Tragic Details About Jennifer Grey

Jennifer Grey was celebrated for her acting and dancing skills when she appeared in the 1987 film, "Dirty Dancing" alongside Patrick Swayze. It remains an iconic, feel-good movie and arguably Grey's biggest role to date. The thing is, after the film wrapped, her life was not what people expected — and they certainly expected a lot.

"After 'Dirty Dancing,' I was America's sweetheart, which you would think would be the key to unlocking all my hopes and dreams," Grey wrote in her memoir, "Out of the Corner." "But it didn't go down that way." From plastic surgery that made some fans feel she was unrecognizable to a fatal car accident that left two dead and Grey seriously injured, the actor has experienced several devastating moments. Despite this, the Grey is now living her best life. "I believe in my heart that the second half of a woman's life is the best half," she told People in a 2022 interview. This is Jennifer Grey's story of tragedy and transformation.

She was using drugs as a teenager

Jennifer Grey is the daughter of two actors, Joel Grey and Jo Wilder, and was perhaps always destined for a life in the spotlight. But her teenage years were not without complications, and at 16, she was testing boundaries and rebelling. In an interview with People in 2022, she revealed that her parents were "controlling" and strived for perfection. This resulted in a lot of pressure being placed on a teenage Grey.

"There was lots of drugs and drinking. All the time," she told the outlet. "I had a boyfriend, we were out at clubs at night. I would change at his house and go to school. I was living a double life." She added that she was never interested in dating other teens when she was young. "I never dated a teenager in my life. I don't think I ever even kissed a teenager."

She also touched on this time in her life in her memoir, "Out of the Corner," writing, "No teenager should be swimming in waters that dark ..." One of the dark things she referred to was an unwanted pregnancy, which resulted in an abortion. "It's such a grave decision. And it stays with you," she told the Los Angeles Times in 2022. However, she pointed out the silver lining. "I wouldn't have my life. I wouldn't have had the career I had, I wouldn't have had anything."

Jennifer Grey was involved in a fatal car accident

One of the most tragic events in Jennifer Grey's life occurred in August 1987. She and her then-boyfriend, actor Matthew Broderick, were in Ireland when they were involved in a fatal car accident. Broderick was driving and hit another car, killing the two passengers.

"The car accident in Ireland was, I would say, top three traumas of my life, maybe top one," Grey told ET. "It's very hard to describe when you have a near-death experience and are present for the death of other people. Being alone on a country road in the middle of nowhere with nobody else around or conscious was pretty terrifying." She also discussed her and Broderick's injuries. "I was the sole living witness, because Matthew had survived, but he was unconscious and had amnesia and was very badly injured. I thought he was dead," she shared.

Some believe there are more details about the accident that have not been revealed, which Grey touched on in her interview with People in 2022. "It was a pure and simple accident that was tragic," she said, noting that it had "very serious traumatic lasting effects" on all those involved. Broderick and Grey would break up the following year.

The incident left her with long-lasting pain

Jennifer Grey would experience emotional trauma from the 1987 car accident, but she also had decades of physical pain from the neck injury she sustained. "I tried massage, heat pads, ice, anti-inflammatories — anything and everything that could offer relief," Grey told Brain & Life of the pain. "Nothing offered long-term results." Despite being in constant pain, she learned to live with it but found herself avoiding things that she had previously loved, like dancing.

When she joined "Dancing with the Stars" for the show's 11th season in 2010, she was examined by neurologic spine surgeon Robert Bray, Jr. "As a result of these injuries, there was no fluid around Jennifer's spinal cord-none," Dr. Bray said, per Brain & Life. Competing posed a serious risk to her health because of her previous injury, and Dr. Bray commented on how a fall or minor accident could paralyze her. He performed an anterior fusion to realign her neck, which would finally relieve some of Grey's suffering and help her understand the full extent of her injuries.

The star has since found a small silver lining from the trauma and pain she endured. "If I hadn't had a bad accident and hurt my neck, then they wouldn't have found the thyroid mass," she told USA Today. "So in a way, the accident that I thought was maybe one of the worst things that happened to me saved my life."

Jennifer Grey had a complicated relationship with Patrick Swayze

Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze's chemistry in "Dirty Dancing" was undeniable, but offscreen, their relationship was complicated. The drama can be traced back to 1984 when they filmed "Red Dawn" together. "Patrick was playing pranks on me and everybody," Grey said on "The View" in 2022. "[He was] late and the boss of everybody, and it was just, like, macho, and I just couldn't take it."

She had no desire to star opposite him again in "Dirty Dancing" but chose to do so after Swayze gave her a heartfelt apology ahead of their screen test. "He pulled me down the hall and said to me, 'I love you, I love you, and I'm so sorry. And I know you don't want me to do the movie,'" she shared in the interview. Grey had also not expected to have chemistry with Swayze. "It's a weird thing, though. It doesn't have to do with whether you like someone or not," she told Glamour in 2015. They had it, but there was still tension between them.

In her 2022 interview with People, Grey once again reflected on working with the actor, who died in 2009. "I feel like if I could say anything to him now, I would say, 'I'm so sorry that I couldn't just appreciate and luxuriate in who you were, instead of me wishing you were more like what I wanted you to be," she wrote.

She called the set of 'Dirty Dancing' 'cursed'

Jennifer Grey's role as Frances "Baby" Houseman in "Dirty Dancing" is iconic, but despite the role's success and her superb acting, not everything about filming was positive. In her memoir, "Out of the Corner" (via CheatSheet), she referred to the set as being "cursed." The actor detailed how the conditions were unfavorable due to rainfall and mosquitos, and shared that there was also sickness, injury, recasting, and even a burglary.

Over the years, Grey has given several interviews regarding the film, providing a glimpse into what it was like working on it. And as beautiful as the result was, there were some unpleasant moments, like practicing the famous lift scene in the water. "It was that painful cold where it's very hard to look like you're having a fun, sexy time," she told ABC News in a 2012 interview. In the same interview, she also reflected on how she had food poisoning while filming. Not exactly a fun time!

The "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" actor is now working on a sequel to the film. This time, she will play Houseman as an adult. In an interview with USA Today, Grey revealed she would also be an executive producer. "I can tell you it will involve Kellerman's (Mountain House), music, dancing, and romance," she shared — and hopefully, this time, the set won't be cursed.

Her anxiety held her back from roles

Jennifer Grey's anxiety has had a tremendous impact on her life and career, as she found it was holding her back from doing what she loved. This included a role as Mindy in the popular sitcom, "Friends."

"I was a fan of the show, and I got the call to do it," Grey told MediaVillage. "Then, when I did it, I had such bad anxiety because they kept changing the script. It's very hard to be a guest star because you're not a part of it, and you're really trying to figure it all out," she explained. In the same interview, the actor discussed how she was unable to come back on the show because of her anxiety. It also kept her from other career experiences, like appearing on "Saturday Night Live."

In a 2022 interview with Parade, Grey discussed her mental health, saying, "Mental health has to be front and center." She also spoke about how she was dealing with anxiety by putting herself out there, despite feeling uncomfortable. "I decided that the only way to deal with anxiety is exposure. So, I said, 'I'm going for the thing that I'm afraid of because on the other side of that is freedom,'" she shared, referring to her decision to compete on Season 11 of "Dancing with the Stars." 

She endured backlash because of her nose job

Jennifer Grey got rhinoplasty got rhinoplasty because her appearance, specifically her nose, was criticized by others, including comments from her mother. "My so-called 'problem' wasn't really a problem for me, but since it seemed to be a problem for other people, and it didn't appear to be going away anytime soon, by default it became my problem," she wrote in her memoir, "Out of the Corner" (via Vanity Fair). Her second nose job was to correct a problem with the first, but the outcome was unfavorable. In a 2022 interview with People, Grey reflected on this decision and how it changed her life.

"In the world's eyes, I was no longer me and the weird thing was that thing that I resisted my whole life, and the thing I was so upset with my mother for always telling me I should do my nose," she said. "I really thought it was capitulating. I really thought it meant surrendering to the enemy camp." However, the actor maintained her doubts about the procedure. "I just thought, 'I'm good enough. I shouldn't have to do this.'"

In a 2022 appearance on "The View," she touched on her nose job again and how people could not move past her decision. "You think ... like 30 years you'd think they'd lose interest or they would see any other redeeming qualities about me as a human being. As an actor. As anything," she said.

The star endured heartache

Jennifer Grey has had several high-profile relationships, including with Michael J. Fox, Johnny Depp, and Matthew Broderick, and she was briefly engaged to both Depp and Broderick. Grey reflected on these relationships in her memoir "Out of the Corner" and discussed them with People. Of her relationship with Broderick, she said, "I was really in love with him," but when it came to dating Depp, it was a passionate coupling.

"There was some heat. It was a f***ing bonfire," she said. "And energetically, what it was like being with him, it was like, 'Oh, I'm being totally, totally compensated for the sh** I just went through.'"

She did find love again after Depp and married actor Clark Gregg in 2001. Their relationship spanned decades until their divorce in July 2020. The couple announced their split in an emotional Instagram post. "After 19 years together, we separated in January, knowing we'd always be a family who loves, values, and cares for each other," the caption read on a snap of the two from happier times. "We recently made the difficult decision to divorce, but we remain close and are deeply grateful for the life we've shared and the wonderful daughter we've raised." In November 2020, it was announced that Grey's earnings from "Dirty Dancing" would not factor into the divorce settlement.

She had a ruptured disc

Joining "Dancing with the Stars" in 2010 was a big deal for Jennifer Grey. After filming "Dirty Dancing," she had long avoided dance because it made her too anxious. "I decided to do 'Dancing with the Stars' because Patrick [Swayze] had just passed and I had just had thyroid cancer, and all of a sudden I was realizing why was I not dancing? Why was I letting anything stand in [the] way of my joy?" she told ABC News in 2012. She ended up winning the 11th season of "Dancing with the Stars," but there was a downside: She sustained an injury right before the final. Her lower back had a ruptured disc.

The pain was intense, but she continued to compete, and her joy at the win left her on an emotional high. "I got to tell you, the win and ... the experience of doing 'Dancing With the Stars' — already like I don't even remember the pain I was in a week ago," she said at the time (via Today). "I just have some discomfort in [my] back that needs to be taken care of. OK, it's a little more than discomfort," she admitted. It was reported that Grey would need to undergo minor surgery to correct the problem. "My doctor says it won't be a big deal. I'll be home that night," she told Access Hollywood (via Today). 

Jennifer Grey experienced hair loss

Jennifer Grey has been open about the ups and downs she has experienced, including changes to her appearance. In her 60s, the "Red Dawn" actor found herself experiencing hair loss. "I never considered myself someone who would be a candidate for hair loss because I always had so much," Grey told Prevention in 2022. The thinning and gradual loss of her locks had not happened overnight, and as such, it was more challenging to pinpoint how and when it started.

"I didn't know what to attribute it to — if it was because I wasn't cutting my hair because I wasn't going to salons, or because I wasn't coloring my hair," she said. But she did find a solution in Harklinikken products, which she has promoted on her Instagram account. Partnering with the Danish brand, she shared a couple of snaps showing the difference in her hair. "I swear, [this] transformed my hair (and scalp health, who knew?!) over the last two years — it's called Harklinikken, " she wrote in the caption. "I've gotten unbelievable results just by following @harklinikken's simple daily routine with their Hair Gain Extract, along with their shampoo and conditioners."