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Sunday, February 12, 2017

What the Hell Happened to Jennifer Grey?

The Lebeau Le Blog website has an informative article titled What the Hell Happened to Jennifer Grey? Here are some excerpts:
Grey [born in 1960] made her big screen debut in the romantic drama, Reckless [released in 1984]. Aidan Quinn starred as a teenage rebel who falls for a cheerleader played by Daryl Hannah. ... Grey appeared as one of their classmates. Critics compared the movie unfavorably to teen rebel movies like The Wild One and Rebel Without a Cause.

While Reckless was in theaters, Grey appeared in an ABC after-school special. Her best friend, Tracy Pollan, starred in The Great Love Experiment. Pollan played a popular girl who participates in an experiment to boost the social profile of a shy classmate. Grey’s part was minor. She played one of the cheerleaders on Pollan’s squad.

Later that year, Grey appeared in John Milius’ Cold War action movie, Red Dawn ... based on the ... idea ... that the Soviet Union could successfully invade the United States. Naturally, a group of high school students led by Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen are America’s last line of defense against foreign occupation. When the teen militia goes to an old man for help, he asks them to watch over his granddaughters played by Lea Thompson and Grey. .... 
Jennifer Grey shooting a machine gun
in the 1984 movie Red Dawn.
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. ... Nicolas Cage played Gere’s brother, a gangster rising up the ranks of the mob. Grey appeared as his disapproving wife. ....
Jennifer Grey playing a wife
in the 1984 movie Cotton Club.
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. ...
Jennifer Grey playing a date
in the 1985 movie American Flyers.
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. .... 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. ....

Despite playing siblings in the movie, Broderick and Grey began secretly seeing each other.
Jennifer Grey and Charlie Sheen
in the 1986 movie
Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Matthew Broderick and Jennifer Grey
dating after making their 1986 movie
Derris Bueller's Day Off 
Later that year [1986], 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.
Jennifer Grey in the 1986 television drama The Equalizer
The Lebeau article then tells about Grey's next performance, in Dirty Dancing. Here are some excerpts:

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”.

Following their successful screen-test, Grey and Swayze managed to bury the hatchet temporarily. But before long, they were back to squabbling on the set. The fighting grew so intense that there was concern that it would ruin the movie’s love scenes. In order to remind their stars of how great they could be together, Ardolino and Bergstein had them rewatch their initial screen-test. That got Grey and Swayze back on the same team long enough to finish the movie. ....

Ardolino encouraged Grey and Swayze to improvise as much as possible. The scene in which Swayze lifts Grey’s arm and she cracks up was one such improvisation. Grey said she found the gesture ticklish and Swayze’s annoyance with her laughter was genuine. Another improvisation was the scene in which Grey and Swayze crawl towards one another. That was originally just a warm-up before shooting a scripted scene.

The executives at Vestron were convinced they had a flop on their hands. After watching the film’s original cut, producer Aaron Russo commented that they should “Burn the negative and collect the insurance.” At one point, the marketers of Clearasil were interested in a sponsorship deal to promote the movie. But when they learned about the abortion scene, they requested to have it removed. When the producers refused to drop that subplot, Clearasil backed out.

Dirty Dancing originally received an R-rating. Scenes were trimmed from the original cut to obtain a more desirable PG-13. Vestron, convinced that no one would like the movie, planned to give it a limited release in theaters and then dump it to video where they hoped they could make some money back.  Producer Linda Gottlieb said that at the time, “I would have only been grateful, if when it was released, people didn’t yell at me.” ....
Shortly after Dirty Dancing was released, Grey's career was interrupted by an automobile accident.
You would think that in 1987 as her career was taking off like no one could have ever imagined that Grey would be having the time of her life.  But you would be wrong.  Unfortunately, Grey was recovering from a personal tragedy just as she was becoming a star.

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 .... Following the accident, Grey said she pulled back from her career.  ....
Lebeau continues to describe and illustrate Grey's career and then ends its article thus:
So, what the hell happened?

Well, first of all, Grey was never really that big of a movie star to begin with. Prior to Dirty Dancing, her biggest claim to fame was a relatively small role in Ferris Bueller. Dirty Dancing could have made Grey into a big star, but for reasons that are perfectly understandable, Grey backed away from her career to recover from the trauma of a lethal car crash.

As regular readers know, one of the first rules in the movie star playbook is to strike while the iron is hot. If you want to get on the A-list and stay there, you have to capitalize on your hits.

Obviously, Grey failed to do that.  But even if she hadn’t taken some time off, it’s questionable whether or not the success of Dirty Dancing would have translated to her career. Look at her co-star Patrick Swayze who continued working steadily after Dirty Dancing. He struggled to capitalize on that success as well. Three years later, he seemed to have missed his opportunity until Ghost rejuvenated his career. And even that was a temporary shot in the arm.

Obviously, things could have been different for Grey than they were for Swayze. But all things being equal, actresses have a harder time in Hollywood than their male counterparts. And Grey didn’t have the typical Hollywood look. ...

Eventually, Grey started a family and that became her primary focus. ....

Some of Lebeau's readers commented on his remark that "Grey was never really that big of a movie star to begin with."

I also don’t think she would have had much longevity anyway, as an A list actress, regardless. Her role in Ferris was minor, I remember Mia Sara getting more attention. Swayze’s comments about how Grey excelled at being this “in the moment” actress, you can see that on screen, but she also isn’t an actress with great range. She’s fun and quirky. It works well on TV, where I didn’t know she has continued to work more or less steadily.

Terrence Clay
In regards to her career, I think her performance in Dirty Dancing put her in a leading lady category when, in fact, she was more of a decent character actress. Dirty Dancing is actually a coming-of-age story not a rom com so how was she ever going to follow that up? She should’ve kept her nose and worked as a character actress. We should’ve seen more of her. ....

I think part of her appeal to both audiences and Hollywood alike in the mid to late 80s was the fact she looked like a younger, cuter and, ultimately, sexier version of Barbara Streisand. Once she lost that nose, that subconscious familiarity disappeared as well. ....

No talent killed Jennifer Grey’s career. Anyody could have played the bitchy sister in Ferris Bueller and people went to see Dirty Dancing because Patrick Swayze was at the height of his hotness.

she seems like a nice person, I think that persona has also kept her, not on the A-List, but always in fame’s orbit. Like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, she might eventually find a future in sit-coms. And I also agree that she would probably never have become as a big a star as she might have hoped. But maybe she could have been someone like Jamie Lee-Curtis.

Craig Hansen
I too doubt how much Grey could have capitalized on her sudden fame post-Dirty Dancing even without the accident and nose job. Keep in mind that despite being 27 when she filmed Dirty Dancing she had to that point spent her career portraying teenage girls. Fast approaching 30 by that point she simply could not have continued playing teens for much longer, and her youthful cuteness may have prevented her from being accepted in more adult, mature roles in films anyway. Grey’s prospects may have been limited regardless, but again we will never know for sure, she could have surprised in something if given the chance.

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