What the Hell Happened to Jennifer Grey?
At the time, Grey was dating her Ferris Bueller co-star, Matthew Broderick. The couple went on vacation in Ireland when Broderick had a bad car accident. He crossed over into the wrong lane instantly killing a local mother and her daughter. Broderick suffered a fractured leg, fractured ribs, a concussion, and a collapsed lung. He spent four weeks in the hospital. Grey’s injuries were less severe, but the incident scarred her for life:
The impact was emotional and physical. My body was never the same, my head was never the same, my ambition was never the same.
The full extent of Grey’s injuries was not immediately apparent. Over time, ligaments which had been ripped in the accident degenerated leaving her with chronic pain. According to Grey, she avoided taking prescription pain medication out of fear of addiction. She said she had lived the wild life in her youth but wanted to remain sober as an adult.
The timing of the accident completely overshadowed Grey’s career success:
I became America’s sweetheart within five days of the accident. The juxtaposition of that deep sorrow, the survivor’s guilt … and then being celebrated as the new big thing just didn’t jibe. It didn’t feel good to be the toast of the town.
Following the accident, Grey said she pulled back from her career. In 1988 she followed up her star-making role in Dirty Dancing with voice work in the English dub of the French animated science fiction movie, Gandahar or Light Years as it was called in the US. Grey played a beautiful young alien girl who falls for the hero and because this is French sci-fi, she never wears a shirt.
Bridget Fonda, Glenn Close and Christopher Plummer were also featured on the English language version.
In 1989, Grey appeared in the musical comedy Bloodhounds of Broadway opposite Matt Dillon, Rutger Hauer, Randy Quaid and Madonna.
The movie is based on four short stories by Damon Runyon. Dillon played a gambler who has only ever won one bet. Grey appeared as a showgirl who loves him anyway.
Bloodhounds of Broadway only played in five theaters before it was released to video. According to studio head Mike Medavoy in his autobiography You’re Only as Good as Your Next One, the movie shipped to theaters with a reel missing and no one noticed.
In 1989, Grey made a decision that forever changed both her appearance and her career. She underwent two rhinoplasty procedures. The first one was botched which necessitated the second. The procedure rendered Grey unrecognizable to her fans. According to Grey:
I went in the operating theater a celebrity – and come out anonymous. It was like being in a witness protection program or being invisible.
Grey said even her friends didn’t recognize her with her new nose:
I remember going to a restaurant where I had been going for years. I ran into people I knew and would say, ‘Hey.’ Nothing.
In retrospect, Grey acknowledges that her decision backfired:
I’ll always be this once-famous actress nobody recognizes… because of a nose job.
In a 1999 interview with Newsweek, Grey confessed that she briefly considered changing her name to Wanda West and starting over:
I’ve got to tell you, I think it could have worked. This town is so built on who’s the new face, and no one would have ever known it was me.
By 1990, just three years after her breakout performance in Dirty Dancing, Grey was relegated to TV movies. She played Tom Hulce’s wife in the civil rights drama, Murder in Mississippi. That movie costarred Blair Underwood and a then-unknown Josh Charles. Then she had a supporting role in Criminal Justice (pictured) which starred Forest Whitaker, Anthony LaPaglia and Rosie Perez. Grey played a prosecuting attorney trying to put Whitaker behind bars when Perez identifies him as her assailant.
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