Patrick Swayze Helped Whoopi Goldberg Get Her Oscar-Winning Role in ‘Ghost’ After She Wasn’t Allowed to Audition

Throughout the 1980s, Patrick Swayze rose through the ranks to become one of Hollywood‘s hottest actors. In 1985, a comedian named Whoopi Goldberg made a splash with her breakout role in Steven Spielberg‘s The Color Purple. Goldberg became one of the industry’s most in-demand actors, but there was one Oscar-winning movie that didn’t want to hire her.

Whoopi Goldberg receives an Oscar at the 63rd Academy Awards on March 25, 1991 | John Barr/Liaison
Whoopi Goldberg receives an Oscar at the 63rd Academy Awards on March 25, 1991 | John Barr/Liaison

Whoopi Goldberg’s career exploded after ‘The Color Purple’

In the early ’80s, Goldberg was discovered by director Mike Nichols at her one-woman show, and the EGOT-status director helped Goldberg bring the show to Broadway. Steven Spielberg saw the show and cast her in The Color Purple in 1985, and the whole industry was put on notice after she received her first Academy Award nomination for the role of Celie.

Between 1985 and ’88, Goldberg was one of the hardest-working actors in Hollywood. She appeared in movies including Jumpin’ Jack Flash (where she met her second husband David Claessen), Burglar, Fatal Beauty, The Telephone, and Clara’s Heart.

Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Swayze in Ghost (1990) | aramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Swayze in Ghost (1990) | Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Whoopi Goldberg wasn’t allowed to audition for ‘Ghost’

Despite Goldberg’s career being on fire in the late 1980s, there was one movie where the casting directors and studio didn’t want to meet with her. In a recent appearance on supermodel Naomi Campbell’s web show No Filter with Naomi, Goldberg told Campbell the story of how she almost didn’t get one of the biggest roles of her career.

Goldberg was having lunch with her friend one day who was also an actor, and she told her she’d just come from an audition where “every Black woman and her mother” came to try out. Goldberg called her agent Ron Meyer to ask why she wasn’t told about it, and he told her plain and simple, “They don’t want you.” He continued, “They think that your persona — that Whoopi — is too big and will take people out of the movie.”

Goldberg moved past it, though she admitted “It hurt my feelings a little bit, I’m not gonna lie.”

Patrick Swayze stepped in to give Whoopi a chance to audition

Goldberg was in Alabama filming a movie when her agent gave her a call with some unexpected news: “The director and the actor want to come to wherever you are and see if there’s any way to do this with you.”

Goldberg was surprised, and when she asked Meyer what happened, he revealed that a big reason it was happening was because Swayze was hired the film’s lead.

“Patrick wanted to know why they hadn’t come to you, because they told him that they thought that you would take people out of the movie. So he said, ‘So you haven’t even auditioned her?'” Goldberg recounted. Casting director Bonnie Timmermann told Swayze, “No, they won’t let me bring her in.”

According to Goldberg, “Patrick said ‘I’m not saying yes to this until we know that she’s not the right person, because this is ridiculous. She’s perfect!'”

At that time, Goldberg had never met him. “But he was a fan,” Goldberg smiled. “You never know who’s watching. You never know who remembers something about you.”

The movie Ghost, directed by Jerry Zucker and written by Bruce Joel Rubin. Seen here, Whoopi Goldberg as Oda Mae Brown (playing as "Rita Miller"). Initial theatrical release July 13, 1990. | Paramount Pictures/CBS via Getty Images)
Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost, directed by Jerry Zucker and written by Bruce Joel Rubin | Paramount Pictures/CBS via Getty Images)

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Goldberg and Swayze became instant friends thanks to ‘Ghost’

Goldberg and Swayze finally did meet in Alabama to see if they could work as co-stars. “As soon as Patrick and I looked at each other, we started laughing,” Goldberg remembers. Their friendship quickly grew from there.

“Patrick and I were just cutting up, and Jerry [Zucker] would say, ‘Patrick, you gotta stop because you can’t do the jokes! Stop trying to do the jokes!'” Even though Swayze wanted to be the comic on set, the production team told him that that role was reserved for Goldberg.

Goldberg went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, making her only the second Black woman to win an Oscar for acting and the first since Hattie McDaniel first won 50 years prior.