What the Hell Happened to Jennifer Grey?
Next, Grey had a supporting role in Francis Ford Coppola’s period drama, The Cotton Club.
The movie was set at the famous Harlem night club in the 1930’s. Richard Gere starred as a talented musician who gets involved with the mob in order to advance his career. He ends up romantically involved the with an aspiring film star played by Diane Lane. She also happens to be the girlfriend of real life gangster Dutch Schultz played here by James Remar. Nicolas Cage played Gere’s brother, a gangster rising up the ranks of the mob. Grey appeared as his disapproving wife. Gregory Hines and Bob Hoskins co-starred.
The production was already in trouble before producer Robert Evans hired Coppola to direct. Evans, who had also produced The Godfather, had a script by Mario Puzo. The Cotton Club reunited the writer, director and producer of the first two Godfather films on another period drama. Expectations were understandably set high.
Coppola insisted on rewriting Puzo’s screenplay and brought in his own crew. The already high budget escalated to nearly 60 million which was very high for the time. When The Cotton Club was released, it got mixed to positive reviews. But it grossed less than half of its budget.
Grey appeared briefly in the 1985 sports drama, American Flyers. Kevin Costner and David Marshall Grant starred as two competitive brothers who have unresolved issues after the death of their father. When Costner’s character returns home for a visit, he tries to set his brother up with Grey. But the dinner doesn’t go well. Grey winds up leaving in tears as she unexpectedly finds herself in the middle of a sibling rivalry. Costner and Grant end up healing their relationship by training together for a bicycle race across the Rocky Mountains. Rae Dawn Chong and Alexandra Paul co-starred.
Later that year, Grey appeared in her second ABC Afterschool Special. Cindy Eller: A Modern Fairy Tale was an 80’s retelling of the Cinderella story with a young Kyra Sedgwick starring as a teen who doesn’t get along with her new step-family. Grey and Kelly Wolf played her catty step-sisters and Grant Show played her handsome crush. Pearl Bailey played the pivotal of the fairy godmother, only in this version she is an encouraging homeless woman with a metal pan for a hat.
In 1986, Grey had a small role in a big movie. She played Matthew Broderick‘s jealous little sister in John Hughes’ comedy, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Broderick played a brilliant, charming high school student who used his gifts to skip class with his friends. Jeffrey Jones played his nemesis, the school principal who is determined to bring Ferris down whatever it takes. Grey’s character was insanely jealous of her older brother and wanted to see him get caught until she is set straight by a seemingly strung-out delinquent played by Charlie Sheen.
Sheen owes his involvement in the classic comedy to his former Red Dawn co-star. Grey recommended Sheen for the part after having worked with him on Red Dawn. Sheen was filming Lucas at the time so his entire part in Ferris Bueller was filmed during one of his day’s off from Lucas.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off got positive reviews and was a hit at the box office. You probably think it took first place at the box office when it opened. Admit it. You thought Ferris Bueller was a big movie that opened at #1. Not so. It finished in second place behind Back to School. In fact, Ferris Bueller never held the top spot. But, it probably went on to out-gross Back to School, right? Nope. The Rodney Dangerfield comedy went on to gross over $90 million dollars whereas Ferris Bueller grossed about $70 million.
However, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off accomplished something relative few movies do. It saturated pop culture which is why the odds are you think it was a bigger hit than it actually was. While other movies, like Back to School, were more popular at the time, Ferris Bueller has stood the test of time.
For years afterwards, Hughes and Broderick talked about making a Ferris Bueller sequel. But it never came to pass. In 1990, the film was adapted into a short-lived TV show starring Charlie Schlatter as Ferris and Jennifer Aniston as in Grey’s role. But the humor of the movie didn’t translate to the small screen and the show was cancelled after one season.
Despite playing siblings in the movie, Broderick and Grey began secretly seeing each other.
Later that year, Grey appeared in an episode of the TV drama, The Equalizer. Edward Woodward starred as a retired intelligence agent turned private detective. In this episode, he offers to protect Grey from would-be killers. Grey’s mother has just been killed and Woodward believes that she was not the killer’s intended victim.
Then, in 1987, Dirty Dancing happened. The little movie about a girl who has the time of her life on vacation in the Catskills made Grey a household name.
Grey played Baby, the youngest of two daughters in an affluent Jewish family. In the summer of 1963, her family goes on vacation at Kellerman’s where she meets a working-class dance instructor played by Patrick Swayze. They come from different worlds, but through the power of dance and a best-selling soundtrack, they find love while practicing for the talent show.
Don’t act like you haven’t seen it because I know you have.
What? I did not just tear up watching the trailer. I have something in my eye. And allergies. I get allergies real bad this time of year. Anyway…
Director Emile Ardolino wanted to cast dancers in the leading roles so he wouldn’t have to rely on stand-ins. He cast Grey because she had a background in dancing as well as acting. Billy Zane was strongly considered for the part of the dance instructor. But the dancing tests with Zane and Grey were disappointing. Val Kilmer was offered the lead, but he wasn’t interested.
Their next choice was Patrick Swayze whom Grey had co-starred with in Red Dawn. Grey initially objected to the casting of Swayze as her co-star because they she didn’t like him after they fought while making Red Dawn. Ardolino tested Swayze dancing with Grey and noticed their chemistry immediately. Screen-writer and producer, Eleanor Bergstein, described the test footage as “breathtaking”.
Next: More Dirty Dancing