As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride, by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden. Autobiography. Hardback, 259 pages. Keeping it.
published October 14th 2014 by Touchstone
Like many fan-favorites, The Princess Bride movie had to grow slowly. A flop at the box-office, the movie spent years lingering in the Family section of the local video rental store. Slowly but surely, family after family rented it, watched it, and loved it. It grew to be a classic, and its lines became an unmistakable part of the modern social idiom. Twenty-five years later, Cary Elwes celebrated the anniversary of his entrance to stardom with a retrospective on the making of the movie.
This is a love letter to the fans, focusing almost exclusively on the positive pieces of the movie making experience. There is a great deal of effusive praise and bubbling happiness in this book, and only small points of friction exposed. Most of the book focuses on individual contributions and the necessary teamwork that arose as the filming went on, with appropriate soft-filtering that time and success can give Elwes's perspective.
Describing the process, people, and events of a movie that has spread to include three generations of viewers is not a small task. Elwes invited contributions from his fellow actors (Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, and others), director (Rob Reiner), and others, and sprinkled those anecdotes throughout the book. The dedication that the actors poured into the movie was clear through the descriptions of Olympic swordfighting work for six straight months. The director's inclusion of actors in decisions was the source of many of the movie's iconic moments, such Wesley's headfirst dive into the quicksand. The crew is also hailed for their resourcefulness and support of the whacky and the romantic.
In each chapter there are tidbits of trivia or further understandings of the humans behind the magic. Westley (Cary Elwes) was actually knocked unconscious in the forest by the sword hilt. Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) was flop-sweat afraid of heights. Fezzick's (Andre Roussimoff) horse refused to carry him. Billy Crystal ad-libbed his lines so completely that Elwes couldn't stay dead for the laughing. And so on. There are also touching moments about Roussimoff, and how much of a gentle giant he was with the group.
While I have not listened to the audiobook version, it's worth noting that Elwes is his own narrator. The audiobook also features readings by Rob Reiner, Robin Wright, Chris Sarandon, Wallace Shawn, Carol Kane, Christopher Guest, Norman Lear and Andy Scheinman, so you will hear a lot of people telling their perspectives of the lives and times of Princess Bride.
I recommend this book for fans of the movie, people interested in the process of making movies, and people who enjoy lighthearted biographies. Due to the understandable lack of plot, it is a great book for road trips, commuting, or whenever you only have time to consume a few pages. I don't recommend reading it on an airplane, because the urge to share trivia with your seatmates will become overwhelming.
It will be interesting to see how much this book colors my experience the next time I watch the movie.
It's also telling that I took almost three months to read this book. I'm so fiction-focused that even something with a subject that interests me and chapters that are nearly stand-alone took me that long to read. It's not the book's fault, I promise!