Ailing Patrick Swayze still central to new drama

Mon Jan 12, 2009 12:20am EST
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By James Hibberd

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - A&E's plans to promote its new drama "The Beast" have been disrupted by Patrick Swayze's sudden hospitalization for pneumonia related to his stage-four pancreatic cancer.

He was admitted to a Los Angeles hospital on Friday, hours before he was scheduled to appear at the Television Critics Assn. press tour.

On "Beast," which premieres Thursday, Swayze plays a tough FBI veteran named Charles Barker. The show's panel session went on without him, with producers telling stories of working with the actor and detailing how his cancer has impacted -- and, more often, not impacted -- the production.

Producers said they learned Swayze had cancer only four hours after hearing that A&E picked up their show to series. The production moved forward without the usual insurance coverage.

"Typical cast insurance was not available in this case," A&E president and GM Robert DeBitetto said. "We knew the risks we were taking. We decided to go forward and are pleased we did."

Added creator and executive producer William Rotko, "When we found out he had cancer, we went to his house. He's not a man who sheds a lot of tears, and when he saw how emotional I was ... he came up and said, 'It's going to be OK, I'm going to be OK.'"

Out of shooting 12 episodes after the pilot, the actor missed only one day of work, producers said.

"You forget sometimes Patrick is going through treatment for cancer," Rotko said. "It brings us closer together as a tight-knit group. It makes you stop and think before you say you have a tummy ache."   Continued...

<p>Actor Patrick Swayze attends the fan screening of "Mission: Impossible III" at the Grauman's Chinese theatre in Hollywood in this May 4, 2006 file photo. In a television interview airing January 7, 2009, Swayze said he was scared, angry and "going through hell" with pancreatic cancer, but a year after being diagnosed, he was determined to keep going. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/Files</p>