When a friend asked people on Facebook to name the movie they re-watch the most without getting tired of it I was surprised at the number of women who responded Dirty Dancing. (The correct answer, clearly, is Steel Magnolias.) But those decades of support bode well for a planned ABC remake of Dancing which has just tapped Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine, Scream Queens) to play Baby Houseman.
Lionsgate TV first announced plans for a remake in 2011. Citing casting problems they delayed the project once, then canceled it outright this summer. The addition of Breslin seems to breathing life back into things.
Dirty Dancing did something (and I’m not sure what exactly) to an entire generation of women. The 1987 film featured Jennifer Grey, hot off the success of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Patrick Swayze as two young people thrown together at a Catskills resort in the 1960s. She was the nondescript daughter of a doctor and a paying client at the camp, he a hunky dance instructor hired to make summer clients feel sexy while teaching them to salsa. And of course there’s lots of bump-and-grind dirty dancing along the way.
If you need a refresher it looks like this:
The film was a low-budget production that faced some trouble between it’s lead actors, who had clashed during their previous filming experience on Red Dawn. Both Swayze and Grey were trained dancers though, and their chemistry was so strong during their dancing screen test that the director had them go back and watch it to regain some of their camaraderie. A rumor exists that the screenwriter also pumped up sexual tension on set by encouraging dancing and drinking among the cast but otherwise forbidding them from touching.
Though largely enjoyed as a steamy romance the movie was an exploration into social issues and classism in the vein of Grease, Hairspray, and West Side Story. It even featured an abortion subplot which went largely ignored in favor of the magnetism of summer love. The soundtrack, which was a combination of original scoring, oldies from the era, and new recordings was pivotal to the success of the film and was Grammy nominated. The song that ends the movie, The Time of My Life, won the Oscar for best original song. Patrick Swayze had written the original song She’s Like the Wind for an earlier movie but ended up recording it for the Dancing soundtrack.
ABC’s project will not be a show but a 3-hour special event movie. There’s no word yet on whether the plan to make it a live stage production like NBC did with The Sound of Music and Peter Pan Live! Let’s hope not. To date nobody has been able to capture the three-dimensional magic of a live stage show on the small screen; it just looks like a daytime soap.
Yet neither does anyone want to see a line-by-line remake of the original so let’s hope the producers have a good plan for adaptation. The good news is that original screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein is on the producing team along with Allison Shearmur (The Hunger Games trilogy, Cinderella). Jessica Sharzer (American Horror Story) has penned the new script and Wayne Blair will be directing.
Follow ups to the original film have been disappointing, including a TV show released soon after the film, and the 2004 movie Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. Both were critical and commercial failures. Homages to the original live on in pop culture however and stage productions in Australia and New York have performed well.
No word on the rest of the cast though USA Today notes that so far Ryan Gosling is the only living actor who’s been able to nail that lift: