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Whoopi Goldberg says Patrick Swayze had to fight for her to be in Ghost

Emma Powys Maurice April 22, 2021
Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Swayze

Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Swayze on the set of Ghost (Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis/Getty)

Whoopi Goldberg has reflected on her iconic role as Oda Mae Brown in Ghost, revealing that it was her late co-star Patrick Swayze who pushed for her to get the part.

The actor played charlatan psychic Oda Mae Brown in the classic 1990 film, with her role providing the crucial comic relief that held the whole movie together.

In an interview with Variety, Goldberg said she went up against practically every Black woman in Hollywood for the part – including Tina Turner and Patti LaBelle – but Swayze fought for it to go to her.

The late actor and the film’s director, Jerry Zucker, flew to Alabama so that Goldberg and Swayze could read lines together. Goldberg said she instantly felt a connection with Swayze, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2009.

“He and I just took to each other,” she said.

“All the casting in that movie was agonising,” Zucker told Variety, but he Goldberg “hit it out of the park” during the audition, “particularly with the comic lines”.

“Oda Mae, at some point, stopped being how I had imagined it, and it became Whoopi,” he added.

Zucker also said that Goldberg had teased him about the difficult casting process during a recent encounter, telling him: “You forgot that I could act”.

“She was kidding, but it was absolutely true,” said the filmmaker. “I was so afraid of a comic in this role, or someone identified with comedy, that it took me a while to come to that decision.

“But in the end, Whoopi’s ability to be hysterically funny without ever leaving her character is what makes the film work.”

The casting would prove to be historic: Whoopi Goldberg became the first Black woman to receive an Oscar in 50 years after Hattie McDaniel in 1940’s Gone With The Wind.

At the time only three other Black people had received the honour: Sidney Poitier (who won best actor in 1964 for Lilies of the Field), Louis Gossett Jr (1983’s best supporting actor for An Officer and a Gentleman) and Denzel Washington (the best supporting actor in 1990 for Glory).

Goldberg went on to win the Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award, becoming one of just 16 people to achieve the coveted EGOT.

More: Whoopi Goldberg

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