20 Things You Might Not Have Realised About The 1989 Film Road House
We don’t know about you, but we’re always happy to watch any film that features the late Patrick Swayze, and his 1989 action flick Road House is up at the top of our list.
Directed by Rowdy Herrington and featuring Swayze as a bouncer who protects the residents of a small American town from some sort of mafia boss (played by Ben Gazzara), Road House also co-stars Sam Elliott as Swayze’s mentor and Kelly Lynch as his love interest.
Below are fascinating secrets you might not have known about the film, which was something of a flop at the time of its release but which has since gained a real cult following.
20. It stars Elvis’ bodyguard
Climbing the career ladder can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. For Robert Gene ‘Red’ West, that was swapping his gig with the king of rock and roll for the thrills and spills of Road House.
West had been a close confidante of Elvis Presley and was for several years his bodyguard. He also collaborated on the writing of songs like That’s Someone You’ll Never Forget and You’ll Be Gone.
Ultimately, however, West was fired after clashing with Presley over the singer’s addiction issues. Presley had given West a leg-up in Hollywood, however, and he parlayed his bodyguard career into a variety of stunt roles.
Later in life, West was tapped to play Red Webster, the owner of the trashed auto parts store, in what was his most commercially successful role.
However, the actor would gain the most acclaim for his leading turn in 2008’s Goodbye Solo, the story of an elderly man befriending a Senegalese immigrant.
Red West died in 2017, aged 81. A long-time Memphis resident, he was buried alongside his cousin, the actor Sonny West.
19. Filming kept being interrupted by lovestruck women
We probably don’t have to tell you, but Dirty Dancing was a big hit for Patrick Swayze. While he’d had some success at the start of the decade with The Outsiders and Red Dawn, it was his role as dance instructor Johnny Castle that propelled him to superstardom.
That film released in 1987, so Swayze was in high demand by the time the Road House shoot rolled around – not just among Hollywood bigwigs, but among random women.
In fact, the filming of Road House was frequently interrupted by groups of women invading the set or haranguing Swayze during his breaks.
A pick-up truck full of women tried to meet Swayze at his trailer, and one group drifted into the riverside fight scene on a raft. You’ve got to admire the chutzpah!
Swayze and his mullet were so entrancing that a female extra, playing a waitress, was so busy looking at the picture’s leading man that she spilled a tray of drinks.
Nowadays, film sets with big stars have tight security. In fact, celebrities often pay upwards of $1,000,000 per annum for security. Someone has to keep those rafts at bay!
18. Kelly Lynch spent a month learning to be a doctor
Much has been made of Patrick Swayze’s commitment to his roles, but he’s not the only one: Kelly Lynch also underwent extensive preparation for her part as Dr Elizabeth ‘Doc’ Clay.
To authentically portray a small-town doctor, Lynch explains in a 2008 interview, she spent time in a hospital shadowing actual medical practitioners.
“I spent a month learning how to tie off stitches,” she says, but was disappointed when none of this work ended up paying off.
“I spent a month … and [then] they hand me a staple gun. I was so p****d off. Like, oh, this is cheating!”
In the same interview, Lynch names Doc’s initial meeting with Dalton as one of her favourite scenes, explaining that it shows how “two people from two different worlds [have] this instant chemistry.”
“He fell for a really smart woman,” she adds, “which I think is really great for a guy.”
17. The characters are all named after cowboys
In a glowing retrospective review, Empire described Road House as “a western in every respect except the stetsons and six guns.” While we don’t recall a western in which the protagonist rips out someone’s throat with their bare hands – though we’d love to see it – the filmmakers behind Road House must have been thrilled.
That’s because the film owes more to the western genre than just the moody setting and Dalton’s highmindedness. In fact, almost all of the film’s major characters are named after famous cowboys and outlaws.
Sam Elliott’s Wade Garrett shares a name with Pat Garrett, the sheriff who killed Billy the Kid. Kelly Lynch’s ‘Doc’ might be a reference to Doc Holliday, the gunslinger immortalised in Tombstone four years later.
The owner of the Double Deuce, Tilghman, was named for Oklahoma lawman Bill Tilghman, and main antagonist Brad Wesley shares a name with notorious bandit John Wesley Hardin.
That same Empire review compares Swayze to the towering on-screen presence of Burt Lancaster, who himself starred in the iconic 1966 western The Professionals.
Swayze would star in one explicit western in his career: Tall Tale. Unfortunately, that film was a commercial flop, losing more than $20 million.
16. Stephen Colbert auditioned for the film
The cast of Road House runs the gamut from bonafide A-listers like Swayze, to musicians like Jeff Healey, to western darlings like Sam Elliott. Conspicuously absent from this list, however, is future late-night talkshow hosts.
However, former Daily Show comedian and current Ed Sullivan Theater resident Stephen Colbert has admitted on multiple occasions that he read for a part in Road House.
Unfortunately, Colbert doesn’t recall for which part he read – or doesn’t wish to reveal it – but the mere idea of the comedian showing up in the high-octane bouncer thriller is truly tantalising.
Colbert recently revealed his failed audition on his show while interviewing Bobby Cannavale and Rose Byrne, who confessed to watching the film during a bout of ill health.
“They shot a lot of it in Chicago and I was a young actor in Chicago,” says Colbert. “I got called in!” Colbert cut his teeth as part of The Second City improv troupe in Chicago, having graduated from Northwestern University, Illinois.
Colbert would later move to New York to star in the TV sketch show Exit 57, and in mid-noughties films like Bewitched and Strangers with Candy, with nothing like Road House in sight.
15. It was marketed like Dirty Dancing
To go from Dirty Dancing to Road House – whatever you think of those films – takes range. Unfortunately, that range wasn’t displayed by those working behind the camera.
That’s because there are some questionable references to Dirty Dancing in the film’s marketing and in the film itself.
To begin with, the film’s original tagline took a well-intentioned jab at Swayze’s dance flick success, saying: “The dancing’s over. Now it gets dirty.”
More eyebrow-raising is the film’s inclusion of Otis Redding’s These Arms of Mine, which plays during the love scene in Dirty Dancing.
In Road House, when Doc and Dalton are similarly engaged, that very same song plays, as if to say: “look, it’s just like Dirty Dancing!” Well, only for about five minutes.
The song has also been featured in the Halle Berry film Perfect Stranger, The Boat That Rocked, and an episode of Lost.
14. Swayze contributed to the soundtrack
In many ways, Swayze had the career of a typical 80s hunk: some action films, some weepy dramas, and a roller-disco comedy-musical. Yet few big-name actors had pipes like Swayze.
This was proven after Swayze penned and sang She’s Like the Wind for the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. The song peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number 17 in the UK charts.
After that success, it’s little surprise that Swayze would again take to the recording studio – this time for Road House.
Not only did Swayze write and sing Cliff’s Edge, he also contributed vocals to Raising Heaven (in Hell) Tonight, both of which featured on the official movie soundtrack.
The actor is in good company, featuring as he does alongside The Jeff Healey Band – who also cameo in the film – Bob Seger, and Otis Redding.
While it failed to match the cultural staying of She’s Like the Wind, or the Dirty Dancing soundtrack at large, the soundtrack was successful enough to gain an expanded reissue in honour of the film’s 30th anniversary in 2019.
13. The original run-time was almost three and a half hours
As runtimes go, Road House isn’t unusual: while its 114 minutes might be a touch long for an action film, that still falls neatly inside the 90-120 minute range of most Hollywood features. But that wasn’t always the case.
In a contemporary interview with The Oklahoman, Sam Elliott confirmed that the original cut of the film was “three hours and twenty minutes long,” meaning more than a third of the film was removed for the theatrical release.
Sam Elliott was one of the actors to have much of his part cut, though in the interview he’s quick to note that “everybody suffered … That’s OK. I’m a big boy, although on some level you can say, yaaah, why … but you can’t take it personally.”
Other alterations include mostly removing Kathleen Wilhoite’s Carrie Ann and heavy editing of certain fight scenes. Plus, a scene was cut in which Dalton makes the other bouncers dance around in tutus as part of their training. No, we aren’t kidding.
Elliott was originally disappointed in the film given his opposition to violence: “It’s in bad taste. It’s gratuitous. It’s all the things that you’d like it not to be … plus the fact that half of my stuff is on the [cutting room] floor including my best scene in the movie – how am I going to go to New York and [promote] this movie?”
Ultimately, however, Elliott resolved not to take the film too seriously; he had fun on-set, and that the movie “flies along at such a pace.” Plus, he adds, “I’m happy every time I get a job.”
12. The film was inspired by real-life
Road House’s screenwriter David Lee Henry has said that the inspiration for his script came from his visit to a real-life small-town bar.
Henry also revealed that Dalton, the name of Patrick Swayze’s character, is taken from the Georgia town of the same name in which was bar was located.
However, fans will recall that the film is not actually set in Georgia, but in a fictional town called Jasper. There is in fact a town called Jasper in Missouri, just south of Kansas City.
Regardless, much of the filming took place in Chicago and in Anaheim, California, which is memorably the location of Disneyland! Not that you’d catch Walt at a place like the Double Deuce…
The exterior of the Double Deuce was only a film set, though the interior scenes were shot at a real-life dive bar then known as The Bandstand.
However, it wasn’t actually a dive bar – producer Joel Silver ordered that the place be made dingier to suit the film. The Bandstand has since closed.
11. It shares a location with 48 Hrs.
Released in 1982, 48 Hrs kickstarted the buddy cop genre and set stand-up comic Eddie Murphy on the path to stardom. Seven years later, at the end of the 80s, its legacy was still being felt.
Although there isn’t much common ground between 48 Hrs and Road House, they actually share a filming location: the garages in which Dalton (Swayze) stores his Mercedes, and in which Reggie Hammond (Murphy) stores his, are one and the same.
The likely link is that both films were produced by Joel Silver; 48 Hrs was Silver’s first project, and he would go on to produce cultural stalwarts like Die Hard, The Matrix, and Lethal Weapon.
However, Silver’s fortunes have recently turned sour, and in 2019 he resigned from the production company that bears his name; while no explicit reason was given for his departure, recent box office flops like 2017’s Suburbicon were likely contributors.
Sam Elliott has noted that it was a privilege to work on “one of Silver’s extravaganzas. In the 21 years I’ve been in the business, I’ve never worked on anything like this.”
“The guy’s a hands-on, hard-core producer who knows how to make movies,” he adds. And he knows that when you find a good garage set, you keep it!
10. Patrick Swayze turned down both Tango & Cash and Predator 2 so he could star in the film
Starring in Road House meant that Patrick Swayze had to turn down the chance to appear in two other massive Hollywood films.
Swayze was offered the chance to appear alongside Sylvester Stallone as Gabriel Cash in 1989’s Tango & Cash.
That part was instead passed on to Hollywood favourite Kurt Russell, who memorably sports a Swayze-esque haircut in the film.
While Tango & Cash was subjected to a similar critical drubbing as Road House, it did make a more substantial profit at the box office, earning $120 million from a $54 million budget.
Injuries sustained on the set of Road House forced Swayze into a long recovery period, meaning that he was also unable to take part in Predator 2.
Both of the films Swayze missed out on – as well as Road House – have since developed dedicated cult followings, despite their initial lukewarm receptions; clearly there’s something about films made at the turn of the 90s!
9. Annette Bening was sacked due to the lack of chemistry with Swayze
Kelly Lynch, who was hired as Bening’s replacement, revealed in a 2012 interview that Bening was let go on Swayze’s recommendation.
“Patrick just didn’t feel any chemistry with her or something. I don’t know what it was,” she says, adding: “but I didn’t know who she was.”
“All I knew was who Patrick Swayze was,” she continues, “and that’s because he’d just done Dirty Dancing, which was a big movie. And I thought, ‘Man, he’s a really interesting guy,’ so I took the script, but then I read it and I was like, ‘Okay, I don’t understand what this is. There’s a big-wheel truck, there’s a bad guy, there’s a doctor in a mini-dress, and there are bouncers.'”
As for Bening, she would have a breakthrough role the following year with The Grifters, for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Coincidentally, she would again be thwarted by a Swayze picture: she was beaten to the statuette by Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost.
8. Swayze performed all of his own stunts and fight scenes
If the fight scenes in Road House look brutally realistic, that’s because they are – the cast, Swayze most of all, performed their own stunts.
They were trained by Benny Urquidez, a legendary stunt choreographer who made his name in Jackie Chan movies like Wheels on Meals and Dragons Forever.
He also has a cameo appearance in Road House as one of the car dealership brawlers, and would go on to star in and train the cast of 1994’s Street Fighter.
Urquidez was apparently so impressed with Swayze that he encouraged him to take up competitive kickboxing, though the former dancer and long-time hunk had good reason to avoid the stressful sport.
Throughout his life, Swayze was plagued by a knee injury initially obtained while playing football. It was this injury that prematurely ended a promising college football career.
After an especially intense fight scene for Road House, Swayze had a procedure to remove 2.5 ounces of fluid from his knee, an issue he also faced while filming Dirty Dancing.
7. Swayze was attacked with a log
Not only did Swayze and the cast perform their own stunts, but they grossly blurred the lines of what a stunt can be.
Nowhere was this more apparent than when actor Marshall R Teague, who plays Jimmy, mistook a log for a prop, smashing it into the Dirty Dancing star with all his might.
Teague and Swayze had clashed at the beginning of production – something that Swayze was, by now, very familiar with – but the pair developed a mutual respect after fully committing to their fight scenes.
That commitment inspired the pair to improvise much of their fight choreography: and when you ‘improvise’ choreography, that means you’re practically fighting for real.
As a result, Swayze didn’t see it coming when Teague hoisted a log and swung it like a two-by-four. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries.
Well, as long as you don’t count two broken ribs as particularly ‘serious.’
6. Swayze was not a fan of the haircut he wears in the film
While we love the haircut that Patrick Swayze wears in Road House, the actor himself once revealed that he was not a fan of it at all.
Wendy Leigh’s biography of the late legend, entitled Patrick Swayze: One Last Dance, reveals that the star once referred to the haircut at “the bane of my existence.”
Of course, Swayze was well-known for his mullet, sculpted into luscious locks at the back while being somewhat tidier at the front.
However, the incredible intensity of Road House’s fight scenes meant that extra measures needed to be taken to keep his hair looking prim.
To avoid his fabulous fringe flopping around the fight, Swayze was forced to use a lot of hair spray – and we mean a lot – to keep his signature look intact.
It’s little surprise, then, that the actor went for something much shorter for his next project, Ghost. Plus, they don’t let mullets through the pearly gates.
5. Bill Murray phones Kelly Lynch’s husband every time he sees her sex scene on TV
Kelly Lynch, who also starred in the 80s classic Cocktail, has revealed that her husband still gets teased about her Road House sex scene with Patrick Swayze.
In fact, the actor Bill Murray makes a point of phoning Lynch’s husband of 28 years (the producer and writer Mitch Glazer) every single time he sees the scene broadcast on TV.
And it’s not just Bill: Lynch says that any one of Murray and his “idiot brothers” might call and say “Kelly’s having sex with Patrick Swayze right now. They’re doing it. He’s throwing her against the rocks.”
According to Glazer, Murray once called all the way from Russia just to keep up the tradition!
While Lynch really was thrown up against a rock wall for the scene, she was wearing discreet pads beneath her clothes, “so it looks more painful than it was.”
“I had to be careful not to hit my head,” she adds. “Thank God Patrick was so strong. He could’ve carried me around that room forever.”
4. A scene from the film is used to train New York police officers
Remember when Dalton speaks to bar staff about ‘three simple rules?’ Well, that scene is used by the New York Police Department to train their officers, in an attempt to keep things interesting for the trainees and stop their minds from wandering.
It’s a little unnerving that police officers might otherwise start daydreaming in the middle of important training, but that’s less surprising in the wake of recent events.
The scene was first used after the death of Eric Garner in police custody in 2014 and was reported by the New York Post.
It forms part of a mandatory, three-day retraining course that 22,000 officers underwent. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio described the course as having “a transcendent effect” on community policing.
This hasn’t gone down well with all of the attendees however, with one officer saying “it’s crazy. They’re showing us something from a movie and they want us to act like that in real life. It’s not realistic.”
The efficacy of using the film, in which Swayze’s Dalton literally rips out someone’s throat with his bare hands, is questionable – but at least the officers stay awake now.
3. A direct to DVD sequel featuring none of the original cast was released in 2006
Have you ever taken the time to watch the direct-to-DVD Road House sequel that was released in 2006? Did you even know it existed?
Road House 2 tells the story of Dalton’s son, but the film features none of the original film’s cast, and has been referred to by one critic as “a mindless, silly mess.”
That son is played by Johnathan Schaech, who earlier in his career had been headhunted by the Chippendales dance troupe before scoring a well-received minor role in That Thing You Do!, the directorial debut of Tom Hanks.
Unfortunately, by the mid-2000s, Schaech was stuck in a rut of direct-to-video and made-for-TV movies, notably including the title role in biblical biopic Judas.
In the film, Swayze’s Dalton has mysteriously been shot and killed off-screen, and his son must both take up the reins of being a cooler as well as get to the bottom of his father’s murder.
The film was directed by Scott Ziehl, whose Wikipedia page lavishes him with praise as someone who “has directed a number of films from 1998 to now.” Yikes.
2. It was adapted into an off-Broadway comedy musical with an extremely long title
Road House was adapted into an off-Broadway musical in 2003, a show that may not have been what fans of the film were expecting when they paid for their ticket.
That’s because the show leans into the film’s reputation as a wacky, hypermasculine romp. You want 80s schmaltz and silly hair? You’re going to get it.
Brilliantly, the full title of the musical was ‘Road House: The stage version of the cinema classic that starred Patrick Swayze, except this one stars Taimak from the 80s cult classic The Last Dragon wearing a blonde mullet wig.’
Improbably, the production was put together by New Zealand scientist Timothy Haskell, one of the world’s leading experts on sea ice. In fact, the strait between Ross Island and White Island in Antartica is named in his honour.
Billed as a tongue-in-cheek ‘fightsical’, the show really did star Taimak of The Last Dragon fame; the year prior, he had opened a gym in Manhattan and worked as a martial arts choreographer for Madonna’s latest tour.
Quite what Madonna would need with a martial artist, and how Taimak then found himself wearing a blonde wig off-Broadway, is anybody’s guess.
1. Wrestler and MMA fighter Ronda Rousey nearly starred in a 2015 remake
In 2015 it was revealed that professional female wrestler and actress Ronda Rousey would star in a female-centric Road House remake.
It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that a wrestler made the leap from the ring to Hollywood: just think about Jesse Ventura’s status as an 80s icon!
Rousey stood out in 2014’s Expendables 3 and 2015’s Fast & Furious 7, and evidently hoped to parlay her newfound acting fame into other franchises. Reviving a cult classic seemed like an obvious move.
Indeed, the stars seemed to be aligning when Nick Cassavetes signed on to direct the gender-swapped bouncer flick. Cassavetes had scored a box office smash with 2004’s The Notebook, and even wrote the dialogue for Justin Timberlake’s What Goes Around… Comes Around music video.
Rousey even reached out to Swayze’s widow, Lisa Niemi, to gain her blessing for the project. It was given.
However, the planned start-date for principal photography, in 2016, came and went. Nothing has been heard of the project since, and Rousey has largely abandoned an acting career.