Sunday, March 29, 2015

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

Why I Read It: I was a teen when the movie came out, had read the Goldman book on which it was based, and was simply immersed.

Summary: Cary Elwes (Westley/The Man in Black) recounts, spurred by the 25th anniversary of the release of the movie, the flubs, outtakes, laughs and more.

My Thoughts: Cary Elwes never wanted the filming of the movie to end, and so it goes with those of us who love the film. In all, we got an hour and a half of this mythos, the place where the border nations of Guilder and Florin are at odds, where Spaniards, Sicilians and giants last seen in Greenland work together in temporary harmony and where the Dread Pirate Roberts goes on and on pillaging, seemingly defying aging and time. We wanted more.

This book, 25 years later, gives us an extension (reading the William Goldman novel adds more, and YouTube has some interesting material as well). We are allowed back into the story. We are free to read aloud the lines we all know anyway in concert with Elwes as he uses them to set scenes. We get not only the voice of Elwes but of the director (Rob Reiner) and many of the actors, in constant sidebar quotes throughout the book. Only a few are gone - Andre the Giant, Mel Smith, Peter Falk - but the rest remember the entire experience lovingly. In fact, it seems almost too perfect, as Elwes doesn't have a bad word for anybody. This is a very positive book from cover to cover.

There are some interesting revelations as far as the personalities go. Wallace Shawn (Vizzini) not only had a truly "dizzying intellect" off screen, he was also seemingly ridiculously nervous about losing his part, so badly so that he gave himself hives. William Goldman loved his book so much that he couldn't bear to watch most of it being filmed. And then there was Elwes' broken toe. After reading this book, you will never watch the movie the same way again, if just because you'll be looking for the ramifications of that injury as they were captured on film. You'll also be looking for a prop from This is Spinal Tap that appears in the background because Mark Knopfler asked for it to be there.

We get to wonder about the alternatives. What if, as proposed in an earlier attempt at filming the movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger played Fezzik? Or Mel Brooks was Miracle Max? Or Danny DeVito played Vizzini? Or Michael Palin was the Impressive Clergyman? It might have been a very different world.

So there is no dirt, but then, I was hoping there would not be, to tell you the truth. For a few more hours I got a chance to live in that world again. And if Goldman ever finishes Buttercup's Baby, the follow-up novel, we get more, but he's not sure he ever will.


  1. Hey John,

    I recently bought this book for my husband as a Valentine's Day gift (an excuse to get it). My husband loves the movie and introduced it to me. After the kids were old enough, they were introduced. We all love it and have had good laughs over ROUS's in other situations that warrant the reference.

    I think my husband found this film because he loves Mark Knopfler and seeks out movies in which he has done the soundtrack - Local Hero is another favorite movie. Dave knew all about the "Spinal Tap" connection. (BTW, Knopfler is touring in the area this fall).

    I have been looking for a nice "old" copy of The Princess Bride. One without the movie tie-in cover. Our library has one. Maybe the 30th anniversary edition will have to suffice unless I get lucky at a book sale.

    I am so glad to hear that this book has no dirt in it. I was a little afraid there would be something that would ruin the movie for me, but it sounds like it is something everyone looks back on fondly. Can't wait to read it!


  2. I was just reading Rob Reiner's foreward. I should have remembered that we have actually introduced the terminology of the movie to my extended family. We have an island in Maine and there is a path that goes around it. In one place along the path there is a small ledge that we have named the Cliffs of Insanity and a little farther along there is a depression in the ground called the Pit of Despair. Luckily we don't have ROUS's up there, just normal-sized red squirrels.


  3. Yes, but the black flies are the state bird of Maine, as I'm sure you know. I read the novel after the movie came out, so I'm pretty positive that it had the tie-in info on the cover.

    I don't think a week goes by that a reference isn't made to the movie in my life. It's amazing how it's resonated through time. The book got me really nostalgic about Andre the Giant in particular, as I saw him live at the Boston Garden as a kid. I now know that 30 years from now to my kids I'll be the old guy currently in my life who saw Ted Williams hit a home run at Fenway when I mention Andre.

    As for dirt, I think Elwes wants nothing more than to prolong his career; secondly, he wanted to please William Goldman, who's permission he had to seek to write the book anyway. I hope there was nothing there, though, beyond the usual frustrations of film making and prolonged close quarters experiences. There are so few true positives in life.


  4. At the beginning of the book, there is a list of some of the more quotable lines. I was reading them to my kids and they knew more of them than I did! They could also finish the quotes if I gave them the start.

    It warms a mother's heart.


  5. That's awesome! Long live the Man in Black.