Tragedy, surgery surprises and a heartbreaking death – Dirty Dancing cast now

It's hard to believe that at one point producers were so convinced Dirty Dancing was a flop that they considered burning the film reel and walking away.

Instead, the Hollywood film ended up being a surprise runaway hit upon its release in 1987, turning a cast of relative unknowns into big stars.

Shot over just two months and with a minuscule budget, actors including Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Cynthia Rhodes and Jane Brucker spent one freezing cold autumn in Carolina pretending it was summer in the Catskills, romping in lakes and getting sweaty on dance floors.

The movie brought us some of Hollywood's most iconic scenes including that famous and oft-recreated Time Of My Life lift.

But what became of the cast once the cameras stopped rolling?

From drug overdoses to tragic deaths and long-running feuds, time hasn't been kind for some of the beloved stars…

Johnny Castle – Patrick Swayze

Patrick's ripped muscles and general hip-thrusting sent fans wild, but the late actor actually wasn't the first choice for the role.

Val Kilmer had already turned it down and Billy Zane was apparently dropped due to a lack of chemistry with co-star Jennifer Grey. And with Patrick then 34 and a whole decade older than his character, film producers had their doubts.

It was his sizzling connection with Jennifer that ultimately sealed the deal – although behind the scenes the pair apparently locked horns and refused to talk to each other.

They weren't actually acting in the famous scene where Jennifer giggles as a frustrated Patrick runs his hand down her body – the fury on his face was real.

“She’d slip into silly moods, forcing us to do scenes over and over,” he later wrote in his memoir, admitting he found her irritating and confirming feud rumours that had circulated for years.

“We did have a few moments of friction… she seemed particularly emotional, sometimes bursting into tears if someone criticised her.”

Patrick went on to star alongside Demi Moore in Ghost but tragically died in 2009 from pancreatic cancer aged just 57, leaving Jennifer devastated, despite their differences.

Paying tribute to a 'real cowboy with a tender heart', she said at the time: "Patrick was a rare and beautiful combination of raw masculinity and amazing grace.

"He was fearless and insisted on always doing his own stunts, so it was not surprising to me that the war he waged on his cancer was so courageous and dignified.

"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."

Baby Houseman – Jennifer Grey

Like Patrick, Jennifer wasn't always the front runner for the role of naive teenager Baby.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Sharon Stone had both auditioned to play the idealistic 17 year old before the part when to Ferris Bueller star Jennifer, 27.

She also admitted her off-screen relationship with Patrick was fraught with 'issues' and 'tension'.

“The thing is that I believe tension is much hotter-looking than just love. And I think there was a very complex dynamic between Patrick and myself for the whole movie," the 59 year old said.

"You know you see a cartoon and there is a fight and just you can’t tell who’s who and it’s just a ball, it was a little like that with him and me… whatever our issues were, we had them, but they weren’t talked about."

Just days before the Dirty Dancing premiere, Jennifer and her then-boyfriend Matthew Broderick were involved in a devastating car crash that left a mother and daughter dead.

Jennifer suffered chronic neck pain as a result of her injuries, and underwent two operations in 2009 after doctors found her spine was so degenerated that she was close to being paralysed.

During the surgery, a cancerous tumour was discovered in her thyroid but she managed to beat the condition and appear on Dancing With The Stars in 2010.

Despite the huge success of Dirty Dancing, Jennifer's career floundered when in 1989 she underwent a nose job that left her unrecognisable.

"I went into the ­operating room a ­celebrity and came out anonymous," she said in 2012.

"It was the nose job from hell. I'll always be this once-famous actress nobody ­recognize because of a nose job."

Penny Johnson – Cynthia Rhodes

Fresh from roles in Flashdance and Staying Alive, Cynthia, 63, was the first star to be signed and played lead dancer Penny who's forced to pull out of the show after a botched abortion.

She married Right Here Waiting singer Richard Marx after meeting on the set of Staying Alive and retired from acting in 1991 to raise their three sons Lucas, Jesse and Brandon.

Richard previously told Splash Chicago: "I thought, ‘This won’t last, she’s definitely going to want to come back to work and do films.'

"But she found a fulfillment in being a mum that completely dominated any feelings she ever had making a movie."

The couple split in 2015 after 25 years of marriage .

Lisa Houseman – Jane Brucker

Baby's spoiled big sister Lisa's biggest moment came when she slaughtered the Hula Hana song at the resort talent contest.

And the song went on to make actress Jane, then just 29, more money than the film itself after she wrote it in between takes and held on to the copyright.

She went on to star in medical TV drama Doctor Doctor before having daughter Sally with first husband, actor Brian O’Connor and quitting acting to become a screenwriter.

"I can find happiness being a mother without acting, but I couldn’t find happiness acting without being a mother," Jane, 61, once told People magazine.

She and Brian split in 1993, and Jane remarried photographer Raul Vega, who she lives in Los Angeles with along with their daughter Rachel.

Robbie Gould – Max Cantor

Max played posh womaniser Robbie, who slept with Baby's big sister Lisa and got Penny pregnant.

The son of Broadway producer Arthur Cantor, Max had enjoyed a charmed childhood growing up in New York's Dakota building and being on friendly terms with neighbour John Lennon.

Dirty Dancing was his first film role after graduating from Harvard, but he quit acting soon after to work as a journalist – a move that would lead to his shocking death in 1991.

Aged just 32, Max's bloated body was found lying face up in bed at his Chelsea studio after neighbours complained about the smell.

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  • He died from 'acute intoxication' due to heroin, cocaine, and Prozac having started abusing drugs while researching the 1989 murder of Swedish dancer Monika Beerle.

    Her East Village pot dealer roommate Daniel Rakowitz allegedly murdered and dismembered her before boiling her remains to serve as soup to the homeless.

    He left her skull in the baggage room at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in a bucket of kitty litter but was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

    Neil Kellerman – Lonny Price

    Braggart Neil tried to seduce Baby by gloating about his resort-owner grandfather's wealth – but she only had eyes for Johnny.

    Actor Lonny had previously starred in Muppets Take Manhattan and went on to feature in two episodes of Law & Order and make a name for himself on Broadway.

    In more recent years, he's moved behind the camera and directed numerous episodes of Desperate Housewives, 2 Broke Girls and Live from Lincoln Center.

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