Writing his behind-the-scenes As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride, actor Cary Elwes says, has been a “wonderful trip down memory lane.” The “entire journey, from the start of shooting to wrap” of the cult classic The Princess Bride, Elwes says, provided him with more than enough memories to last a lifetime. Rather than keep them to himself, he and a collaborator, Joe Layden, decided to be “men of action,” just as Elwes’s character, Westley, declared in the film, and to record those memories for posterity. As You Wish will be released in October from Touchstone. And as fans indeed might wish, it is full of juicy tidbits from the ultimate Princess Bride insider.
It’s obvious, talking with him 27 years after The Princess Bride’s release, that even though Elwes has appeared in more than 50 films and approximately two dozen television shows since 1987, his multifaceted role as Westley/the Pirate/the Man in Black is the one by which he compares all other roles in his 30-year career. After all, he says, he was playing “a fairy tale hero, a farm boy who becomes a pirate.” Rob Reiner cast him in the lead, Elwes recalls, because the director was impressed with his previous role as Lord Guilford Dudley in Lady Jane. In that 1986 historical costume drama, Elwes’s character ends up having his head cut off. Reiner may have thought that an actor whose character literally had been on the chopping block would not be fazed playing another man in tights eluding death at every turn.
“We all managed to capture lightning in a bottle,” Elwes says of The Princess Bride and its colorful cast of characters, including Robin Wright (Buttercup), Chris Sarandon (Prince Humperdinck), Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya), Wallace Shawn (Vizzini), Christopher Guest (Count Tyron Rugen), André the Giant (Fezzik), Billy Crystal (Miracle Max), and, of course, Peter Falk (Grandpa) and Fred Savage (Grandson).
While he and his comrades enjoyed making the movie, which was shot in the U.K. and Ireland, nobody associated with it during the film adaptation of William Goldman’s 1973 novel expected it to become a cultural phenomenon after being released on VHS in the late 1980s. Elwes says that Reiner “had the talent to take genres and mix them in a very fun way,” but it took a while to catch fire because the studio didn’t know how to market a film that defied categorization. The Princess Bride, Elwes points out, is more than simply a fairy tale; it’s also a love story, a thriller, a fantasy, a pirate tale, an adventure, and a comedy. The Philadelphia Inquirer probably summed it up best: “a disarmingly funny Gothic romance upstaged by the Borscht-Belt antics of its colorful supporting characters.” As Westley would say, “anyone who says differently is selling something.”
Join Elwes today at 1 p.m. in Room 1E15 to learn more about his upcoming book, be regaled with never before heard tales of the film, and treated to film clips of the treasured movie classic.