I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Thursday, April 16, 2015

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From The Making Of The Princess Bride by Carey Elwes with Joe Layden

First and foremost, I am a huge fan of the Princess Bride.  I discovered it in 1988 when it came out on VHS, like most people.  I can quote entire passages to this movie, which is totally faithful to the book, probably since Goldman wrote the script.  After the book came out there was a demand for a movie, so Goldman, a screenwriter of such hits as Marathon Man and All the President's Men calls this work his best and favorite.  Many famous names tried to make a movie out of it, including Robert Redford, but none succeeded until Rob Reiner came along and got backing from Norman Lear.  This was early in his career, but he was a hot ticket and this book was near and dear to his heart.

Reiner wanted a mostly English cast and automatically signed up his friends Christopher Guest to play Count Rogan and Billy Chrystal to play Miracle Max.  Someone suggested this unknown actor, Carey Elwes who had just been in a movie called Lady Jane Gray, about the ill-fated Queen of England.  Elwes, who had loved the book, himself, for years, was thrilled but scared of screwing up the audition.  He had nothing to worry about, though, Rob loved him.  Robin Wright, whose step-father is British, raised her on British comedy, and she developed a natural English accent.  Luckily they were able to borrow her from the soap Santa Barbara to play the part.

Andre the Giant was an easy cast and a good one.  He was a very kind man, who suffered severely from his disease that caused him to be so tall and big.  He ate and drank alcohol (for the pain in his back) like a horse, but rarely got drunk and he always paid for others.  Wallace Shawn was told that Danny DeVito was supposed to be in the movie as the Sicilian and spent the whole movie scared to death that he was going to be replaced, no matter what Reiner said to him.  In the battle of wits scene, Reiner had to help him through it.  He says he was 40% Reiner, 40% DeVito, and 20% him.

Mandy Patikin and Carey Elwes were going to have to do all of the sword fights themselves, rather than have stunt doubles to some of the harder stuff, like most movies do.  They spent every waking moment practicing with two of the best fencers in the business: Peter Diamond (who worked with Errol Flynn and Burt Lancaster, was the stunt coordinator on the Star Wars trilogy, played the Tusken Raider that surprised Luke in New Hope, he was a German soldier in the Raiders, as well as stunt coordinator in that movie, and worked on Highlander) and Bob Anderson (Olympic winner, coached Errol Flynn, choreographed scenes for several Bond movies and the Star Wars trilogy, as well as playing Vader during his fight scenes and working on the Lord of the Rings trilogy).  The book describes the Sword Fight as the "Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times". Peter and Bob intended to do their best to make this so and train them hard to not only fight but fight both handed.  I'll leave the story of the filming of the swordfight for you to discover.

Elwes got injured twice during the filming of this movie and both were his fault.  He broke his toe on the day they were to spend one day at the site of the giant hill where Wesley talks about being the Dred Pirate Roberts and what happened to Wesley, which contains one of my favorite lines: Life is pain.  Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something.  If you watch as they walk across the top of the hill you can tell he is careful about his left foot.  Also, after they reach the bottom of the hill and run off, he is more hopping than running.

The second time, was when Christopher Guest was supposed to hit him over the head with his sword, which was a real medieval sword hilt and knock him out.  Guest, the nicest guy ever, was scared of hurting him, so he came nowhere near Elwes' head when he struck, which meant that Elwes was falling at the wrong time.  Finally, Elwes tells him to just tap him on the head with it.  Guest does more than tap it on his head.  When Wesley falls down unconscious, he really was unconscious.  He woke up in the hospital with stitches in his head.  Later on, when he has to knock out Patinkin with his sword, he does it from the back, so the camera does not show him not touching his head.

In the fire swamp, they have to do a stunt, where Buttercup falls into Lightening Sand and Wesley goes in to save her.  For safety sake, they wanted him to jump in feet first.  There was a hidden trap door and a short drop onto Styrofoam and two people to help catch you.  Cary was not satisfied with this.  It was not heroic enough.  Flynn would not do it this way.  No hero would.  He wanted to dive head first.  After a very lengthy discussion, Cary finally convinced Reiner.  After carefully practicing it with stunt doubles who showed Cary how to do it, it was done in one take.

This book is one of the best I've read all year.  I could go on and on about all of its hidden secrets, but that would spoil it for you, the reader.  Making this movie, was a great highlight to many who worked on this film.  Sadly, when it came out, Fox did not know how to market it.  The poster pictured Fred Savage and Peter Faulk on it, leading people to think it was a kiddie movie, which it was not, really.  They had no trailer, no print ads, and no TV ads.  If the internet had been around, perhaps it would have been more successful in theaters.  Everyone was disappointed in the response.

Later, when people started catching it on VHS, everyone, including President Clinton, who told him it was his and Chelsea's favorite movie and Pope John Paul II who, in a chance meeting, told him how much he loved it.  People began to quote lines to the actors on the street.  Reiner tells the tale of when he went out to a restaurant Gotti went to, who happened to show up that night.  When Reiner stepped outside for a moment, one of Gotti's men looked at him and said "You killed my father. Prepare to die."  For a moment Reiner froze and was scared out of his mind before he realized what the man was talking about.  It has become a phenomenon and a classic that will be loved down through the ages, even without CGI special effects that might have made the ROUSs look more real, but would have ruined the movie.  Beware, after reading this book, you will want to immediately grab the movie and watch it again with new eyes as you look for the secrets hidden within.

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/As-You-Wish-Inconceivable-Princess/dp/1476764026/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1467033088&sr=1-1&keywords=as+you+wish+inconceivable+tales+from+the+making+of+the+princess+bride

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