“It was like summer camp for actors. We were out playing dress-up in medieval clothes — playing pirates and princess and giants — it was just so much fun.” So says Cary Elwes, describing the behind-the-scenes atmosphere during the making of Rob Reiner’s classic “The Princess Bride.”
Elwes relates that he and other stars of the beloved fantasy romantic comedy were at New York’s Lincoln Center for a 25th anniversary showing and panel discussion, and he found he didn’t have time to answer fans’ questions adequately. And so he started writing. And writing. And writing — until he and coauthor Joe Layden completed the new “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.”
Now the rest of us can be in on what was going on among actors including Robin Wright, Billy Crystal, Wallace Shawn, Christopher Guest and of course, Mandy “My name is Inigo Montoya” Patinkin off-camera back in 1987 when the film was made.
“All the cast got involved, which I’m so grateful for,” says Elwes. “It may say my name and my co-writer, Joe Layden, on the cover, but in fact it’s an effort by the entire cast and the director of the piece.”
Elwes recalls that when he first met Patinkin prior to the start of shooting, “I thought he was really cool. I’d seen him in ‘Ragtime’ and knew of his work and I knew he was a serious, theater trained actor. He’d won a number of awards already. And he’d already spent two months training in sword fighting — which he didn’t tell me. So by the time I started training I was already two months behind.”
Further complicating Elwes’ life was the fact that he broke his toe when Andre the Giant convinced him to take his all-terrain vehicle out for a spin. Now, Elwes attributes that break to helping him focus on getting his arm movements right for his fencing as the swashbuckling Westley.
According to Elwes, the “Princess Bride” team has stayed in touch ever since filming. “It’s like a family, really.” He misses the late Andre the Giant. “We all do. He’s very much in our hearts, so it was wonderful reminiscing about him. That’s the beautiful part of doing this. The memory is like a playback in your head and you get to relive things — although with less and less clarity as time goes on. Luckily, I had all the call sheets from the movie, and that was really a good memory aid for me to be able to go through all of those.”
The physicality required of him would leave him “bruised and burned and exhausted” after a day’s shooting, he says, laughing. However, the biggest challenge was to refrain from breaking up during shooting when so many funny things were going on. One particularly gaseous shot involving Andre the Giant makes for a standout anecdote in the book.
And then there was Robin Wright. Elwes’ first impression: “Beautiful. Stunning. Like Grace Kelly — and funny! So funny.”
Oftentimes, exquisitely beautiful women aren’t regarded as able to be funny. Not so with Wright, says her “Bride” leading man. “Oh my God, she’s hysterical! In fact, I might say that was the first thing I noticed. No, both at the same time — she’s that beautiful. She’s that funny,” he says.
Elwes will be traveling to promote the book, which has its official pub date next month. He also has two new movies in the can — the dramas “Sugar Mountain,” and “The Greens Are Gone.”
He doesn’t need to look at statistics to know that “The Princess Bride” has found new audiences with each generation. Despite his substantial body of work, he still gets recognized as Westley. In fact, “at Toys R Us, some days, it is difficult in certain aisles,” he admits. But more seriously, he adds, “It seems to be a film that resonates with people, that they feel connected to.”
Twitter: @Cary_Elwes // https://twitter.com/Cary_Elwes