The Princess Bride is one of those rare films that is almost universally beloved by its audience and has ingrained itself in popular culture to the point where even shows like Supernatural manage to get an Inigo Montoya reference in on occasion. Although it met with critical acclaim upon its release in 1987, a confused marketing campaign ensured that it didn’t find its audience until later on home video. The film celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2012 and it’s as popular as ever, which makes it a perfect time for a behind-the-scenes memoir.
In As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From The Making Of The Princess Bride, actor Cary Elwes, who portrays Westley in the film, takes us behind the scenes to deliver a tale that is every bit as fun and heartwarming as The Princess Bride itself. The book begins with the various attempts to bring William Goldman’s novel to the screen, through the production process itself and then beyond to the film’s presence in contemporary popular culture. Elwes tells his story with wit and enthusiasm and it’s clear that there is a great deal of affection there for both the film and his colleagues.
Because this is the story of the actor who played the Dread Pirate Roberts, it means the reader gains insight into some of the biggest scenes of the film, including the ‘Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times’ and the work that he and Mandy Patinkin put into the famous duel at the heart of the film. There are also hilarious anecdotes about working with Billy Crystal in the Miracle Max scene and the impossibility of remaining ‘mostly dead’ whilst Crystal improvised his way through the role. However, the funniest moment in the book belongs to Andre the Giant, but it’s an anecdote I won’t spoil for you here.
If anyone was expecting an in-depth look into the film-making process, As You Wish will disappoint slightly. There are enough details to understand the more technical moments, but Elwes is more keen to share the experience of the making the film rather than the processes behind it. As a result, the book is much more conversational; pop culture references are dotted around, digressions which fill in some relevant context or moments of reflection which offer an insight into a young actor taking on a major leading role. There are moments designed to make you laugh, others that will tug on the heartstrings, but all of it is told with a sincerity that points to the genuine affection for the experiences had during the making of the film.
Elwes also punctuates his narrative with anecdotes from his colleagues including director Rob Reiner, screenwriter William Goldman and co-stars such as Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Guest and Billy Crystal. It gives the book an extraordinary emotional range, recounting comic anecdotes about antics on set to fondly remembering their time with Andre the Giant. Additionally it allows for different perspectives on certain events, particularly concerning the experiences of the other actors in certain scenes. It makes for an all-encompassing experience, one that takes in a variety of perspectives on the film. The overwhelming sense though is that everyone involved still has a huge amount of love for The Princess Bride.
For a fan of the film, As You Wish is a real delight, offering insight into a beloved family film as well as well as the people behind it. It’s a treat to read about stories that haven’t previously been shared as well as re-visit ones that the cast have talking about before. The Princess Bride is a film about the joys of storytelling and true love and Elwes lives up to that with style.
Read our interview with Cary Elwes about As You Wish, here.
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