny lifts Baby in the air was shot over several days. Bishop's character is in the audience and, impressed with Baby's moves, remarks: “I think she gets this from me.”
“It's a hard lift,” said Bishop. “I learned it years ago when I was still a dancer because I wanted to learn it. But it's tricky because it's a balance thing.
“You have to get your back up high enough and your legs up high enough so that you don't either tip forward or back, so there were a lot of takes on that until they finally got it.”
Bishop felt the film captured “the essence of the innocence of the United States at that point.”
“I was glad that Eleanor addressed the abortion issue,” added Bishop. “It was all very much in the moment of what was happening during that time.”
Seeing the finale on the big screen changed Bishop's mind about the title.
“It had that wonderful soundtrack and it just popped,” she said. “I thought, 'That's a sweet little movie. That's cute.'
“But I didn't think it would still be running and exciting people 30 years later.”