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'Dirty Dancing' star Jennifer Grey says she was 'too scared' to try the movie's iconic lift until the day she shot the scene

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Patrick holding up Jennifer who has her legs and arms extended. Her dress is flowing down. Pink lights cast over them.
Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze performing "the lift" in "Dirty Dancing."Vestron/IMDb
  • "Dirty Dancing" star Jennifer Grey said she was "too scared" to do the movie's iconic lift until she had to.

  • In her new memoir, she said fear overtook her even when Patrick Swayze tried to reassure her.

  • "There might be sudden death, paralysis, or at least some broken bones," she wrote.

"Dirty Dancing" star Jennifer Grey revealed to Drew Barrymore on Thursday's episode of "The Drew Barrymore Show" that she was "too scared" to practice the movie's iconic lift until she had to shoot one of the scenes on set.

The lift serves at the climax of the romance film about Frances "Baby" Houseman (Grey) and dance instructor Johnny Castle (Swayze) and how they fall in love while practicing for a dance competition at a resort in the Catskills.

"I did not do it 'til the day we shot it," Grey told Barrymore on the talk show. "Oh no. I feel like it must have been making the producers, and Patrick and the director, everyone insane because I refused. I was too scared, I refused and I basically just couldn't do it."

"I couldn't make myself until the day when all the people were watching and then I had to do it," she continued.

In her memoir "Out Of The Corner," Grey elaborated on her genuine fear of the lift, which they practice twice and execute once in the film.

She wrote that even though Swayze would try to reassure her that he would be a reliable partner for her in the stunt, her fear wouldn't let her try it.

"He would say, 'C'mon now! I've been doing this forever. I've never dropped anyone yet. And you're tiny,'" she recalled in a chapter titled "The Time of My Life" viewed by Insider. "I wanted to let go of the fear, but the fear wouldn't let go of me. Hating myself and feeling shame wasn't enough to get my body to take the leap."

"I feared that if I didn't do my part perfectly, there might be sudden death, paralysis, or at least some broken bones. From either or both of us," she wrote.

Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze.
Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze attend the premiere of "Dirty Dancing" at the Gemini Theater on August 17, 1987 in New York City.Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Thankfully, none of Grey's anxiety became reality. "I leapt into the void – and the net appeared," she wrote of taking the jump in her book.

"What you see between us in that scene was also real. Real gratitude. Real respect. Real care. If that's not love, what is?" she wrote.

But according to Grey, she and Swayze didn't always have such admiration for each other.

"We weren't a natural match," she told People in April. "And the fact that we needed to be a natural match created a tension. Because normally when someone's not a natural, you… both people move on, but we were forced to be together."

Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in a scene from the film 'Dirty Dancing', 1987.
Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in a scene from the film 'Dirty Dancing', 1987.Vestron/Getty Images

They didn't get along while working on the "Red Dawn" set in 1984, but Grey told People she wishes she could apologize to Swayze, who died in 2009, for how she treated him in the past.

"I feel like if I could say anything to him now I would say, 'I'm so sorry that I couldn't just appreciate and luxuriate in who you were, instead of me wishing you were more like what I wanted you to be," she said in an interview in April.

"Out of the Corner" is available now.

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