Whoopi Goldberg reminisces about Patrick Swayze & her Oscar win for ‘Ghost’

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This year is the 35th anniversary of Whoopi Goldberg winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Ghost. She was, at that time, only the second Black woman to win an Oscar after Hattie McDaniel. To celebrate the anniversary, Variety put Whoopi on the cover and had her reminisce about the Oscar ceremony, scoring the part of Oda Mae in Ghost and race and racism. I went into this interview thinking it would be funny and full of vintage gossip, but it’s actually pretty bittersweet, especially when she talks about her dear friends Patrick Swayze and Robin Williams, both of whom were two of her biggest supporters. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:

On her Oscar look the year she won: “I looked really good. My hair was cool. Dress was cute.” Goldberg chose a black sequined column gown from veteran costume designer Nolan Miller (with whom she’d worked on 1991’s “Soapdish” and who designed clothes for her mentor Elizabeth Taylor): “I couldn’t look glamorous like other people look glamorous. I wasn’t thin and I wasn’t a white lady, so I had to find my own style.”

While she knew she was the Oscar favorite, she knew anything could happen: “I didn’t want to jinx it. I just thought, ‘You’ve got to go in this without any expectations, and whatever happens, happens.’”

How she got the role: As Goldberg tells it, practically every Black woman in Hollywood (including Tina Turner and Patti LaBelle) was considered for the part, but Swayze fought for her to get it. The actor and Zucker flew to Alabama, where Goldberg was filming “The Long Walk Home” with Sissy Spacek, so they could read together. Goldberg and Swayze had immediate chemistry, she says: “He and I just took to each other.” Zucker was charmed as well. During the audition, Goldberg really sold it. “Particularly with the comic lines, she hit it out of the park,” he recalls.

She didn’t know Ghost would be a huge hit: “We weren’t sure what the hell we were shooting,” Goldberg says. On set, she and Swayze joked that the movie might be “the dopiest thing we’ve ever done… I don’t think any of us thought it would have this sort of impact. And then the box office numbers started coming in, and everybody was like, ‘Do we have back end on this movie? Because I’d like some.’”

She took her fellow supporting actress nominees out to dinner: She did take her group of nominees — Annette Bening (“The Grifters”), Lorraine Bracco (“Goodfellas”), Diane Ladd (“Wild at Heart”) and Mary McDonnell (“Dances With Wolves”) — to dinner afterward. She also had chocolate Oscar statuettes made that she presented to them. “We all did really good work,” Goldberg says. “Any one of us could’ve taken it, and I don’t think anybody would’ve been mad at anybody else. Sometimes you look at actors and you know, ‘Oh, he’s mad,’ but with us, it was just ‘Whoever wins is paying, that’s all I know. Free food.’”

On Billy Crystal as Oscar host: “It was like two of my brothers were there — Billy and my brother Clyde. It would’ve been brilliant if Robin [Williams, her other “Comic Relief” co-host] had been in the audience. Then the three most important men in my life would have been there. But he was watching.”

Being able to see Halle Berry win the Oscar in 2002: “It was kind of wonderful. I had a little tear in my eye, because I always wished it would be me. But you can’t always get what you want; sometimes you get what you need.”

[From Variety]

Gah, I didn’t know that the Soapdish costume designer made her Oscar dress! I friggin’ love Soapdish, one of the funniest comedies ever, and so underrated. As for this interview… I know Whoopi sometimes says some bad or dumb sh-t on The View, but I’ve always loved her and she’ll always be an iconoclast and a badass. I would love to hear more about her relationship with Patrick Swayze too, I totally forgot that they were such good friends and that he really pushed for her to be cast in Ghost.

Cover and IG courtesy of Variety.

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14 Responses to “Whoopi Goldberg reminisces about Patrick Swayze & her Oscar win for ‘Ghost’”

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  1. Watson says:

    These anecdotes are gold!!! I don’t watch the View but have always appreciated Whoopi’s acting abilities, and her comedic chops. A lot of her movies were ones that i still watch today with my kids (sister act!)

    • Brandy Alexander says:

      The Associate is a movie I stop and watch every time I come across it. Her and Diane Wiest were gold in in!

  2. Imara219 says:

    What a fun read. I have only seen her in wigs or locks so seeing her hair this way was a little refreshing as well. She has beautiful hair. I love Whoppi but sometimes it is hard to know if she is “for the culture”, reading this interview helped me realize that there is a lot to her and she is a much more nuanced person.

  3. GingerSnap says:

    As a young gayby in the 90’s, I looooved Whoopi Goldberg. She was my favorite actress I remember being 5 or 7 years old and my grandmother taking me to the video store rental place in our town and renting every movie with her I could find. Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Corrina, Corrina, both Sister Acts, Ghost, all of the classics. As good as she was at comedy however, I think Roger Ebert said it best when he said of her role in The Color Purple, “I think the world lost one of its greatest dramatic talents when she took on the role of Sister Mary Clarence,” or something like it.

  4. Ashley says:

    LOVE this woman.

  5. Ariel says:

    The whole article is worth a read. It was great. I watched so many of her 80s movies and comedy specials. She did a great valley girl impression.

  6. Astrid says:

    I really warmed up to her while watching a Beatles documentary where she talked about being a young teenager and wanting to see them in concert but her mother didn’t have enough money. She went on to talk about how the Beatles felt inclusive. And then as a surprise, her mother somehow found the money and managed to get tickets. Such a sweet story.

  7. Queen Meghan’s Hand says:

    Hold the front door: I had idea that Annette Benning for The Grifters, Diane Ladd for Wild at Heart AND Whoopi Goldberg for Ghost were nominated THE SAME YEAR!!!!! The talent. The legacy. I did not realize that those movies (all some of my faves) came out the same year.
    Whoopi Goldberg is a legend and awesome talent and example of endurance in a brutal industry.

  8. Mac says:

    The Variety cover is epic. She looks so beautiful.

  9. NorthernGirl_20 says:

    I’ve had trouble liking Whoopy after her comments about Polanski

  10. Rnot says:

    I looove Whoopi but what TF is she wearing? Who did this? Why would you pair that awesome hair with a giant pile of black taffeta?! It looks like it’s trying to eat her.

  11. Kh says:

    I loved her in Soapdish as well, but warning… The trans story has not aged well. Such great performances from an all star cast. I had forgotten and watched it again recently…. Ouch.

  12. GollyGosh says:

    I didn’t know she supported Polanski. Anyway, it’s heartwarming they / the nominees all went out to dinner afterwards. That should be a rule so there’d be no Judi-Dench-Marcia-Gay-Harden stories. I was right in the gossip-rag age (still printed mags back then) and Ghost was huge, huge, huge.