We lived in a house in the woods when I unwrapped the large, flat Christmas present. I just stared, then looked up at Stephanie, her eyes twinkling to shame Santa. I cradled a copy of the screenplay for The Princess Bride, with the autographs of all the actors.
“That’s for the whole family,” she said.
At night, we’d all pile in bed — my bride, my two young boys, and Haleigh, who was perhaps 10 at the time. She read the part of Buttercup. I did all of the other characters, with appropriate voices.
“Now this did happen once upon a time
when things were not so complex.”
— Mark Knopfler, “Storybook Love” (from The Princess Bride)
Cary Elwes, the immortal Westley from the classic film, handles the story like a grandfather with a new baby — with the kind of care that inspired William Goldman to write the story for his daughters, and with the joyful love with which Rob Reiner brought it to the screen.That’s probably why I was so moved these last two days while reading As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride
There’s no good reason why a man of 53 years should puddle up every page or two when reading about movie making, but I did. It was jarring to discover how much The Princess Bride means to me. I rejoiced in the fun, and the love, and the devotion to excellence poured into this film like ingredients into a family cookie recipe.
As You Wish lets you see your favorite movie through the eyes of a then-23-year-old actor whose career, and whose life, it would change forever. But it’s also seasoned with production photos and remembrances from Reiner, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, Christopher Sarandon, Billy Crystal and Carol Kane among others. André the Giant, who played Fezzik (a giant), passed away in 1993, but his legacy lives on in every chapter of this book.
It reads like a fairy tale about the making of a fairy tale — that is to say, it’s funny, and touching, and thrilling and, yes, magical.
These days, I buy most books on Kindle, but this I purchased in hardcover, both for the photos, and so I could pass it around the family. (I briefly imagined us all climbing into bed again to read it aloud, but the bed’s not big enough anymore.)
We, of course, own a copy or two of this movie, which was a mild moneymaker (not a hit) at the box office, but which became a legend on VHS…then DVD…then Blu-Ray…then iTunes and so on. The studio literally didn’t know how to promote it, and spent nearly nothing on ads and trailers for it, because it cut across several genres, and appealed to multiple demographics.
When studios promote “family movies” these days, it usually means that it’s a sophomoric flick aimed at kids, with the parents providing the taxi to the theater. But The Princess Bride doesn’t merely have something for everyone — it’s not a buffet — it’s a work of art so warm, endearing and delightful, that it’s hard to imagine anyone using terms like “demographic,” “genre” or “target audience.”
Cary Elwes’ new book is an act of love, about an act of love that produced an act of love. May it magnify the legend, passing it from generation to generation as long as stories are told.