Kenny Ortega moves from choreographer to director on ‘Dirty Dancing’ remake

This morning, I put up a piece in which I discussed the upcoming remake of “Footloose” with the film’s director, Craig Brewer.  In that, we talked about what it was that he brought to the table when he approached the movie, and what the original meant to him.  Whenever you’re making a remake of a film, I’m always curious what the hook is that gets a director interested in spending several years of their life working on something that’s already been made once before.

That’s an easy question to answer when it comes to “Dirty Dancing” and Kenny Ortega, though.  It’s no surprise that they’re remaking the film.  It’s one of those things that seemed inevitable just because of the nostalgic weight of the first film’s title.  People love “Dirty Dancing,” and it continues to resonate in pop culture.  If you’ve seen “Crazy Stupid Love,” one of that film’s big laughs is built on a signature moment from the 1987 romantic drama.

The thing that makes this particular pairing of director and remake so interesting is that the signature move I mentioned may have been in a film directed by Emile Ardolino, but it was designed by Kenny Ortega, the film’s choreographer.  Much of what people love about that original movie is the dancing itself, suitably enough, and Ortega deserves a lot of credit for that.  Much of Ortega’s career and reputation was built on the success of “Dirty Dancing,” and he moved into directing largely based on the momentum that everyone got coming off of that insane phenomenon.  And if you weren’t there at the time, let me assure you… “Dirty Dancing” wasn’t just a hit movie.  It wasn’t just a moneymaker.  It was a full-blown holy crap phenomenon.  I was working at a theater at that point, and this was the kind of film that we still had playing to mostly-full theaters a month after it had been rushed out onto home video.  I can’t even imagine that happening with a film today.

Ortega, oddly enough, was the first guy attached to remake “Footloose,” and he’s one of the few other guys out there who has spent most of his career working in musicals.  As I said in the Brewer piece, that’s a short list, so Ortega is already more qualified than most for “Dirty Dancing,” but you add in his emotional connection to the original, and I can’t think of another director working who’s more qualified to make this.

There’s no date yet, and no cast, but now that Lionsgate has Ortega attached, I would expect to see this come together fast.