Patrick Swayze facts: Dirty Dancing actor's career, wife, family and death explained

28 March 2022, 09:52

Patrick Swayze was one of the biggest Hollywood stars during the 1980s and 1990s.
Patrick Swayze was one of the biggest Hollywood stars during the 1980s and 1990s. Picture: Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

An actor, singer, dancer, gymnast, and all-round heartthrob, Patrick Swayze had it all.

Here's all you need to know about the Hollywood star:

Who is Patrick Swayze?

Demi Moore is embraced by Patrick Swayze in a scene from the film 'Ghost', 1990. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)
Demi Moore is embraced by Patrick Swayze in a scene from the film 'Ghost', 1990. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images). Picture: Getty

Known for his good looks, tough guy persona, and multitude of talents, Patrick Swayze was one of the biggest Hollywood actors of the 1980s and 1990s.

He is most known for the lead performances in romantic classics Dirty Dancing and Ghost, two of the most iconic films of the era.

Throughout his career he would receive three Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Lead Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical for the aforementioned films, as well as the road trip comedy To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.

Swayze's other films include Road House, The Outsiders, cult-classic Donnie Darko, and Red Dawn alongside numerous television appearances.

The actor also lent his singing and songwriting talents to the soundtrack for Dirty Dancing, singing classic ballad 'She's Like The Wind' which reached No.3 in the Billboard Charts upon its release in 1987.

He was also an advocate for transcendental meditation and practised Buddhism throughout his life.

In 1991, People magazine named Swayze "the sexiest man alive".

When and where was Patrick Swayze born?

Patrick Swayze in high school.
Patrick Swayze in high school. Picture: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

Patrick Wayne Swayze was born in Houston, Texas on 18th August 1952.

He's the second of five children of dancer, choreographer, and dance instructor Patsy Swayze engineer Jesse Wayne Swayze. He had an older sister Vickie, two younger brothers Don (who is also an actor) and Sean, and a younger sister Bambi.

How did Patrick Swayze get his big break?

Swayze carved out a career as a dancer and a carpenter before becoming a full-time actor.
Swayze carved out a career as a dancer and a carpenter before becoming a full-time actor. Picture: Bauer Griffin

Before even considering a career in acting, Patrick Swayze was a promising American Football talent. A severe knee injury hampered his progress, so he would focus on gymnastics and a range of martial arts to release his channel his "self-deprecating rage" alongside ice skating and classical ballet.

Influenced by his mother's profession as a dancer, Patrick moved to New York at the age of 20 to complete his formal dance training, eventually becoming a dancer for the Disney Theatrical Group.

After several years he was awarded the role of Danny Zuko in the long-running Broadway production of Grease which got him noticed, and led to various roles on television in series such as Skatetown, USA and M*A*S*H.

At the age of 31, it was his role in Francis Ford Coppola's The Outsiders that gave Swayze some considerable notoriety in Hollywood however, starring alongside an ensemble cast of up-and-comers Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, Rob Lowe, and Emilio Estevez.

What are Patrick Swayze’s biggest movies?

- Dirty Dancing

- Ghost

- Point Break

- Road House

- To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar

- Donnie Darko

- Red Dawn

- The Outsiders

- Waking Up in Reno

- One Last Dance

What was the cause of Patrick Swayze’s death?

Patrick Swayze died in 2009.
Patrick Swayze died in 2009. Picture: Getty

Patrick Swayze tragically died in 2009 at the age of 57 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

Having been diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in 2008, he explored a variety of methods to overcome his illness including chemotherapy, experimental drug vatalanib, and alternative therapies.

Appearing on the charity fundraiser television event Stand Up To Cancer in 2008, Swayze said during a standing ovation that "I dream that the word 'cure' will no longer be followed by the words 'it's impossible.' Together, we can make a world where cancer no longer means living with fear, without hope, or worse."

Sadly the cancer spread to his liver, and he died surrounded by his family. His ashes were scattered at his ranch in New Mexico.

Was Patrick Swayze married?

Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi were life-long lovers.
Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi were life-long lovers. Picture: Tom Colburn / Houston Chronicle

Patrick Swayze was married to his childhood sweetheart Lisa Niemi for 34 years from 1975 until his premature death in 2009.

They first met after Niemi took dancing lessons with Swayze's mother, though wouldn't date for several years after.

He confessed that his wife Niemi was the inspiration behind the song 'She's Like The Wind', the ballad he co-wrote for Dirty Dancing.

Did Patrick Swayze have any children?

They couple first met when Niemi took dance lessons from Swayze's mother.
They couple first met when Niemi took dance lessons from Swayze's mother. Picture: Dave Lewis/Shutterstock

Patrick Swayze had no children. They did plan to have children during their marriage, but tragically his wife Lisa Niemi suffered a miscarriage.

What is Patrick Swayze’s net worth?

At his time he died, Patrick Swayze's net worth was an estimated $40 million.

Is there anything else we should know about Patrick Swayze?

There's a level of authenticity to Patrick Swayze's tough guy image - having been beaten up by a gang high school bullies, his father supposedly persuaded his gym teacher to let them fight each other individually afterwards. Swayze would beat them up separately, which saw him gain the reputation of 'the toughest kid in school'.

To assist with his income in-between acting roles, he started a carpentry business with his wife Niemi called 'Nepotism, Inc.' because they only hired family to work with them.

He was a licensed pilot, and flew himself around the world regularly from his New Mexico ranch.

To prepare for his role of zen surfer/bank robber Bohdi in Point Break alongside Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze went skydiving over fifty times. It took the film's insurance company to get him to stop.

For the classic 'lift scene' in Dirty Dancing, it took Swayze and co-star Jennifer Grey over twenty takes to get the perfect shot. It damaged his dodgy knee even further, but solidified Swayze's reputation for performing through pain.