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Film and TV

The late, great Patrick Swayze reflects on his iconic but short-lived drag career in resurfaced video

Josh Milton September 4, 2020
Patrick Swayze reflects on playing a drag queen in the film, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. (Screen capture via YouTube/IMDb)

Patrick Swayze reflects on playing a drag queen in the film, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. (Screen capture via YouTube/IMDb)

The late Patrick Swayze reflected on his role as a drag queen in the cult classic To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar in a resurfaced interview.

Chatting to American television journalist Byran Gumbel on the TODAY show in 1995, Swayze described playing Vida Boheme in the cult classic, which sees three drag queens road-trip across the US before finding themselves stranded in a small town.

Stringing on a demure set of pearls, Swayze played a motherly and sophisticated drag queen, something he found challenging.

“The challenge I think it was, could I really pull this lady off?” Swayze mused.

“Because Miss Vida, she, in many ways, propels the emotional through-line and she had to be filled with love and compassion and a nurturing spirit and I found in rehearsal every time I started playing her like ‘Miss Thing’, you know, and going out there and being outrageous, like I naively thought I was going to get to, I realised that I’ll blow this character.

“She had to be real.”

Patrick Swayze felt playing a drag queen was ‘the most emotional experience I’ve ever had’.

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar boasts an all-star cast with Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo also getting into drag. There are also appearances from RuPaul, Naomi Campbell, Candis Cayne and Robin Williams, as well as key roles for acting greats Blythe Danner and Stockard Channing.

Explaining his approach to the role, Swayze continued: “If you’re going to put these big drag queens in scenes with a serious actress like Stockard Channing or Blythe Danner or whoever, she had to be real.

“You had to get sucked into her emotional life and really care about her. So what started out to be a fun lark, you know, where I was going to just have a kick and be outrageous, it turned out to be the most emotional experience I’ve ever had. ”

Swayze was the last to be cast of the drag trio, and was regularly guided on how to walk in heels by his wife, Lisa Niemi, and was mentored by Cayne.

“Patrick was a stud,” Cayne told TODAY.

“He was an action-guy, strong and masculine with big arms and shoulders. He did have a dancer background, but I was asked to help him move, get comfortable in heels.”

To Wong Foo, Cayne recalled, “was really the first time that queendom had been profiled by mainstream Hollywood, and as a queen trying to make it big in New York City, I was thrilled when I was asked to audition.”

More: drag, drag queens, movie, Patrick Swayze, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, To Wong Foo

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