LOS ANGELES -- Hollywood is mourning the loss of actor Patrick Swayze who died Monday after a two year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 57.
The "Ghost" and "Dirty Dancing" star "passed away peacefully with family at his side after facing the challenges of his illness for the last 20 months," according to a statement released Monday evening by Swayze's publicist Annett Wolf. Swayze died in Los Angeles, Wolf said, but refused to release any more details.
Fans have been placing flowers on Swayze's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and celebrities are sharing their thoughts on the actor's passing.
"Ghost" co-star Whoopi Goldberg released this statement:
"Patrick was a really good man, a funny man and one to whom I owe much that I can't ever repay. I believe in 'Ghost's' message, so he'll always be near."
Swayze was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in early 2008. Doctors later determined the cancer had spread to his liver.
He went public about his illness last spring, but continued working as he underwent treatments.
In March, a picture in a tabloid magazine showed a gaunt and seemingly hairless Swayze with the headline, "Patrick Swayze: THE END."
The article stated that the actor weighed only 105 pounds.
Swayze remained remarkably upbeat during his brave battle and said he had so much to be thankful for.
He also kept busy and continued to work.
When he first went public with the illness, some reports gave him only weeks to live, but his doctor said his situation was "considerably more optimistic" than that.
"I'd say five years is pretty wishful thinking," Swayze told ABC television's Barbara Walters in early 2009.
"Two years seems likely if you're going to believe statistics. I want to last until they find a cure, which means I'd better get a fire under it."
A three-time Golden Globe nominee, Swayze became a star with his performance as the misunderstood bad-boy Johnny Castle in "Dirty Dancing."
As the son of a choreographer who began his career in musical theatre, he seemed a natural to play the role.
A coming-of-age romance starring Jennifer Grey as an idealistic young woman on vacation with her family and Swayze as the Catskills resort's sexy (and much older) dance instructor, the film made great use of both his grace on his feet and his muscular physique.
It became an international phenomenon in the summer of 1987, spawning albums, an Oscar-winning hit song in "(I've Had) the Time of My Life," stage productions and a sequel, 2004's "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights," in which he made a cameo.
Swayze followed that up with the 1989 action flick "Road House," in which he played a bouncer at a rowdy bar.
But it was his performance in 1990's "Ghost" that showed his vulnerable, sensitive side.
He starred as a murdered man trying to communicate with his fiancee (Demi Moore), with great frustration and longing, through a psychic played by Whoopi Goldberg.
Swayze said at the time that he fought for the role of Sam Wheat, director Jerry Zucker wanted Kevin Kline for the role, but once he went in for an audition and read six scenes, he got it.
"It made me cry four or five times," he said of Bruce Joel Rubin's Oscar-winning script in an AP interview.
Swayze himself earned three Golden Globe nominations, for "Dirty Dancing," "Ghost" and 1995's "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar," which further allowed him to toy with his masculine image.
The role called for him to play a drag queen on a cross-country road trip alongside Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo.
His heartthrob status almost kept him from being considered for the role of Vida Boheme.
"I couldn't get seen on it because everyone viewed me as terminally heterosexually masculine-macho," he told the AP at the time.
But he transformed himself so completely that when his screen test was sent to Steven Spielberg, whose Amblin pictures produced the film Spielberg didn't recognise him.
Swayze was born in 1952 in Houston, the son of Jesse Swayze and choreographer Patsy Swayze, whose film credits include "Urban Cowboy."
He played football but also was drawn to dance and theatre, performing with the Feld, Joffrey and Harkness Ballet and appearing on Broadway as Danny Zuko in "Grease" but he turned to acting in 1978 after a series of injuries.
Within a couple years of moving to Los Angeles, he made his debut in the roller-disco movie "Skatetown, U.S.A."
Off-screen, he was an avid conservationist who was moved by his time in Africa to shine a light on "man's greed and absolute unwillingness to operate according to Mother Nature's laws," he told the AP in 2004.
Swayze was married since 1975 to Niemi, a fellow dancer who took lessons with his mother; they met when he was 19 and she was 15. The couple had no children.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun