Patrick Swayze dies at 57

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Patrick Swayze, the hunky actor who dancedhis way into viewers' hearts with "Dirty Dancing" and then brokethem with "Ghost," died Monday after a battle with pancreaticcancer. He was 57.

"Patrick Swayze passed away peacefully today with family at hisside after facing the challenges of his illness for the last 20months," said a statement released Monday evening by hispublicist, Annett Wolf. No other details were given.

Fans of the actor were saddened to learn in March 2008 thatSwayze was suffering from a particularly deadly form of cancer.

He had kept working despite the diagnosis, putting together amemoir with his wife and shooting "The Beast," an A&E dramaseries for which he had already made the pilot. It drew arespectable 1.3 million viewers when the 13 episodes ran in 2009,but A&E said it had reluctantly decided not to renew it for asecond season.

Swayze said he opted not to use painkilling drugs while making"The Beast" because they would have taken the edge off hisperformance. He acknowledged that time might be running out giventhe grim nature of the disease.

When he first went public with the illness, some reports gavehim only weeks to live, but his doctor said his situation was"considerably more optimistic" than that.

"I'd say five years is pretty wishful thinking," Swayze told ABC's Barbara Walters in early 2009. "Two years seems likely ifyou're going to believe statistics. I want to last until they finda cure, which means I'd better get a fire under it."

A three-time Golden Globe nominee, Swayze became a star with hisperformance as the misunderstood bad-boy Johnny Castle in "DirtyDancing." As the son of a choreographer who began his career inmusical theater, he seemed a natural to play the role.

A coming-of-age romance starring Jennifer Grey as an idealisticyoung woman on vacation with her family and Swayze as the Catskillsresort's sexy (and much older) dance instructor, the film madegreat use of both his grace on his feet and his muscular physique.

It became an international phenomenon in the summer of 1987,spawning albums, an Oscar-winning hit song in "(I've Had) the Timeof My Life," stage productions and a sequel, 2004's "DirtyDancing: Havana Nights," in which he made a cameo.

Swayze performed and co-wrote a song on the soundtrack, theballad "She's Like the Wind," inspired by his wife, Lisa Niemi.The film also gave him the chance to utter the now-classic line,"Nobody puts Baby in a corner."

And it allowed him to poke fun at himself on a "Saturday NightLive" episode, in which he played a wannabe Chippendales danceralongside the corpulent - and frighteningly shirtless - ChrisFarley.

A major crowdpleaser, the film drew only mixed reviews fromcritics, though Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times, "Giventhe limitations of his role, that of a poor but handsome sex-objectabused by the rich women at Kellerman's Mountain House, Mr. Swayzeis also good. ... He's at his best - as is the movie - when he'sdancing."

Swayze followed that up with the 1989 action flick "RoadHouse," in which he played a bouncer at a rowdy bar. But it washis performance in 1990's "Ghost" that showed his vulnerable,sensitive side. He starred as a murdered man trying to communicatewith his fiancee ( Demi Moore) - with great frustration and longing- through a psychic played by Whoopi Goldberg.

Swayze said at the time that he fought for the role of Sam Wheat(director Jerry Zucker wanted Kevin Kline) but once he went in foran audition and read six scenes, he got it.

Why did he want the part so badly? "It made me cry four or fivetimes," he said of Bruce Joel Rubin's Oscar-winning script in anAP interview.

"Ghost" provided yet another indelible musical moment: Swayzeand Moore sensually molding pottery together to the strains of theRighteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody." It also earned abest-picture nomination and a supporting-actress Oscar forGoldberg, who said she wouldn't have won if it weren't for Swayze.

"When I won my Academy Award, the only person I really thankedwas Patrick," Goldberg said in March 2008 on the ABC daytime talkshow "The View."

Swayze himself earned three Golden Globe nominations, for"Dirty Dancing," "Ghost" and 1995's "To Wong Foo, Thanks forEverything! Julie Newmar," which further allowed him to toy withhis masculine image. The role called for him to play a drag queenon a cross-country road trip alongside Wesley Snipes and JohnLeguizamo.

His heartthrob status almost kept him from being considered forthe role of Vida Boheme.

"I couldn't get seen on it because everyone viewed me asterminally heterosexually masculine-macho," he told the AP then.But he transformed himself so completely that when his screen testwas sent to Steven Spielberg, whose Amblin pictures produced "ToWong Foo," Spielberg didn't recognize him.

Among his earlier films, Swayze was part of the star-studdedlineup of up-and-comers in Francis Ford Coppola's 1983 adaptationof S.E. Hinton's novel "The Outsiders," alongside Rob Lowe, TomCruise, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Emilio Estevez and Diane Lane.Swayze played Darrel "Dary" Curtis, the oldest of three waywardbrothers - and essentially the father figure - in a poor family insmall-town Oklahoma.

Other '80s films included "Red Dawn," "Grandview U.S.A."(for which he also provided choreography) and "Youngblood," oncemore with Lowe, as Canadian hockey teammates.

In the '90s, he made such eclectic films as "Point Break"(1991), in which he played the leader of a band of bank-robbingsurfers, and the family Western "Tall Tale" (1995), in which hestarred as Pecos Bill. He appeared on the cover of People magazineas its "Sexiest Man Alive" in 1991, but his career tapered offtoward the end of the 1990s, when he also had stay in rehab foralcohol abuse. In 2001, he appeared in the cult favorite "DonnieDarko," and in 2003 he returned to the New York stage with"Chicago"; 2006 found him in the musical "Guys and Dolls" inLondon.

Swayze was born in 1952 in Houston, the son of Jesse Swayze andchoreographer Patsy Swayze, whose films include "Urban Cowboy."

He played football but also was drawn to dance and theater,performing with the Feld, Joffrey and Harkness Ballets andappearing on Broadway as Danny Zuko in "Grease." But he turned toacting in 1978 after a series of injuries.

Within a couple years of moving to Los Angeles, he made hisdebut in the roller-disco movie "Skatetown, U.S.A." The eclecticcast included Scott Baio, Flip Wilson, Maureen McCormack and BillyBarty.

Swayze had a couple of movies in the works when his diagnosiswas announced, including the drama "Powder Blue," starring Jessica Biel, Forest Whitaker and his younger brother, Don, whichwas scheduled for release this year.

Off-screen, he was an avid conservationist who was moved by histime in Africa to shine a light on "man's greed and absoluteunwillingness to operate according to Mother Nature's laws," hetold the AP in 2004.

Swayze was married since 1975 to Niemi, a fellow dancer who tooklessons with his mother; they met when he was 19 and she was 15. Alicensed pilot, Niemi would fly her husband from Los Angeles toNorthern California for treatment at Stanford University MedicalCenter, People magazine reported in a cover story.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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