For a certain subset of the population, the phrase “as you wish” has some pretty magical connotations. It’s the coded phrase Wesley says to Buttercup throughout “The Princess Bride” that she eventually comes to realize is his way of telling her he loves her. It’s also the title of a new memoir by Cary Elwes, who played Wesley in the film, about the making of the film (The full title is “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the ‘Princess Bride’”).
It’s not just Elwes’ memories making up the book, though. There are interviews throughout with almost everyone involved in making the movie, from screenwriter William Goldman to director Rob Reiner to Buttercup herself (and current “House of Cards” star), Robin Wright.
“I can’t take complete credit for this book,” admits Elwes. “I did get the rest of the cast to share their experiences.”
The book is full of odd little stories about the making of the movie, like the time Elwes broke his toe trying to drive Andre the Giant’s four-wheeler, and then, concerned he’d make director Rob Reiner so angry he’d be recast, continued trying to film.
The injury was something of a serious concern. He and Mandy Patinkin spent months learning how to fence, because Goldman had helpfully included in the script directions that the Wesley/Inigo Montoya battle should be the “greatest swordfight in modern times.” Whether it was or not is, of course, up to the viewer, but Patinkin’s interview about filming the big scene reminded Elwes of something he’d forgotten.
“Mandy reminded me that we had to change some of the fight sequence at the last second because it didn’t work for the camera angle that Rob had chosen,” says Elwes. Reiner gave them something like 20 minutes to fix it (the battle they’d rehearsed for three months) and “we went and re-choreographed a whole section on the stairs, and got it and did it right in the first take, which I’d forgotten about,” says Elwes.
The love the whole cast and crew had for the process is evident throughout the book. Elwes says the experience felt almost like “theater camp,” a mood set by Reiner himself. “He set the tone by being so fun, so nurturing and being an actor himself,” says Elwes.
Elwes says he was inspired to put the book together after the cast reunited for the 25th anniversary at the Lincoln Center, which didn’t give him quite enough time to share the full experience of working on the film, but was a reminder of how much fan interest there is in any hint of trivia about it. “We all get asked, every one of us, by fans, what it was like all the time,” Elwes admits. “I thought now is a good time before my memory starts to fail to try and jot it all down and share it with the fans.”
Memories of Andre
One person who gets a lot of screen time, so to speak, in the book, is Andre Roussimoff, better known by his wrestling name, Andre the Giant. From his willingness to patiently take pictures with every single cast and crew member to his cheerful habit of calling everyone simply “Boss,” he comes across as a person who responded to an unusual life with uncommon grace. Asked why he devoted so much space to the man, Elwes responds quite simply. “Because I missed him. We all do. If you were fortunate enough to have Andre in your life, as we all were, to say he looms large is an understatement. He was very much a part of our lives.”
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