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 all-action romp, which was something of a flop at the time of its release but which has since gained a real cult following.
20. The film stars Elvis’ former bodyguard
Robert Gene ‘Red’ West co-stars in Road House as the similarly-named Red Webster. Years earlier, West was a close confidante and bodyguard of Elvis Presley, even co-wrote some of the King’s songs including 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 before becoming an actor in his own right, with Road House giving him one of his biggest roles. Webster passed away in 2017 aged 81, from an aortic aneurysm.
19. Filming kept being interrupted by lovestruck women
Dirty Dancing was a big hit for Patrick Swayze, and following his role as dance instructor Johnny Castle, Swayze was in high demand – not just among Hollywood bigwigs, but random women as well. In fact, the filming of Road House was frequently interrupted by groups of women invading the set or haranguing Swayze during his breaks.
Not only did a pick-up truck full of women once try to meet Swayze at his trailer, but another group floated into the riverside fight scene on a raft. 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 spilt a tray of drinks.
18. Kelly Lynch spent a month learning to be a doctor
To play Dr Elizabeth ‘Doc’ Clay, Kelly Lynch conducted extensive research and preparation. In a 2008 interview, Lynch explained she spent time in a hospital shadowing actual medical practitioners. “I spent a month learning how to tie off stitches,” Lynch said. “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 named 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, 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.” It’s an apt description, given that almost all of the film’s major characters are named after famous cowboys and outlaws. Take Sam Elliott’s Wade Garrett; he shares a name with Pat Garrett, the sheriff who killed Billy the Kid.
Kelly Lynch’s ‘Doc’ is likely a reference to Doc Holliday, the gunslinger immortalised in Tombstone; the owner of the Double Deuce, Tilghman, was named for Oklahoma lawman Bill Tilghman; and antagonist Brad Wesley shares a name with notorious bandit John Wesley Hardin.
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 the list, however, is future late-night talk show hosts. Surprisingly, Stephen Colbert has admitted on multiple occasions that he read for a part in Road House.
Colbert elaborated on his failed audition while interviewing Bobby Cannavale and Rose Byrne in 2020, after the pair 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.” After so long, Colbert admits to not even remembering what part he auditioned for, “but I got called in man!”
15. It was marketed like Dirty Dancing
To go from Dirty Dancing to Road House, as Swayze did, obviously takes range. Unfortunately, that range wasn’t displayed by the people behind Road House. There are questionable references to Dirty Dancing in both the film’s marketing and the film itself. Road House’s original tagline took a well-intentioned jab at Swayze’s dance flick success, reading: “The dancing’s over. Now it gets dirty.”
More eyebrow-raising is the film’s inclusion of Otis Redding’s These Arms of Mine – the exact same song that was used during the love scene in Dirty Dancing – being featured on Road House’s soundtrack during Dalton and Doc’s love scene.
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, who penned and sang She’s Like the Wind for the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. After that success, Swayze would take to the recording studio again – 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 feature on the official movie soundtrack. The actor is in good company, featuring as he does alongside The Jeff Healey Band (who perform live in the movie), as well as Bob Seger and Otis Redding.
13. The original run-time was almost three and a half hours
As runtimes go, Road House is pretty standard, clocking in at 114 minutes. However, in an interview with The Oklahoman, Sam Elliott confirmed that the original cut of the film was “three hours and 20 minutes long,” meaning more than a third of the film was shelved. Elliott’s performance was apparently the most afflicted, though he was quick to note that “everybody suffered”.
Other alterations include mostly removing Kathleen Wilhoite’s Carrie Ann and heavy editing of certain fight scenes. A scene was also cut in which Dalton made the other bouncers dance around in tutus as part of their training. No, we aren’t kidding.
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 in which his bar was located.
Much of the filming for Road House took place in Chicago and in Anaheim, California. The exterior of the Double Deuce was a 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. 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!
The likely link is that both films were produced by Joel Silver. The uber-producer’s fortunes have recently turned sour, given that in 2019 Silver resigned from the production company that bears his name.
10. Patrick Swayze turned down both Tango & Cash and Predator 2 for Road House
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 Kurt Russell.
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. Swayze had been the first choice to play Lieutenant Michael R. Harrigan, the role which was ultimately taken by Danny Glover.
9. Annette Bening was sacked due to her lack of chemistry with Swayze
Oscar-nominated The Grifters and American Beauty actress Annette Bening was originally cast as Dr. Elizabeth ‘Doc’ Clay in Road House. Unfortunately for the then-unknown young actress, Bening was sacked soon after filming began, when it was decided that she wasn’t right for the role.
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.”
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 ‘The Jet’ Urquidez, a legendary stunt choreographer who made his name in Jackie Chan movies like Wheels on Meals and Dragons Forever.
Urquidez was apparently so impressed with Swayze that he encouraged him to take up competitive kickboxing, though he had good reason to avoid the stressful sport. Throughout his life, Swayze was plagued by a knee injury initially obtained while playing football. After an especially intense fight scene for Road House, Swayze had a procedure to remove 2.5 ounces of fluid from his knee.
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 Swayze with all his might.
Teague and Swayze had clashed at the beginning of production, but the pair developed mutual respect after fully committing to their fight scenes, improvising much of their fight choreography. As a result, Swayze didn’t see it coming when Teague hoisted a log and swung it like a two-by-four, leaving Swayze with two broken ribs.
6. Swayze was not a fan of the haircut he wears in the film
We love the oh-so-80s mullet that Patrick Swayze wears in Road House, but the actor himself 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.”
The incredible intensity of Road House’s fight scenes meant that extra measures needed to be taken to keep Swayze’s hair looking prim. To avoid his fabulous fringe flopping around the fight, Swayze was forced to use a lot of hair spray. It’s little surprise, then, that the actor went for a much shorter style for his next project, Ghost.
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 three decades every time he sees the scene on TV.
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.
4. A scene from the film is used to train New York police officers
Remember when Dalton speaks to the 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 stop their minds from wandering. The scene forms part of a mandatory, three-day retraining course that 22,000 officers underwent after the death of Eric Garner in police custody in 2014.
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.”
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: Last Call tells the story of Dalton’s son, but the film features none of the original film’s cast, and like a lot of belated direct-to-DVD sequels it’s a follow-up film in name only.
The only actor of real note in the film is Jake Busey (Starship Troopers, The Frighteners) who plays the film’s main villain. To the surprise of no-one, Road House 2 got bad reviews and was largely ignored on release, and its reputation hasn’t improved in the years since.
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. 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 80’s Cult Classic “The Last Dragon” Wearing a Blonde Mullet Wig. (Yes, really.)
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 Antarctica is named in his honour.) Billed as a tongue-in-cheek ‘fightsical’, the show really did star Taimak, the mononymic actor and stuntman of 1985’s The Last Dragon.
1. Jake Gyllenhaal is playing Dalton in a Road House remake
A Road House remake has been on the cards for years. In 2015, MMA fighter and wrestler Ronda Rousey was poised to headline a gender-reversed take on the 1989 classic, but this failed to get a green light. However, In 2022 a new Road House finally got off the ground with Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal as Dalton, and director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith) calling the shots.
Gyllenhaal’s take on Dalton starts out as a professional mixed martial artist. To this end, the actor shot scenes at UFC 285 in March 2023, including an altercation with real-life MMA fighter Jay Hieron. The film is set for release by Amazon Studios later in 2023.