This installment of the GNBC features As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. It is a memoir by Cary Elwes (who played Westley in the film) about his time spent making that film. If you have never seen The Princess Bride…well, first of all, you should go see it, because it’s wonderful and funny and appeals to so many types of people. But obviously this book is intended for fans of the movie, and as I consider myself one, I enjoyed it greatly.
I have been a fan of Cary Elwes in many roles, including his turn as a thief on Psych, and his role as a Robin Hood with an English accent. He has always seemed like a very charming man, and consequently his book is very charming. He comes across as very modest and gracious, (mostly) level-headed but with a spirit of joy in life.
I’ve never read a memoir from a film set before, so it was very interesting to me to learn not just about The Princess Bride, but how all movies are made in general. Shooting on location, training, stunts, cast interactions, the whole process. For example, the very first scene Elwes shot was the Fire Swamp, which involved setting Robin Wright (Buttercup)’s dress on fire, and then later practically improvising the stunt where Westley dives headfirst into the quicksand (he was originally just supposed to jump in feet-first). He also trained with fencing professional for months to be able to do the swordfight scene with Inigo. I was constantly telling my husband (also a fan) all these little tidbits I was learning as I went along.
The book also makes frequent use of perspectives from the other cast members (Fred Savage, Christopher Guest, Christopher Sarandon, Billy Crystal, Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, etc.), the director Rob Reiner, and the writer William Goldman (who also wrote the original book). Everything that everyone says just gives you a sense that they all had such a good time making this film, that they put so much love into it, and it has a very special place in their hearts. I think it really shows in the finished product. Because of this happy energy, it is a fun, light read, and because of the format of vignettes and anecdotes, it is very easy to pick up and put down if you don’t have much time for reading.
The book covers many of the famous scenes from the movie, as well as some behind-the-scenes things, and it even covers a little of the release of the movie. I always kind of figured The Princess Bride was considered a “cult classic,” because I had never heard of it until I was in high school, and the book outlines why this is. Upon its release, the studio had trouble marketing it, apparently because of the mix of genres, and though the initial audience reaction was great, the movie basically flopped. But once it started making its way onto VHS and getting spread by word of mouth, its popularity picked up,eventually becoming such that the cast had a 25th anniversary reunion screening at the Lincoln Center in 2012. The movie is now thirty years old and just as popular as ever.
I think this book will definitely change the way I see the movie the next time I watch it. I will now never be able to NOT think about the fact that Westley is actually getting knocked out by Count Rugen (no acting required!) and that he had a broken toe in some scenes, etc. It does kinda pull the veil of movie magic back a bit, but I still find it entertaining, just in a different way.
Reading the memoir also inspired me to start reading the original novel, which I am also really enjoying. Even just getting through the author’s forward is an entertaining journey.
Next time on GNBC we will switch back to fiction, so keep an eye out for a new pick soon.