As most people probably know, Cary Elwes played the role of Wesley in the fantasy adventure classic The Princess Bride, which hit the big screen in 1987. This movie has stood the test of time and continues to entire folks (including myself). So when I saw this book, I had to give it a listen.
This was the most entertaining nonfiction book I read this year. Cary Elwes had such a conversational tone in the book, it was like sitting down and having tea with him and cast for 7 hours. I was fascinated by everything that went in to the making of the movie. See, I don’t read the movie/TV magazines, nor follow such things in media or on TV. Basically, I don’t really know anything about making movies, so even the mundane things of like gathering a cast together, catering for them, and moving them from one shoot to another I found interesting. But don’t worry! If you are familiar with such basics already, there was plenty more in this book about the filming of the movie.
I first saw the movie when I was 10, about a year after it came out and hit VHS. My family almost never went to the movies as my parents have never particularly enjoyed the movie theater. But once it was out on VHS, I think we wore through the tape on at least 2 copies. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I discovered there was book the movie was based on. I felt vaguely cheated by the universe for having withheld such a fact from me. William Goldman’s The Princess Bride is just as amusing as the movie and I would be hard pressed to say which is more magical.
Now, having read this book about the making of the movie, I feel that we have a complete trinity, each work complimenting the other. The actors who worked on this movie enjoyed themselves, the fans have enjoyed themselves, and now we have that bridge in which the actors talk about their favorite parts of filming this movie.
So, what did I learn from this book? Hehe….Well, a lot of funny stuff and a few things that some lesser mortals would consider blackmail material had the human at the center of the gaff not already laid it out in detail in this book. I will do my best to avoid spoilers. First, Cary Elwes had a few accidents while on set. One involved an all terrain vehicle (ATV) and another a sword. One of the accidents actually made it into the movie and we can all watch it to this day. He also talked about his time getting fitted for his Dread Pirate Roberts outfit, including the form fitting mask. Then there were the months upon months of sword training for the big sword fight between Wesley/Dread Pirate Roberts and Inigo Montoya. I had no idea that Cary Elwes had to learn this skill from nothing in order for that scene to happen. Honestly, all this time, I thought that both actors had brought some skill in sword fighting to the table before being cast, like it would have been a requirement to get the job. Luckily, both actors had excellent, highly skilled swordsmen training them for months before they fight was shot (this scene was the last filmed).
Robin Wright, who played Buttercup, was asked to do the Fire Swamp scene (the one where her dress catches fire) on the first day of shooting. Yeah. ‘Congrats, you got the job, be here by 8AM, etc. Oh, please wear this flame retardant dress, we have this special effect we need to film today.’ I can only imagine how that conversation went. Let me just say that they had to do a number of takes on this scene before they felt it was good. I have been remiss in not paying attention to Wright’s acting career. I had no idea that she was doing an American soap opera when she landed this job. And I haven’t paid particular attention to her career since this movie until she turned up on the series House of Cards (in which she is absolutely spectacular). So, I expect I will be checking out her other works in the near future.
Of we have to chat about Andre who plays Fezzik the Giant in the movie. Andre passed away in 1993, so this book contains anecdotes and commentaries by his costars in the movie. Everyone loved him and many had amusing stories about his ability to eat and drink. However, there were a few touching stories about how children reacted to Andre – they either wanted to climb all over him like some living jungle gym, or they would scream and run away. I can only imagine having that happen so often that you grow use to it and can just wave away any apologies offered by parents.
Other characters chime in with their memories of the making of the movie and nearly all of them felt they were part of something incredible. Even William Goldman stuck around for the first half or 2/3rds of the shooting. Alas, when the movie did hit the theaters, the movie didn’t do as well as hoped, at all. Theaters didn’t know how to advertise it (fantasy? adventure? commentary on modern life? comedy?) and the initial movie poster was (quite frankly) boring. But then it hit VHS (and this was just when home theaters for the masses was really taking off) and the movie’s popularity continued to grow and grow.
OK, so I have babbled on and on. This is truly an enjoyable book for folks who have enjoyed the movie. And I have left plenty for you to explore and learn on your on. I did the audio, which was great to have so many actors chime in. However, some people may wish to pick up the paper version for the pictures. Heck, just get both. I don’t think you could be disappointed.
Narration: The narration was excellent. Elwes narrated most of the book and he has a smooth voice that is excellent to listen to. Then several of the actors chimed in so it was great to hear from Robin Wright and Christopher Guest, and several others. Some actors had text in the book but weren’t available to narrate, so Danny Burstein read their parts.