If there is a universal cultural touchstone in this fractured world, it is, perhaps, The Princess Bride. Between the ever-quotable Rob Reiner movie and the equally beloved book by William Goldman, at this point, only a very few particularly isolated tribal peoples are unaware of the twue wuv story of Westley and Buttercup, as well as the swashbuckling adventures of their hangers on (Fezzik, Inigo Montoya, Miracle Max…).
Because sometimes good things happen, Westley himself (i.e., actor Cary Elwes) has released a memoir of sorts, As You Wish: The Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride, that details his experience of making one of the most memorable and adored film adaptations of the last half century. It’s chock full of cute on-set anecdotes and includes inserts from several of its movers and shakers, including Reiner, Billy Crystal, Robin Wright, and Christopher Guest. Basically, besides eating a mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwich (when the mutton is nice and lean) on a picnic at the Cliffs of Insanity, there is no better way to spend a day than reliving the elaborate sword fights, daring battles of wit, and “kissing parts” of The Princess Bride in this compendium of behind-the-scenes tales. Below, just a few nuggets we learned from Elwes. Have fun storming the castle!
As is so obvious from the finished product, the cast of this film is perfect, from beginning to end. But it wasn’t always such a sure bet. Elwes hints that among the actors considered for Westley were none other than the dashing Mr. Darcy, also known as Colin Firth. Joining him could have been Sting as the fiendish Prince Humperdinck, Danny DeVito as the Sicilian mastermind Vizzini, and, drumroll please, Arnold Schwarzenegger as friendly giant Fezzik. I can’t imagine the peanut rhyme would have come off as well with the Terminator, but it’s fun to wonder.
Bill Cosby impersonations!
Apparently, besides his dashing resemblance to Errol Flynn, Elwes won his leading role as farmboy-turned-pirate thanks to his expert impersonation of…Fat Albert. Lesson: when you have to prove you have a sense of humor, always go with Cosby.
Errant wind and other Andre the Giant hilarities!
Among the absolutely funniest stories from the set related here involves Andre the Giant, a mostly dead Westley, and a monumental gastric anomaly outside Humperdinck’s castle. The scene is too giggle-worthy to say more, though its amusement is rivaled by the other irregularities recounted about working with the gentle gargantuan actor (who used to be chauffeured by Samuel Beckett, for your obscure trivia needs).
Jangled author nerves!
Goldman has long stated that The Princess Bride is the work nearest and dearest to his heart, and this fondness for the base material made him a nervous wreck during filming—so much so that his incessant praying and fretting interrupted it. Clearly, looking back, he had nothing to worry about, for both Reiner and Elwes wear their fanboy passions freely on their sleeves.
Not that this comes as any great surprise, but outside of the brilliant Goldman dialogue, there was quite a bit of improvisation (see: basically the entire Miracle Max scene). Even part of the Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times was thrown together last minute, and executed near flawlessly. Of all those moments of genius, only some of them were planned.
So, to reiterate…no, there’s too much, let me sum up: life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something, and in this case, it’s an entertaining look at one of the greatest stories ever told. Please consider it as an alternative to suicide.
As You Wish is on sale now.