Patrick Swayze Once Said He Took the Role in 'To Wong Foo' to Challenge Himself
In a resurfaced interview from 1995, the late actor Patrick Swayze spoke about his decision to step into the role of a drag queen in the film, "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar."
On September 3, TODAY uploaded a 1995 interview with legendary actor Patrick Swayze. During the interview, the Golden Globe nominee opened up about his iconic role in the film, "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar."
His role as Ms. Vida Boheme in the 1995 film was unlike any he had ever played. During this time, he was one of the most sought-after stars in Hollywood.
Patrick Swayze for "The Renegades" - Cast gallery 1982 | Photo: Getty Images
In the interview with TODAY, Swayze said he played the character in a way that conveyed she was filled with love and compassion. The actor, who passed away in 2009, said:
"Ms. Vida in many ways propels the emotional throughline… She had to be real."
He noted that the character has a nurturing spirit and that if he performed the role in an outrageous manner, "I'll blow this character."
Fans and people behind the groundbreaking film are celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The film tells the story of three drag performers who get stranded in a small Nebraska town.
The actor also opened up about his role in the iconic movie in his 2009 memoir, "The Time of My Life." He wrote that he knew he wanted to be in the film from the first time he heard about it.
To fully get into the character, the actor also spent time with actual drag queens.
Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel on February 29, 2004 in Hollywood, California. | Photo: Getty Images
He saw the role of matriarchal Vida Boheme as a challenge for him, as it required him to transform himself into a convincing woman.
Swayze was not the only actor who became interested in the role. Top-notch actors Mel Gibson, Robert Downey Jr., John Cusack, and Willem Dafoe also vied for it.
When he got the role, Swayze went on to find inspiration for his portrayal of it. He revealed that he modeled Vida after more than one real person.
Patrick Swayze embraces his wife Lisa Niemi, 1987 | Photo: GettyImages
He took inspiration from Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," as well as from Lauren Bacall and Demi Moore. He also partly modeled Vida after his choreographer mother, Patsy.
To fully get into the character, the actor also spent time with actual drag queens. In his memoir, he recalled how hanging out with them was an eye-opening experience for him.
"To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar" is not the only movie Swayze was famous for. Another iconic movie that he starred in was "Dirty Dancing."
He appeared in the film opposite Jennifer Grey. In a 2015 interview with Glamour, Grey said that she did not think she and Swayze had instant on-screen chemistry. The success of the film proved otherwise, however.
Swayze passed away on September 14, 2009, at the age of 57, after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. Eight years after his death, his wife Lisa Niemi organized a massive auction of the actor's memorabilia.