May 7, 2015 As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride (Book Review)
A labor of love by all involved, Rob Reiner’s 1987 The Princess Bride is one of the most memorable films from the decade. Filled with adventure, sword fights, princesses, torture, pirates, revenge, giants, chases, humor, rescues and just enough kissing to enthrall even the pickiest of movie watchers, The Princess Bride was once known as the best movie no one could make after the amount of shuffling and red tape the script went through before finally landing on the desk of Reiner. Although it took fourteen years to finally see William Goldman’s most beloved creation come to life, when the winds of the perfect storm finally blew, they blew with a mighty power. Released in September of 1987, the movie was ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of American as one of the top 100 Screenplays Of All Time. Appealing to people of all ages, The Princess Bride was only a modest success in theaters, barely doubling its sixteen million dollar production budget, but gained a huge cult following in the UK as well as the US, with fans still watching and quoting lines over twenty-seven years later.
After regrouping and sharing fond memories during the twenty-fifth anniversary showing of The Princess Bride at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City in 2012, actor Cary Elwes, who played the charming, devoted Westley, decided to flesh out those memories in his new book, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride, released by Simon & Schuster, Inc. on October 14, 2014. The book was co-written with Joe Layden and begins with a foreward by director Reiner, ends with a letter from ’70s sitcom master Norman Lear and is wrapped in a limited edition poster by acclaimed artist Shepherd Fairey just inside the dust jacket.
The book begins from the moment when Elwes got the call from his agent that This Is Spinal Tap’s (1984) director Reiner was interested in giving him the lead in one of his favorite childhood books, and continues all the way to the emotional twenty-fifth anniversary New York showing. In between are never-before seen photos, interviews with fellow cast members, backstage stories and on set gossip. In the same way that Goldman waxed nostalgic on his first experiences with Morgenstern’s “classic” in the original novel, Elwes takes the reader back to their own innocent, wistful time with the film, back when everyone wanted to be a debonair, swashbuckling pirate, a headstrong beauty raised from rags to riches or sword-fighting Spaniard looking for revenge.
Told with charming self-deprecation, the actor relives meeting his famous cast members for the first time, the mesmerizing beauty of Robin Wright, the uncontrollable nervousness of William Goldman and the day one of the R.O.U.S. (Rodents Of Unusual Size) got arrested. He also recalled Reiner and his infectious belly laugh, Billy Crystal’s thirty hour stint as Miracle Max where he improvised everything, never repeating a line, the constant fear of getting fired by Wallace Shawn and the gentle Frenchman Andre the Giant, a man in constant back pain from his days as a WWF wrestler. Two chapters were devoted to the famous sword fight. Since Reiner wanted the “second-best swordfight in the world” to look legit, he hired Olympic Fencer Bob Anderson and stuntman Peter Diamond to teach fencing to Elwes and Mandy Patinkin, who played Inigo Montoya, an extensive training session that led to the two men performing the entire fight scene themselves, although stunt doubles were used for the two summersaults. Sprinkled throughout the book are snippets of interviews by other cast members, including Reiner, Carol Kane, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, Andy Schienman, Chris Sarandon, Robin Wright and Wallace Shawn, and never before seen photographs from both Reiner and Goldman’s personal collections. The respect and awe Elwes felt for co-star Andre the Giant is clear, making his absence all the more obvious.
This New York Times bestseller is chock full of info and even-keeled stories, but if one is looking for tantrums or dirty gossip, they will not find it in As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride. For audiobook fans, the entire story is read by Westley himself, with the other cast members all popping in to read their respective interview excerpts. As Elwes makes his way around the country on an extended book tour, fans are flocking to bookstores to meet the original Dread Pirate Roberts. These meetings are bittersweet, though, as the memories of not only Andre the Giant but also Peter Falk, Peter Cook and Mel Smith resurface to remind fans that not everyone is still around to see the release of this informative, heartwarming book. CrypticRock give Cary Elwes’ As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride 4.5 out of 5 stars.