EXCLUSIVE: Long Shot and Warm Bodies filmmaker Jonathan Levine has been set to direct the buzzed-about sequel to beloved 1987 movie Dirty Dancing, which Lionsgate is launching for next week’s Cannes market.
In an exclusive interview with Deadline, Levine discussed the hot market package and revealed details about the film’s creative direction.
Levine has co-written the sequel, also titled Dirty Dancing, with Elizabeth Chomko. Casting conversations are underway — the team has a shortlist of names to play the lead — and the film is expected to go into production later this year for release in 2024. The cast is expected to be a combination of newcomers and name actors.
Jennifer Grey may not be the only face from the original to return, Levine told us. “We are about to talk to people and are exploring that,” the 50/50 director said.
“The most important thing for us was having Jennifer on board. She is an invaluable collaborator. We’re going to try to involve as many people from the original as is appropriate. We want to be respectful in every way.”
That involves having a conversation with Patrick Swayze’s estate, Levine said. “Johnny is a part of Baby’s journey in the story.”
He told us: “This film exists in a dialogue with the original. We want to introduce this story to a whole new generation. That said, Johnny’s absence looms large over the story, so it’s a coming-of-age story but also a coming-of-age for Baby’s character in a way.”
The movie’s music will will range from songs from the original movie (Hungry Eyes is among the songs set to return) to ‘90s hip-hop. Levine also name-checked Alanis Morisette and Liz Phair as artists whose songs could potentially feature.
Levine was previously set to produce the project through his Megamix banner alongside his producing partner Gillian Bohrer but the filmmaker has now chosen to direct the film as well. Grey will also executive-produce the sequel.
“While the original Dirty Dancing has always been one of my favorite films, I never imagined I would direct the sequel,” said Levine. “Through co-writing it, I fell in love with the characters (new and old), the world of 1990s Catskills New York, and the music, which will range from songs from the original movie to ‘90s hip-hop. I can’t wait to collaborate with Jennifer to bring this beautiful story of summer and romance and dancing to a generation of new fans. And to the longtime ones, I promise we will not ruin your childhood. We will tackle the assignment with sophistication, ambition, and, above all, love.”
A key story element in the 1960’s-set original is Penny’s abortion, which came before Roe v Wade legislation. In our chat, Levine recognized the controversy sparked by the recent leak of a document suggesting The Supreme Court has voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. But it’s not clear whether the subject will feature in the new movie.
Dirty Dancing is the best-selling library title in Lionsgate’s history. The 1987 original, starring Grey and Patrick Swayze was a global box office smash, and has amassed an ardent fanbase the world over.
Commenting on the appointment of Levine to direct, Erin Westerman, Lionsgate’s President of Production, said: “Dirty Dancing is more than a movie – it’s a cultural touchstone that continues to be a rite of passage. As we approach the next chapter, we knew we had to honor the depth, the relevance, and the heat of the original. We’ve been lucky to have Jennifer as our guide and are thrilled to have Jonathan by her side at the helm, because everything he makes is textured and romantic – he always gives us goosebumps.”