Once upon a time, a movie called “The Princess Bride” transported people from reality to fantasy and was beloved by all who saw it. They passed this treasure on to their children and grandchildren so successive generations could enjoy it too.
It is “the gift the keeps on giving,” said British actor Cary Elwes, who starred in the film. He attributes the movie’s enduring success to its theme of true love.
“I think it’s a very sweet tale about love, and it has a great sense of humor about it, which is wonderful, but it’s just a sweet tale about love. It’s not ashamed of that—a movie about true love.”
Elwes is the author of “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride,” based on his and others’ recollections about making a movie that has become a classic.
So why write a book about a movie made 27 years ago?
“I wanted to basically put down on paper every single little story that I could remember about this wonderful extended family that I had for three months in Northern England,” Elwes explains.
So many aspects of the movie, a timeless story of love, revenge, and rescue, are endearing while also entertaining, and many scenes are laugh-out-loud funny. There is a lot of humor in the pseudo-fairytale where even the bad guys play by the rules.
Elwes plays Westley, a farmhand for the beautiful Buttercup (Robin Wright Penn). To all of Buttercup’s requests Westley replies “as you wish,” until one day they realize that they are in love. Westley leaves to make his mark on the world so they can marry when he returns. What ensues is a storybook tale of true love and heroism.
The movie is based on the book by William Goldman—a book that both director Rob Reiner and Elwes had read and loved long before they met. Indeed, Reiner convinced Goldman to write the screenplay.
Elwes isn’t the only voice in “As You Wish.” There are comments and information from co-producers Reiner and Andrew Scheinman, most of the cast and crew, and even Goldman. Each describes a bit about how the film was made, how they entertained each other to the point that several takes were needed to shoot a scene, and, to a person, how much fun they had making the movie.
Fun is only part of the story. Consider the extended sword fight between Westley and Inigo (Mandy Patinkin). They had to fence left-handed and then switch to right-handed, all while clambering up and down a stone staircase and across the rock-strewn ground.
Both men trained for weeks to perfect their swordsmanship—a necessity given that the dueling was described in the screenplay and the book as “the greatest sword fight.”
During the shooting of the sword fight scene, Elwes and Patinkin were asked to make it longer; they were given just 20 minutes to choreograph an additional set of moves, which were then filmed. They pulled it off brilliantly.
Billy Crystal as Yiddish joke-telling wizard Miracle Max adlibbed his lines and caused so much laughter that Elwes and Reiner were banned from the set while Crystal was being filmed so the sound track wouldn’t be affected.
The book contains a description of André Roussimoff’s (known as André the Giant) legendary ability to consume alcohol without noticeable effects. One night he drank too much and passed out in a hotel lobby. Unable to move his giant frame, the staff surrounded his body with a velvet rope until he came to.
“He was probably the nicest guy I ever met,” says Elwes of Roussimoff. “The sweetest man.”
“As You Wish” should answer the questions pondered over the years by legions of “Princess Bride” fans as it is chock full of anecdotes about the cast and the making of the movie.
The book was released on Oct. 14.