Patrick Swayze Dies at 57
Patrick Swayze, who seamlessly blended sensitivity and brawn in roles as diverse as a dance instructor in Dirty Dancing and a surfing bank robber in Point Break, has died after playing a role that demanded more of his courage and determination than any other: cancer patient.
The 57-year-old star of Ghost and The Outsiders, who was nominated three times for an acting Golden Globe, endured a nearly two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Swayze's publicist said he died Monday with family at his side, according to the Associated Press.
Look back at Swayze's life in pictures
He fought until the end, even performing grueling stunts while filming his A&E drama series, The Beast. Co-star Travis Fimmel said in January that the strain of fighting the disease rarely showed during filming.
"You can hardly tell with the guy," he told TVGuide.com. "He's such a man. The sickest thing about him on set is probably his jokes."
Watch full episodes of The Beast
Swayze's mother, the head of the Houston Jazz Ballet Company, taught him dance at a young age. His love of ballet exposed him to teasing from classmates, and he turned to sports in high school, including gymnastics, swimming and football. He graduated with scholarship offers in football and dance.
The actor and his wife, Lisa Niemi — whom he met when she was a student at his mother's school — trained with the Harkness and Joffrey Ballet companies. He became a principal dancer with the Eliot Feld Ballet Company, but switched to theater when he had to undergo surgery for an old football injury.
He achieved early success on Broadway, and in 1978 won the lead of Danny Zuko in the Broadway production of Grease. He next moved on to film, first in 1979's Skatetown, U.S.A., and later in 1983's The Outsiders, where he appeared alongside Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, and Emilio Estevez.
See other celebrities who have died this year
He soon established a pattern of switching between romantic roles and grittier action fare.
In the 1984 cult classic, Red Dawn, he starred alongside Jennifer Grey in the violent story of a Soviet invasion in Michigan. But in the 1987 surprise hit Dirty Dancing, he played a dance instructor Johnny Castle who taught Baby Houseman (Grey) about dance and love. The film earned Swayze his first Golden Globe nomination.
Notable 1980s television appearances included the miniseries North and South and its sequel.
In 1990's Ghost, one of his biggest films, he played a murdered man who communicates with his lover (Demi Moore) through a medium (Whoopi Goldberg). The role earned him his second Golden Globe nomination.
Also in 1990, Swayze lampooned his beefcake image by competing with Chris Farley for a job at Chippendale's in one of the best-loved sketches in the history of Saturday Night Live.
In 1991 he returned to action, starring opposite Keanu Reeves in Point Break.
But Swayze became disillusioned with Hollywood, and began spending more time on his ranches in California and New Mexico, raising horses. He also checked into a rehab facility to deal with a growing alcohol problem that began after his father's death in 1982.
Another turning point was the death of his sister, Vicky, in 1994. She died from an overdose of painkillers after a lifelong battle with depression.
Swayze continued to act through the 1990s, earning his third Golden Globe nod for To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, a role in which he dressed in drag. He later took another surprising turn in Donnie Darko, playing a motivational speaker with a kiddie porn dungeon.
Swayze was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January 2008 and began undergoing chemotherapy. He had already been cast in The Beast, but consulted with the producers, who decided he should remain with the show.
Watch Swayze's interview with Barbara Walters
Despite his courage at the time, he told Barbara Walters in an interview this year he was "going through hell."
"I've never been one to run from a challenge," he said.
Patrick Swayze: His Life, His Legacy will air on TV Guide Network at 10/9c Monday and repeat throughout the day Tuesday, including at 8/7c. Also watch a special edition of Hollywood 411 on Swayze at 6/5c Tuesday.