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Patrick Swayze Refused to Do Ghost Without Whoopie Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg Reveals How Patrick Swayze Refused to Do Ghost Without Her

By Billy Ingram

Ghost (1990) is one of my very favorite motion pictures, a sly blending of comedy and drama which rarely works. Peter Bradshaw wrote in The Guardian of Ghost, "Veteran producer-screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin created a comfort-food weepie classic with his gem Ghost, the story of a murdered young man who sticks around as a ghost to watch over his grieving artist girlfriend."

Further Bradshaw opined, "Perhaps it is uncool to admit this, but for me it was always a stunningly powerful coup de cinéma moment when Sam desperately chases after the retreating mugger following the attack, then walks back to see if Molly is all right, and is astonished by what he sees. In fact, the whole movie has that unselfconscious potency and force, advancing without a hint of irony the vision of good people going up to paradise and bad folks dragged away by dark demons to perdition."

It was a breakthrough role for co-star Whoopi Goldberg (real name Caryn Elaine Johnson), she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Ghost, only the second black woman to do so. That smash hit led to other box office winners like Soapdish and Sister Act. When she signed on for Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993), she was the highest-paid actress of that time.

She also won a Tony Award as producer of the Broadway musical revival of Thoroughly Modern Millie. For television Goldberg had a recurring role as Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation. In 1990, Goldberg co-starred with Jean Stapleton (All In the Family) in the lackluster performing two season CBS sitcom Bagdad Cafe, a show I liked very much, at least the very few episodes I saw.

Surprisingly, given her rivetingly funny role in Ghost, Goldberg was not on the producers list for the part, perhaps because she was so powerful in a 1984 dramatic role in The Color Purple while the subsequent movies she starred in were met with (mostly) poor ticket sales.

"He [Patrick Swayze] got hired to do Ghost," Goldberg says in this interview for a British daytime talker called Loose Women. "And asked them, 'Why hasn't Wooopie Goldberg... have you talked to her?' and they said 'No, no we didn't go to her.' And he was like, 'Why not?' and they said, 'Well, because we feel that she would take us out of the movie.' And he said, 'No no, I'm not committing to this until I talk to her and see if she wants to do this movie, have you asked her?'

"They said, 'Well, no we haven't.' So, I was shooting a movie in Montgomery, Alabama with Sissy Spacek called Long Walk Home and I get a phone call saying 'Remember that movie they didn't want to see you for?' Because a friend of mine had gone to the audition and this is what she said, she said, 'Girl! Every black woman in the world, black women got out of the grave to come audition!' And I was sitting there kinda feeling bad because I hadn't heard anything about it."

She called her agent to ask about the film, "They said, 'Ahhh, who told you?' I was like, 'My friend,' they said, 'Yeah, no, they don't want you.' And I said, 'Oh, okay, that's alright.'"

Three weeks later while filming Long Walk Home, 'My agent calls me back and said, 'Remember that movie they didn't want you for? Well, they've hired a guy who says he not going to commit unless he is sure you DON'T want to do it. So they want to come down and see you.' And I was like, 'Okay. Who is it?' and they said, 'Oh, you'll see when he gets there.' And the day comes, he comes out says, 'Why don't you want to do this movie?' And I went, 'Wait. Aren't you Patrick Swayze?!?' And he said, 'Yes' and I said, 'What makes you think I don't want to do the movie? I'd love to do the movie, they said they didn't want me.' He said, 'Do you want to do the movie?' I said, 'If we can have some fun yeah!'"

Ultimately, Swayze told the producers he wouldn't appear in Ghost unless Goldberg was cast as Oda Mae Brown, the charlatan psychic. The film grossed over $505 million on a budget of $22 million.

 


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