Filmmaker Jonathan Levine has signed to direct the highly anticipated sequel to classic romantic dance drama, Dirty Dancing, for Lionsgate. The studio will launch the upcoming movie, which will serve as a direct follow-up to the hit 1987 feature, at next week’s Cannes market, Deadline is reporting.
In an exclusive interview with Deadline, Levine, who has helmed such films as the romantic comedy, Long Shot, the romantic zombie comedy, Warm Bodies, and the comedy-drama 50/50, discussed details about the sequel to Dirty Dancing. He revealed that in the series’ second entry, Jennifer Grey will reprise her iconic role of Frances “Baby” Houseman from the original movie, who returns to Kellerman’s in the 1990s.
Like the first film, the follow-up will feature a coming-of-age romance that’s centered on the experience of a young woman at the summer camp. Baby’s own journey will intertwine with the new couple”s romance to create a multi-layered narrative.
Levine co-wrote the upcoming drama, which is also titled Dirty Dancing, with Elizabeth Chomko. Casting conversations are currently underway, and the production team has a shortlist of actresses to play the lead role.
In addition to Grey, the new film’s cast is expected to feature both newcomers and name actors. In regards to casting the project, Levine told Deadline: “We are about to talk to people and are exploring that.
“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,” the filmmaker added.
That involves having a conversation with Patrick Swayze’s estate, Levine said. He emphasized, “Johnny is a part of Baby’s journey in the story.”
The director continued: “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.”
In addition to the casting, Levine also shared that music from such iconic ’90s singer-songwriters as Alanis Morisette and Liz Phair can also potentially be featured in the new Dirty Dancing. The sequel’s music will also feature songs from the original movie, including Hungry Eyes, as well as ’90s hip-hop.
Levine was previously set to solely produce the upcoming Dirty Dancing through his Megamix banner with his producing partner, Gillian Bohrer. But the filmmaker eventually decided to also direct the drama, as well. Grey will also serve as an executive-produce on the movie.
“While the original Dirty Dancing has always been one of my favorite films, I never imagined I would direct the sequel,” Levine also shared. “Through co-writing it, I fell in love with the characters (new and old), the world of 1990s Catskills New York, and the music.
“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,” the co-scribe-helmer-producer added.
Commenting on the appointment of Levine to direct the new film, 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,” the studio executive added.
The first Dirty Dancing is the best-selling library title in Lionsgate’s history. The Academy Award-winning drama grossed $214.5 million (approximately $543 million when adjusted for inflation) worldwide when it was released in theaters in 1987.
In addition to the upcoming follow-up, the Dirty Dancing series also includes the 2017 television remake of the original film; the 2004 stand-alone prequel, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights; and the 1988 television series, which was based on the first movie.