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Thread: Patrick Swayze’s best act: being able to show up

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    Elite Member Novice's Avatar
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    Default Patrick Swayze’s best act: being able to show up

    October 29, 2008
    Swayze’s Best Act: Being Able to Show Up

    By BILL CARTER
    CHICAGO — On a film soundstage here, a tense scene was unfolding, with the actor Lou Diamond Phillips, playing a rogue cop, holding a gun aimed at the head of another actor, who stood tall, unflinching, his face and frame thinner than in his glory days, but still handsome, his hair concealed under a tight-fitting black beret.
    “Go ahead, you’ll do me a favor,” said Patrick Swayze in the voice of Charles Barker, an undercover F.B.I. agent with dark secrets, a character the actor later described as “someone who’s dying inside, someone with a death wish.”
    There was no heavy-handedness in the line of dialogue, intended or accidental. Nothing about the scene — one of the many Mr. Swayze is filming on location here in the course of making a new police drama called “The Beast” — suggested anything other than that professional actors were at work.
    But of course something quite out of the ordinary was taking place. A celebrity film star, who was given a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer less than a year ago, was putting in 12-hour days as the lead in a television series.
    Partly, what was happening comes down to a work ethic for Mr. Swayze. In his first interview since his return to acting after receiving the diagnosis last January, Mr. Swayze said, “I just love to work hard.”
    But he was aware that what he is doing right now is beyond what anyone believed would be possible 10 months ago. Pancreatic cancer, experts say, has only a 5 percent five-year survival rate.
    “I do find myself, at the end of the day, riding home sort of catching myself with a smile on my face,” he said. “I’m proud of what I’m doing.”
    He’s not the only one. Executives at A&E and Sony Pictures Television, the network and production studio behind “The Beast,” are, as Zack Van Amburg, the co-president of Sony’s television studio, put it, “feeling relieved and validated.”
    The show, about halfway through its 12-episode order, is on schedule, said Bob DeBitetto, the president of A&E. Mr. Swayze, 56, said he had managed to put 20 pounds back on since the low point of his weight loss as he fought the disease, relying on “muscle-building shakes.”
    So far, the production team reported, he has missed only a day and a half of work. Mr. Swayze said: “I’m still fine to work, I haven’t changed — oh, I have changed, what am I saying? It’s a battle zone I go through. Chemo, no matter how you cut it, is hell on wheels.”
    When the executives in charge of “The Beast” announced in June that they were starting production with Mr. Swayze as the star, they faced many questions.
    “There was a lot of disbelief,” said Jamie Erlicht, Mr. Van Amburg’s partner at Sony. “I genuinely think people thought we were crazy.”
    Filming has certainly been a test, starting just two weeks after A&E received the finished pilot of “The Beast” last January. That was when Mr. DeBitetto received a conference call at his home at midnight to inform him of Mr. Swayze’s grim diagnosis. A&E had been enthusiastic about what it had seen in the pilot: a tough, atmospheric character piece about a veteran F.B.I. agent, Barker, paired with a partner, Ellis Dove (played by Travis Fimmel), assigned to become his confidant while also informing on him.
    Even better, for A&E, was the coup in landing a true film star, Mr. Swayze, not seen as a regular on television since the mini-series “North and South” in 1985.
    “We were thrilled he was doing it,” Mr. DeBitetto said. “He’d been in all these iconic movies.” That list includes titles like “Dirty Dancing,” “Ghost” and “The Outsiders.”
    Of course, Mr. Swayze has also made his share of forgettable films, as he himself acknowledged. “I don’t know how many hills and valleys I’ve had, how many times I’ve had to refocus my world and my life and my career,” he said.
    Having turned down television for much of his career (“I thought I was DeNiro”), Mr. Swayze said, “If I’m going to do television, I wanted that ‘North and South’ experience. I wanted something that’s going to challenge me on a constant basis. To be honest, I’ve made a game out of trying to live through my James Dean, Janis Joplin, Freddie Prinze, Jim Morrison period, those demons that we all have that we’re either successful or not at making work for us rather than destroy us.”
    All was well for Mr. Swayze during the shooting in December, except for a minor but persistent case of indigestion. He concluded the shooting and went home, still feeling nagging stomach distress. “Then all of a sudden real symptoms start showing up,” he said. “You see it in the mirror and you go: ‘O.K., better go get checked out.’ ”
    Initially, Mr. Swayze said, “I had gastro-intestinal pain and just did a little tweak.” But that led to the biopsy: “Hello, goodbye, welcome to my world.”

    Still, Mr. Swayze said, he wanted to work. He called Mr. DeBitetto. “He told me he was going to beat this,” Mr. DeBitetto said.
    In conversations with the Sony executives, “a mutuality of opinion” was reached, Mr. DeBitetto said. They would wait to learn from his medical team from Stanford University if initial treatment would somehow provide some hope. They knew Mr. Swayze would undergo traditional chemotherapy, augmented by an experimental drug called Vatalanib. Soon the news began to hold promise. It appeared that Mr. Swayze fell into a small percentage of patients in whom the disease is more controlled. Then his doctors sent word: he was going to be cleared to go to work.
    Mr. Swayze allowed doctors hired by A&E to consult with his physicians. They discussed the schedule, and whether Mr. Swayze, still undergoing chemotherapy, would both be able to keep up and not become so debilitated that it would affect his appearance.
    For Mr. Swayze, the prospect of playing another part in front of cameras had a therapeutic appeal, he said.
    “How do you nurture a positive attitude when all the statistics say you’re a dead man?” Mr. Swayze asked. “You go to work.” Not without help, however. His chief support has been Lisa Niemi, his childhood sweetheart and wife of 32 years.
    “His doctors continue to be encouraging,” Mr. Van Amburg said. “His scans have been clean and clear. But they always couch things in caution. They tell us things like: ‘He should be fit to work, as far as we can tell today.’ ” He added, “They have never said he’s cured.”
    In “The Beast” Mr. Swayze will be back in front of the public weekly, starting in January. Where things will go from there, no one can be sure yet, though the production executives are already talking about a second season — with Patrick Swayze.
    That is certainly in Mr. Swayze’s plans as well.
    “There is probably that little bird that flies through your insides and says, ‘I sure would like to make a mark in life,’ ” Mr. Swayze said. “I’ve made a pretty decent mark so far — nothing to scoff at. But it does make you think: Wait a minute. There’s more I want to do. Lots more. Get on with it.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/29/ar...nt&oref=slogin
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    Elite Member LynnieD's Avatar
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    Hope he can beat it.....but odds not in his favor. Though he certainly has a great attitude!!

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    Elite Member Laurent's Avatar
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    I don't think I could handle this like he has. His attitude and outlook no doubt help him tremendously.

    He's done great, but yeah, the odds aren't in his favor. Even if caught early and the cancer has not spread to lymph nodes, the five-year survival rate is only like 25%. I wouldn't want to have to play that hand.
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    Elite Member cupcake's Avatar
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    I met him briefly in Asheville while he was filming dirty Dancing. My exhusband was one of the dancers in the watermelon scene. He was shy but polite, not to mention ruggedly handsome. He was actually getting ready to get a message, and he spoke as he walked by. I really like Lou Diamond Phillips, the movie looks good.
    My grace is sufficient for you, for my my strength is made perfect in weakness...I love you dad!
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