Jennifer Grey knows what she'd say to Patrick Swayze if she could see him today. ET spoke with the 62-year-old actress following the release of her memoir, Out of the Corner, and she reflected on her relationship with her dearly departed Dirty Dancing co-star, and shared what she wishes she could tell him now. Swayze died in 2009 after a battle with cancer.
"'Look what we did,'" Grey said of her would-be message to the late actor, who played Johnny Castle in the iconic 1987 flick. "We were playing kids and we were really young, in terms of where I sit now and where he would be now. With that kind of distance to be able to just say, 'Look, we did something crazy. It was so hard and we did it.'"
Grey, who starred as Baby in the movie, went on to praise Swayze as "such a good man, such a kind person."
"He's just a good guy. Everybody loved him... If we could have just laughed today and been like, 'Look at us. We're just old people now. Look what we did when we were younger,'" she said. "I am so grateful is what I am. I am so grateful to have had him as my Johnny... I just never had a man show up for me the way he did and that was something I will never forget."
Initially, though, Grey wasn't sold on having Swayze play her romantic interest in the film.
"We had done Red Dawn together, and that was not my kind of movie. It was this action movie... and it was just so, so stressful. All the guys were being just a guys' club, they were pulling pranks. I was just young and scared and a fish out of water, because that's just not my kind of thing," Grey recalled of the 1984 film. "By the time we got to do Dirty Dancing and they wanted to bring him in, I said, 'Oh god, no. I just spent three months with the guy. He's pulling pranks on me.'"
That all changed when Swayze came in for a dance screen test, though.
"It was just crazy. It was like, 'Oh, there's nobody else,'" she said. "He and I always liked each other. It wasn't like we didn't like each other. We might have bugged each other, we might have been annoyed by each other, we weren't natural mates and we were young... There can be a lot of heat with the wrong person, maybe even more so."
That heat between the pair made Dirty Dancing into a movie that people still love today.
"I love that it has had such a long-lasting, powerful, emotional impact on people watching it generations later, 35 years later," Grey said. "To me, no one expected anything of it. No one thought anyone would see it... I'm of course stunned and moved by the way it makes people feel."
Grey is hoping to capture a similar feeling with a new Dirty Dancing movie, which was announced back in 2020. While Grey stayed mum on details about the project, she did tease, "Baby as an adult could find herself possibly feeling similarly in a corner again, and [have to figure out] how to get herself out of the way."
"I'm not really at liberty to tease much... I'm excited," she said. "I'm excited for the challenge... To make a movie without Patrick is already an enormous challenge. It will never be that movie, and it should never try to be that movie. It will be its own movie if I have anything to do with it."
As for when fans can expect to see the film, Grey said, "It's on a track. It's more on track than it's ever been. It's more real than it's ever been."
While Grey is excited about her future and the upcoming project, penning Out of the Corner gave her a chance to look back on the life she's lived thus far. One such instance Grey discusses in the book is when, weeks before the release of Dirty Dancing, she was in a fatal car crash in Ireland with her then-boyfriend, Matthew Broderick. The crash, during which Broderick was behind the wheel, left two women dead.
"The car accident in Ireland was, I would say, top three traumas of my life, maybe top one. It's very hard to describe when you have a near-death experience and are present for the death of other people," Grey told ET. "... Being alone on a country road in the middle of nowhere with nobody else around or conscious was pretty terrifying... It led to so many other things in my life."
"I was the sole living witness, because Matthew had survived, but he was unconscious and had amnesia and was very badly injured. I thought he was dead," she added. "I didn't even know there were two other women who were tragically killed at the time. It's just something that you just don't come back from in the same way."
Grey and Broderick called it quits in 1998. The next year, Grey was set up on a blind date with Johnny Depp. The pair dated for a year and even got engaged before parting ways.
"We were young... To me, this guy was the answer to my problems. This guy was sweet, and loving, and romantic, and crazy about me, and beautiful. I was in desperate need of rebounding into something that looked and felt like 1989 Johnny Depp," she told ET. "Trust me, it was a very soft landing. It was necessary. I was bleeding out inside and this guy saved me and just made me... not feel what I was feeling."
In her book, Grey accuses Depp, who is currently in the midst of a defamation trial against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, of being "crazy jealous and paranoid." ET previously reached out to Depp for comment.
"All I can say about that trial is that it breaks my heart for everybody involved," Grey said. "I just think it's sad and I wish it was resolved and I just wish everybody well."
Another man who played a significant role in Grey's life was her dad, Joel Grey, who came out as gay in 2015 at the age of 82.
"I've always been my dad's biggest fan. As a child, he was my hero and just my everything... He's just very creatively alive, and so, as an artist, I have enormous respect for [that]," Grey said of her Oscar-winning father. "... He's never stopped just doing his thing and being who he is."
"The moment when he came out publicly as gay was, for me, pride doesn't cover it," she added. "Everyone deserves to be who they are and to own their story in the face of other people's disapproval, disdain, hatred, or violence... The idea that he waited so long to be able to be free broke my heart... but at least it happened."
Aside from her interpersonal relationships, a thing that majorly shaped Grey was undergoing two nose jobs following the release of Dirty Dancing.
"I tried not to take myself too seriously. It's really hard to take discussing a minor plastic surgery that has plagued me for over 30 years seriously," she said. "... All I wanted was to be able to explain this incredible isolated, lonely place where I couldn't seem to make a difference. There was no lack of interest, no waning attachment from this story. To be so misunderstood on a global [level], it was bizarre."
"I had to really re-examine who I thought I was, because clearly I could no longer depend on other people's opinion of me to define me," Grey added of life after the procedures. "... It is the thing that forced me to figure out who I am without anyone else's intervention or opinion or strong feelings. It just gave me a freedom. It gave me a new life that is based on what I believe to be true about myself, about who I am, and to really cut the cord of other peoples' opinion of me."
Making revelations like those is one reason Grey is thrilled to have put in the time and effort to write her memoir.
"Writing this book was definitely one of the most revelatory experiences of my life," Grey said. "It surprised me because it's my life -- I'm pretty sure I know what happened -- but it was re-examining the high and low points, and looking at it from the perspective of like maybe I don't know exactly what happened. Let me revisit it and really examine if how it had been told to me, how I had been telling it for so long, was actually true."
"Obviously, it's my story, it's my perspective, there is no imperial truth. I was really being quite rigorous with myself with vetting my answers and being curious and not attached to the original story," she added. "When you get older, you've been telling some stories for a really long time that you just assume, it becomes reflexive... It was so interesting to feel and re-experience [my past] in a different way than I had been."
Grey's memoir, Out of the Corner, is out now.