'Dirty Dancing' Star Jennifer Grey Reflects on Matthew Broderick's Deadly Car Accident

Jennifer Grey reveals one of the most significant events from her life in the new book, Out of the Corner: A Memoir. After the memoir's release, the 62-year-old actress spoke with Entertainment Tonight and wasn't afraid to share some painful memories, such as a deadly crash that occurred on the eve of her big break. Grey was involved in a fatal car accident in Ireland with her then-boyfriend, Matthew Broderick, just weeks before her 1987 film Dirty Dancing's release. Broderick was driving the car at the time of the accident.

According to People, the couple met on the set of John Hughes' Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and after their on-screen appearance as siblings in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, they were traveling around Ireland in secret. After deciding to rent a BMW 316, the pair drove from Irvinestown to Maguiresbridge. 80 miles west of Belfast, they collided head-on with a car driven by a 28-year-old woman named Anna Gallagher. She was with her 63-year-old mother, Margaret, and both women were pronounced dead on arrival at Erne Hospital.

"The car accident in Ireland was, I would say, top three traumas of my life, maybe top one. It's very hard to describe when you have a near-death experience and are present for the death of other people," Grey told ET. "... Being alone on a country road in the middle of nowhere with nobody else around or conscious was pretty terrifying... It led to so many other things in my life."

"I was the sole living witness, because Matthew had survived, but he was unconscious and had amnesia and was very badly injured. I thought he was dead," she said. "I didn't even know there were two other women who were tragically killed at the time. It's just something that you just don't come back from in the same way."

The tragedy still haunts Grey, she said. "I wasn't holding any information that people seem to think I did because they wanted an answer and there was no answer because it was an accident," she continued. "And [Broderick] was a great driver, and nobody was drinking. It was just an accident. And it was tragic, and I think about the family in Ireland all the time."

Fireman Ken Ramsey said the car had to be cut down the side to give Broderick first aid. He said Broderick kept repeating, "Did I hurt them? Did I hurt them?" A broken leg and facial lacerations caused Broderick to spend four weeks in the hospital, while Grey only sustained superficial bruises. After the accident, Broderick was charged with causing death by dangerous driving and faced five years in prison. He was later found guilty of careless driving and fined $175, an action the victims' family reportedly called a "travesty of justice" at the time.

Grey later opened up to People magazine about the crash, confessing she suffered from survivor's guilt."One minute we're going down the road and music is playing, and the next minute… it's all different. I couldn't be fearless after that," she said. "I became America's sweetheart within five days of the accident." Grey and Broderick broke up in 1988, and Grey was set up on a blind date with Johnny Depp the following year. After dating for a year and even getting engaged, they split up. "All I can say about that trial is that it breaks my heart for everybody involved," Grey told ET. "I just think it's sad and I wish it was resolved and I just wish everybody well."

In 1997, nine years later, Broderick married Sarah Jessica Parker, and the pair now have nine-year-old twin girls, Loretta and Tabitha, and a 16-year-old son, James. Grey went on to marry Clark Gregg in 2001, and months later, the couple gave birth to their daughter, Stella. The two filed for divorce in 2020.

The relationship was long since over, but the accident still left something lingering from the crash. It left Grey with what she thought was intense whiplash. It wasn't until she signed up for the 2010 season of Dancing with the Stars that she found out just how serious her condition was. "I knew that I had horrible whiplash," she explained to DISC Sports & Spine, "but it wasn't until I was older that I realized how serious it was." Her spinal cord was compressed, and her cervical spine was unstable. Following spine surgery, Jennifer Grey appeared in the 2010 season of DWTS and won. Unfortunately, she ruptured a disc while on the show and needed a third surgery to correct it as well.

Besides teasing details of a new Dirty Dancing movie that she said is, "more real than it's ever been," Grey is content to talk at length about the contents of her memoir and the process behind creating it."Writing this book was definitely one of the most revelatory experiences of my life," Grey told ET. "It surprised me because it's my life -- I'm pretty sure I know what happened -- but it was re-examining the high and low points and looking at it from the perspective of like maybe I don't know exactly what happened. Let me revisit it and really examine if how it had been told to me, how I had been telling it for so long, was actually true."

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"Obviously, it's my story, it's my perspective, there is no imperial truth. I was really being quite rigorous with myself with vetting my answers and being curious and not attached to the original story," she added. "When you get older, you've been telling some stories for a really long time that you just assume, it becomes reflexive... It was so interesting to feel and re-experience [my past] in a different way than I had been." Grey's memoir, Out of the Corner, is now available for purchase.