Surprising facts about your favourite dance movies, and what they almost looked like...
For those of us who have watched Dirty Dancing more times than we can count, can practically recite Center Stage line for line, or proudly (and shamelessly) display the 'Step Up' series amongst our DVD collection (yes, the plots are pretty much non-existent, but there's plenty enough dancing to keep us happy!) then it's hard to imagine these movies being any good without those same actors, whose faces have now become synonymous with their characters in our minds. But you might be amazed to know how often these movies very nearly didn't look anything like the movies they ended up being, so without further ado, let's have a look at how our favourite dance flicks almost turned out, and the surprising facts you didn't know about them...
WARNING: If you haven't seen the movie (What!) ...there may be some spoilers! :)
1. Dirty Dancing
Surely the movie that epitomises the 'Dance movie' genre; sweet, corny, endlessly romantic, with a drama or two, always a hunky man (defying any audience to call dancing 'feminine'), and of course an exhilirating ending and plenty of smile-inducing dance scenes - it's hard to picture the film without Patrick Swayze's tough but tender Johnny, and Jennifer Grey's seemingly timid but determined Baby (made more memorable for many by the fact that she was somewhat of an 'unconventional beauty').... well guess what, the film almost didn't star either actor, let alone go ahead!
That's right, the film's own producer Aaron Russo, after watching a screening of the film said to "burn the negative, and collect the insurance." he was so adamant the film would be a flop! Instead the production company opted to have the film only show for a week in cinemas before going straight to DVD. Despite this Dirty Dancing became an overnight success, shooting to the number one spot in America and bringing in 10 million dollars in 10 days!
Who knows how differently things might have been if these changes hadn't been made though...
The character of Johnny was supposed to be 'dark and Mediterranean' in appearance and actor Billy Zane was cast over Swayze. However, Zane couldn't match the volatile chemistry that Swayze was bringing to the role that was integral to the Johnny/Baby dynamic. Eventually Swayze was hired, Zane was dropped and the script was re-written so that Johnny was of Irish and not Italian decent. Phew! (No offence Billy!)
To complicate things further Swayze had worked with Jennifer Grey on the previous film 'Red Dawn' and the actors had not got along. Apparently Swayze had to talk Grey into doing the film with him, and it's a good thing he did, because the on-screen chemistry between the two is a large part of what makes the film! Apparently whilst there was some minor conflicts the two actors got on much better during Dirty Dancing. Swayze revealed in his autobiography "For the scene where we're dancing and I draw my hand slowly down her arm, she nearly drove me crazy: she kept giggling all the way through, and we had to retake it about 25 times." But Jennifer did a "truly phenomenal job" and "inmany ways, she made the movie."
Similarily, after Swayze's tragic death to Pancreatic cancer in 2009, Grey had this to say of her co-star "I always thought of Patrick as being so vulnerable. Everything he did he did so fully, but I could always see in him, this beautiful, beautiful vulnerability and I think that's one of the many things that make him someone that we all miss."
2. Step Up
The movie that single-handedly kick-started the dance movie craze back in 2006 (due in no small part, we're sure, to Channing Tatum's immediately earned heart-throb status, and rock hard abs). This movie almost had a very different feel about it entirely though! The original title of Step Up was set to be "Music High", a decidedly less dance-based pitch, and one that certianly wouldn't have leant itself to the following sequels (which did not focus around the fictional school of the arts featured in the first movie).
Not only that but Tatum, the film's male lead, almost didn't take the role as he was quite intimidated by the idea of dancing alongside all the trained dancers in the cast (including his female co-star Jenna Dewan). Tatum more than holds his own in the dance scenes though, as far as we're concerned. I bet he's glad he took the role too! As despite the film's mediocre reception amongst critics, Step Up is where Tatum first met his co-star Jenna Dewan, who he subsequently begun dating, and in 2009, married! They're still a happy couple today.
Both the original movie (made in 1980) and the 2009 remake are enjoyed by dancers and non-dancers alike, and the original Fame in particular holds a special place of sentimentality for many, perfectly capturing the insecure, self-conscious, hormone-riddled, adolescent awkwardness experienced by most 'teens' at some point (especially those in the hyper-critical world of performing). But would we love the film so much without the original cast? Check out the actors who auditioned (unsuccessfully) for roles! -
- Madonna: the popstar turned up for a screen test on the original movie! When she didn't make the cut she also auditioned for a role in the subsequent TV series (also unsuccessfully)!
- Tom Cruise: Yes, apparently the actor (who gained a lot of attention for his playful dance scene in Risky Business) was keen to show off his theatrical talents, but unfortunately for Tom, he didn't get the part.
- Other auditionees included Michelle Pfeiffer and Patrick Swayze!
Similarly to Step Up, Fame was not originally going to be called 'Fame', the movie was initially titled 'Hot Lunch' (whaaaat?!)!! It's only due to the fact that an X-rated movie called Hot Lunch was being released around the same time that made them change it ...we're SO glad they ended up going with 'Fame', somehow a 'Hot Lunch' theme song doesn't sound quite as catchy as Irene Cara's rendition of the Academy Award Winning 'Fame' theme song!!!
The 2009 'Fame' featured Kherington Payne a former So You Think You Can Dance contestant (2005) as Alice Ellerton
Payne is particularly memorable in this great dance scene, our favourite part of the movie! Check it out:
Another film with an original and re-make, both containing interesting changes a-plenty!
Who almost ended up in the original movie then? Tom Cruise, once again! The actor had impressed the Director with his 'Risky Business' moves and was set to play the part, but was replaced due to being tied up filming 'All The Right Moves'! Next in line for Director Herbert Ross was Rob Lowe: he had the youthful look the Director was after, and the moves, but he busted his knee just before filming began and Ross was forced to look for another alternative.
Just like the '84 version, the 2011 remake considered a bunch of different actors for the lead roles. Zac Efron was originally signed on to play Ren McCormack, but pulled out stating that he didn't want to be seen as just a singer/dancer. Miley Cyrus and Amanda Bynes both auditioned for the part of Ariel... boy would that have been a different movie!
- Fact: the Footloose movies are loosely based on the real story of Elmore City High School, in Oaklahoma, which in 1981 saw students have to lobby the town's and school's officials in order to have a prom, the were successful, making the school dance the first legal public dance since the time of the town's founding in 1861!
The scenes in the movie showing Ren McCormack teaching his friend Willard to dance, were added in when Chris Penn (who played Willard) had to be taught how to dance himself! The subplot was such an endearing one that it made it into the remake as well!
Learning to dance:
So it's pretty obvious that Christina Aguilera and Cher were the number one choices for their respective roles... but some other roles saw a fair bit of competition!
The 'Bad girl' character Nikki (Played by Kirsten Bell) almost went to Lindsey Lohan (some would say the perfect role for her), Jessica Alba was another consideration, although Emma Stone was Christina Auguilera's first choice for the role. And Cam Gigandet, who played Jack, almost lost out to fellow Twilight stars Robert Pattinson, Kellan Lutz and Taylor Lautner ...we're sensing a bit of a vampire/werewolf trend here..!
6. Center Stage
This is definitely one of those Dance movies that you keep coming back to time and time again. Center Stage is one of the few dance flicks to focus on ballet, rather than modern, hip-hop and other more popular styles, and for this uniqueness we love it! Luckily, as the movie featured mostly real dancers amongst the cast, none to many drastic changes went down in the casting of Center Stage, there are however some interesting bits of trivia for us to share with you...
- When 'bad boy' Cooper Neilson (played by Ethan Steifel, a professional dancer and former principal of the New York City Ballet) blows Jody (Amanda Schull) off after she comes to watch his performance, and leaves with another female dancer, the dancer is in fact Gillian Murphy, Ethan Steifel's real-life fiance (now wife)! Cute!
Here they are together in this gorgeous Swan Lake promo shot:
- Ilia Kulik, the actor that played 'Sergei' isn't a dancer in real-life, but a famous Olympic Gold Medalist ice-skater! With his talent and charming looks he is often referred to as being the Leonardio DiCaprio of figure skating!
Ilia, showing he's king of the ice at the 1998 Olympics -
Aside from Ilia, Susan May-Pratt, the actress who played the technically perfect, but cold 'Maureen' was also not a dancer, in fact she'd never danced at all, which may come as a surprise since the actress does an admirable job in carrying herself in a classical manner.
Amanda Schull, Ethan Steifel and Sascha Radetsky, all professionally trained dancers performing the famous Red shoes ballet scene.
Now for Chicago!
Angelina Jolie and Madonna auditioned for the role of Velma Kelly, whilst Nicole Kidman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kristin Chenoweth, Cameron Diaz and Britney Spears auditioned for the part of Roxie (that ended up going to Renee Zellweger, who turned out to be a natural, having never sung or danced before!).
The role of Billy Flynn was offered several times to John Travolta, and then Hugh Jackman before going to Richard Gere. Jackman said after seeing the film that he regretted not taking the part, but that he had felt at the time that he was to young to play Flynn. And whilst Jackman, with his theatre background would surely have been a natural at the role, Richard Gere took tap lessons for three months prior to filming his "All I care about is love" scene, and it paid off!
- 'Chicago' the movie had been in the works for a long time (initially conceived in the 70's, in fact! ), with the film previously planned to be directed by Nicholas Hynter, who had already cast Charlize Theron in the role of Roxie Hart, but when plans fell through and Hynter was later replaced by Rob Marshall as director Charlize had to re-audition... and lost the part to Renee!
Catherine Zeta-Jones came to the role of Velma Kelly after impressing Rob Marshall with her renditions of some Christmas Carols during a festive gathering at her house. Marshall originally approached Zeta-Jones for the role of Roxie, however, not knowing anything much about 'Chicago' except the song 'All That Jazz', Catherine specifically asked for the role of Velma so she would get to perform it!
One of the newest dance films out there at the moment, and certainly one of the most controversial (many love it, many hate it!) aside from the rather public dispute that went on between Natalie Portman's ballet 'stunt double' and some of the other cast and crew members (regarding how much of the dancing was Natalie, and how much wasn't) there are a few other interesting facts and lesser known dramas surrounding the film;
- It was a 10 year process to complete the script for Black Swan, originally starting out as a film about the New York Theatre, before eventually evolving into a ballet-centred psychological thriller.
The part was written with Natalie Portman in mind after Director Darren Aronofsky admired Natalie's performances in the films 'The Phantom Menace' and 'Anywhere but here', however the supporting role of Lilly, was set to go to either Blake Lively or Eva Green, until Portman suggested Mila Kunis, who impressed the Director and won the part.
- Mila Kunis underwent extensive ballet training and technique coaching to be able to go 'en pointe' for Black Swan.
- The film was supposed to be set in France (an appropriate location, considering Ballet's origins), but the budget didn't allow for it! In fact, the budget was so small that Portman volunteered to pay for her own ballet lessons (which she had every day for a year leading up to filming, in preparation for the role). Aronofsky later credited Natalie's enthusiasm for the project as making the film such a success.
Adding another marriage to the list of dance movie couples, Natalie Portman met her husband, choreographer Benjamin Millepied, on the set of Black Swan.
Too cute! ...We wonder if Natalie will encourage new son Aleph to try dancing :)
This 80's flick had all the usual ingredients for a popular dance movie, drama, romance, the 'against all odds' theme that underscores many films in this genre, and some rather 'hot' dancing by Jennifer Beals (or rather, her body double!)...
Whilst Beals was an unkown in the industry when she was cast as 'Alex Owens', Flashdance very nearly starred a more famous female lead. Actress Melanie Griffith was originally offered the part, but when she turned it down Jennifer, Leslie Wing and... Demi Moore were under equal consideration for the role! An executive allegedly showed some construction workers near the paramount studio a photo of each woman to determine the favourite, and this was how Beals was chosen!
As it turns out, the memorable dance scenes in the movie inspired others in the entertainment business... Jennifer Lopez was sued (unsuccessfully) by the real-life dancer who inspired the film, for not getting permission to recreate scenes from the movie and her life in the 2003 'I'm Glad' Music video. (Geri Halliwell also referenced Flashdance in her Music video for 'It's Raining Men', talk about popular!)
Phew! What a list! We hope you found out something new and interesting about your favourite dance movies! Know something about a film we didn't mention? Let us know in the comments! :)
And let's hope there's more wonderful movies to come in the future for us dancers and dance-lovers out there!