“This is true love” | The Princess Bride (1987)

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‘As a writer,’ said William Goldman, ‘the only book I really like is The Princess Bride.’[i]

Goldman’s original take on the classical fairy tale was first published in 1973. It was his eighth novel, although despite beginning his career as an author he had already made significant head-roads into writing for American cinema. Goldman’s first produced screenplay, Masquerade, was released in 1965. His third, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) won him an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

The Princess Bride tells the story of Princess Buttercup, her one true love Westley the farmboy, and the evil Prince Humperdinck who comes between them. The book features pirates, monsters, swordsmen, death, resurrection, and true love overcoming all obstacles in the hunt for a happy ending. Its origins lay, as I suspect many children’s stories do, in stories Goldman told his own children. ‘I had two little daughters,’ he said. ‘I think they were 7 and 4 at the time, and I said, “I’ll write you a story. What do you want it to be about?”’ One of them said, “A princess,” and the other one said, “A bride.” I said, “That’ll be the title.”’[ii]

What makes Goldman’s novel so interesting is how it is structured. The Princess Bride is presented to the reader as an old classic novel written by the pseudonymous S. Morgenstern, and Goldman’s presentation is as an abridgement of that original work. It cuts out the parts that Goldman considers boring or unnecessary, and features a running commentary on what has been cut, kept or shortened from Morgenstern’s original.

The book in itself is a literary classic, and wonderful to read. It is eclipsed these days, however, by its motion picture adaptation. Despite all of the strengths of the original novel, in 1987 director Rob Reiner took The Princess Bride and somehow adapted a fantastic book into an even better film. Its fans have included both United States President Bill Clinton and Pope John Paul II. It really is one of the most broadly enjoyable movies ever produced.

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There had been interest in adapting Goldman’s novel pretty much immediately after it was published. Norman Jewison, Robert Redford and even French auteur François Truffaut attempted to direct The Princess Bride, yet they all failed to secure sufficient interest from studios or independent financiers.

‘This is the kind of thing that would happen,’ explained Goldman. ‘The head of 20th Century Fox at that time liked it but didn’t know if it was a movie. We made an arrangement whereby I owned the screenplay and he owned the book, or something like that. If he liked the screenplay he would buy it and make the movie. He read it and loved the screenplay. He sent me off to England to work with Richard Lester, who had just directed The Three Musketeers. I worked with him for two weeks, rewrote it, sent it back to the studio head, who loved it and was fired. Then I bought it back myself.’[iii]

At one point the Moscow Film Bureau had somehow gained a copy of Goldman’s screenplay and offered to produce the film in Russia. While Goldman did not turn down the offer out of hand, in the end he and the Russian producers could not agree on a director. ‘The directors who I wanted wouldn’t go to Moscow for a year and a half, and the directors who would go to Moscow for a year and a half I didn’t want,’ said Goldman.[iv]

In 1982 Goldman was approached by director John Badham about developing a Princess Bride movie. The writer and director met, agreed to work together – and then Badham was hired overnight to replace Martin Brest as director on MGM’s thriller Wargames. The Princess Bride was back to square one.

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So while Rob Reiner was not the first director to be attracted to The Princess Bride he was the only one able to pull together the financial support to get his film produced.

‘I loved this book when I read it,’ he said. ‘I read it when I was a young guy and again, I’d read every one of his books. This was the one that went, wow! This is a book that if I had the ability to write and I could write something, I would write this book because it was so connected to my sensibility in my head. The romance of it. The satire. All of those things mixed together and I thought, you know, what I love about this is what I want to make a film about.’[v]

Reiner travelled to New York with his partner Andy Schienman to personally pitch his take on the novel to William Goldman. He emphasised how important it would be to translate the novel as accurately as possible. According to Reiner ‘we sat down and basically what I said to him was I said, “Bill I’ve read these…” I didn’t call him Bill I said Mr Goldman, “I’ve read these other drafts and I what I want to do is go right back to what you have in your book.” I said, “The only thing that I would say is that the Zoo of Death takes so long to go through the different levels. Let’s make it happen. Let’s call it a Pit of Despair or something and make the one torture element happen there, you know?” And that was the only thing that we did. And then the prologue about how to find the book, I said, “We can’t do that. But let’s have it telling a grandson or a father telling a son. Let’s interrupt the story just the way the book does. Let’s protect what we love about this book.”’[vi]

One other person Reiner needed to convince was his regular producer Norman Lear. Lear and Reiner’s careers first intertwined when the former cast the latter in the hugely successful sitcom All in the Family. Their professional relationship continued after Reiner shifted from acting into directing: Lear had financed Reiner’s debut feature This is Spinal Tap and produced his later films The Sure Thing and Stand by Me. ‘We had a conversation about the project,’ said Lear, ‘and I said, “Tell me, what is the lifeline of this picture?” And he said, “The love story.” And I said, “How can you sustain the love story with all that tomfoolery?” And he said, “Difficult.” And I said, “How can you sustain the love story with the lead kidding it all the time?” And he said, “Yeah.” And I said, “It isn’t even happening – it’s a grandfather reading it to a kid – Rob, that’s impossible.” And he said, “Yup.” And that’s when I knew I wanted to do it with him – he wasn’t kidding himself, he knew it was a real reach. But that’s what this business is all about, you’ve got to keep reaching.’[vii]

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Securing a production budget was a near-insurmountable task. Hollywood’s major studios all rejected the project. Fantasy films had seen a brief resurgence of popularity at the beginning of the decade, but had seemingly fallen out of favour with audiences. Independent production companies lacked the capital to back such an ambitious project, which featured a European location shoot and a reasonably large cast of characters.

In order to raise sufficient funding Reiner was forced to cut his own salary, and then negotiate lower salaries with his cast. Foreign and home video rights were independently sold, market by market, to get as much funding up-front as possible. The laborious process ultimately secured Reiner a budget of roughly US$16 million dollars.

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The Princess Bride begins in two ways. The fantasy adventure of the novel is framed by a grandfather (Peter Falk) visiting a sick grandson (Fred Savage) and offering to read him his favourite book. The grandson rolls his eyes, but the grandfather insists. They act like a Greek chorus for the remainder of the film – the grandson objecting to unwanted plot twists or finding the ‘kissing parts’ boring, and the grandfather patiently working through the constant interruptions.

Reiner recalled: ‘Originally, Peter Falk said, “I don’t know if I’m old enough to be a grandfather.” He said “maybe we should put prosthetics on me, to make me older”. So we did. We did a test on it. He looked at it and said, “Rob… I look like a burn victim!” I said, “Peter, maybe we do it without the prosthetics?” He says, “I think you’re on to something.”’[viii]

It is a very bold creative choice, one that retains the sense of commentary from the original novel but does it in a distinctly cinematic fashion. It also cleverly navigates its way around any problems with immersion: it could be potentially catastrophic for a film to tell a story while simultaneously telling the audience that said story is not real, but The Princess Bride deftly manages to pull it off.

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The story proper begins in the medieval land of Florin. Buttercup, not yet a princess, orders around a simple farmboy named Westley. He loves her unconditionally, but by the time she realises the same he has seemingly died at sea. Five years later, a bereft Buttercup agrees to marry the local prince, Humperdinck, but on the eve of their wedding she is kidnapped by the criminal Vizzini and his two accomplices: the giant Fezzik and the Spanish swordsman Inigo Montoya. Vizzini and his henchmen escort Buttercup by boat to the rival nation of Guilder. En route they realise that they are being followed by an anonymous masked man in a boat of his own.

‘We beefed up the love story,’ said Reiner. ‘The book starts with Buttercup and Westley falling in love, being torn apart; he’s been “killed” on the high seas by pirates. Then they reunite and fight to overcome the evil prince. In the screenplay that I read, you didn’t know about Westley and Buttercup until about 50 pages in. It opened with Buttercup being introduced to the crowd, and you didn’t know what the back story was. I felt that the audience would be more involved and have more of a rooting interest in Westley and Buttercup if they know the guy in black is Westley.’[ix]

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Finding the perfect Princess Buttercup was the first and most difficult casting challenge. Rob Reiner claimed to have assessed several hundred young actresses for the role before discovering Robin Wright, who had at that point been performing in the television soap opera Santa Barbara. Despite hailing from Texas, Wright had no difficulty performing with an English accent.

‘I was my first film experience,’ said Wright, ‘and so you might say that I fully immersed myself in the role. I did not act. I was mostly telling myself, “Don’t be an idiot in front of Mandy Patinkin and Christopher Guest.”’[x]

Westley was played by English actor Cary Elwes. Elwes met Reiner in a Berlin hotel, while Elwes was in the city shooting John Goldschmidt’s Maschenka. ‘Now, I knew the book,’ said Elwes, ‘I read the book when I was 13. And I knew who Rob Reiner was. I had seen All in the Family as a kid and I had seen a pretty cool movie he made called Spinal Tap. I didn’t know what I was more excited about: the idea of Marty Di Bergi being in my hotel room or Meathead.’[xi]

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Vizzini, the Sicilian mastermind who kidnaps Buttercup before her wedding to Prince Humperdinck, was played by noted theatre actor Wallace Shawn. ‘I was not the first person they wanted,’ said Shawn. ‘Unfortunately, my agent at that time believed that it would be helpful for me to know who they actually wanted, so he told me – it was Danny DeVito. Looking back on it, it didn’t help. Danny is inimitable. Each scene we did, I pictured how he would have done it and I knew I could never possibly have done it the way he could have done it. It made it challenging.’[xii]

The Spanish swordsman Inigo Montoya, who is driven throughout the film to track down and slay a six-fingered man for murdering his father, was played by Mandy Patinkin. Patinkin was considered for several roles in the film, but after reading the screenplay he telephoned Reiner directly and begged to be cast as Inigo.

‘The moment I read the script,’ said Patinkin, ‘I loved the part of Inigo Montoya. That character just spoke to me profoundly. I had lost my own father – he died at 53 years old from pancreatic cancer in 1972. I didn’t think about it consciously, but I think that there was a part of me that thought, if I get that man in black, my father will come back. I talked to my dad all the time during filming, and it was very healing for me.’[xiii]

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André the Giant (born André Roussimoff) was Rob Reiner’s first and only choice for the role of Fezzik. ‘The casting of André the Giant,’ said Reiner, ‘is not like you throw a stick out and you hit 50 giants. I mean there’s not that many giants in the world. So, basically when we started this, Bill Goldman said that André was the only one who can play this part. He said you’ve got to get André the Giant.’[xiv]

Everyone on the production agreed that André was the only choice to play Fezzik. The problem was, nobody knew where he was.

‘Not even my agent knew,’ said André. ‘I told him I was taking three months off, but I just went to Europe and wrestled down there. He tried to call my home in North Carolina and even the people that lived in my house didn’t know where I was. Finally they found me in Austria. I said yes that same day.’[xv]

Reiner met with André in a bar in Paris. During the subsequent audition, Reiner found his accent so strong as to make him unintelligible. The director ultimately recorded all of Fezzik’s lines onto tape for André to listen to and learn phonetically.

André made an immediate impression on his co-stars. ‘It was like Bill Goldman said,’ recalled Cary Elwes. ‘It’s like the Pentagon. No matter how big people tell you it’s going to be, it’s always bigger when you’re in front of it. He was like the Eighth Wonder of the World.’[xvi]

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Princess Humperdink was played by Chris Sarandon. ‘I had read the book many years before,’ he said, ‘when the film rights were owned by Robert Redford and he was trying to do it, but could never quite get it together. Ultimately, when I heard it was being done as a film, I thought, “Oh God, this is fabulous. I love that book. I just want to go in and read for it.” I did, I got it and the experience lived up to every expectation that I had because we were a very collegial group. We had a really good time.’[xvii]

‘All the characters are very clearly delineated on the page,’ said Sarandon. ‘It’s not the kind of piece where you have to do lots of, sort of, soul searching and research and background work and biographies, that sort of thing – which I’ve done in a number of roles in the past. Bill Goldman, the screenwriter and writer of the novel, has created a very unique piece. All of the characters are very clearly laid out.’[xviii]

When not shooting his scenes, Sarandon spent most of his time on location riding horses with co-star Christopher Guest – who played Humperdink’s henchman Count Rugen.

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Back to the story: while Vizzini and Fezzik move on ahead with their captive, Inigo is left behind to kill the masked man – actually the not-dead Westley, now masquerading as the Dread Pirate Roberts. When Westley reaches Inigo atop the ‘Cliffs of Insanity’, and after some polite conversation, the two engage in a sword duel.

Patinkin, who had the benefit of being cast earlier than Elwes, trained for two months with Yale University fencing coach Henry Harutunian before production began. Elwes was required to catch up on set, recalling that Reiner ‘assigned to us two of the greatest sword trainers we could possibly get. And they worked us every single day… we never had a chance to sit down.’[xix]

One of the trainers was legendary swordfight choreographer Bob Anderson, an Olympic fencer who had coached Errol Flynn during Master of the Ballantrae before applying his talents to such films as Barry Lyndon (1975), Star Wars (1977) and Highlander (1986). Elwes again: ‘Bob said to us at the beginning, “We’ve deliberately asked the producers to move the schedule of the sword fight sequence to the end of the movie, because we need every day we can get with you just to teach you to do right-handed sword – forget the left hand. That’s gonna be a whole other thing.’[xx]

Rob Reiner said: ‘we’re very proud of the fact that every single frame of sword play is done by both of them. There are no doubles. We have flips where they flip off a bar or something – that’s not sword play – where we had doubles for those. But even this guy Peter Diamond and the guy named Bob Anderson, who was the Olympic champion, both of them said they never in any of the sword fights they ever staged did Errol Flynn do all of it. In the wide shots they had doubles. So we were very proud of the fact that both Mandy and Cary did all the sword play, left and right handed.’[xxi]

It is one of finest, funniest and most engaging sword fights in movie history, and arguably The Princess Bride’s second-best scene. It’s cleverly paced, wonderfully choreographed, and is backed by a precisely composed musical score. That Patinkin and Elwes performed their own stunts is visibly obvious, and benefits the film enormously.

Westley emerges victorious, but knocks Inigo unconscious rather than kill him.

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Seeing Westley still in pursuit, Vizzini leaves Fezzik behind to ambush Westley with a rock. Fezzik does not see this is particularly sportsman-like, and offers to wrestle Westley instead.

‘Fighting with him was interesting,’ said Elwes, ‘in that André had a bad back. He’d been in the ring fighting something like 200 fights a year. People thought because he was so big that they could jump up and down on his back or smash a chair on his neck, whatever, they felt they didn’t have to hold back when it came to fighting André in the ring. So over the years, carrying all the weight that he had and being jumped up and down on, he developed a rather serious back problem, poor guy.’[xxii]

André self-medicated his back pain on the set with alcohol, drinking a daily mixture of spirits from a pitcher. For his fight with Elwes, a special rig was developed so that from particular angles it would look as if Elwes was grappling around the giant’s neck – although at no point was Elwes’ full weight placed on André’s back.

Again Westley is victorious, and leaves Fezzik unconscious rather than dead.

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This leaves only Vizzini for Westley with whom to deal. Vizzini is already prepared, threatening to kill Buttercup with a knife unless Westley backs away. Westley instead offers a game of intrigue: two cups, one poisoned, both men drink and whoever doesn’t die gets the princess.

‘Wally Shawn,’ said Reiner, ‘is probably the furthest thing from a Sicilian you could possibly imagine. And he thought we were going to fire him after the first day, because the first thing we did with him was the Battle of Wits scene with the iocane powder. He was sure we were going to fire him. “I can’t get the Sicilian accent!” I said, “Wally, we want the Sicilian to sound just like you.”’[xxiii]

Despite his own doubts, the casting of Wallace Shawn was a masterstroke. It’s a deliberate piece of apparent miscasting, since Shawn bears no obvious resemblance to a Sicilian criminal mastermind. He performs the part with such glee, however, creating what seems to be – Inigo aside – the film’s best character.

Suffice to say Vizzini does not survive Westley’s game. Westley takes Buttercup, who does not recognise him until – Humperdinck’s forces on fast approach – she shoves him down a steep hill to escape. Realising her mistake she dives down the hill after him. The hill scenes were shot at Higger Tor near Sheffield. Cary Elwes had broken his toe trying to ride Andre the Giant’s dune buggy and has having difficulty walking.

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Reunited at last, but now on the run from Humperdinck’s men, Westley and Buttercup escape through the dreaded fire swamp. It is filled with quicksand, unexpected plumes of flame, and the dreaded rodents-of-unusual-size – otherwise known as the ROUSes. Elwes said: ‘My first day of shooting was the fire swamp with Robin. I called Rob (Reiner) the night before because I was nervous. I was 23 and this was my first big movie. So I called him and asked him what to expect and he said (imitating Rob) “Aw, it’s an easy day. You’re going to rescue Robin from a big burst of flame and then you’re going to jump into quicksand and then you’re going to wrestle a couple of guys dressed as rats, no big deal.” And I said, “That’s no big deal?”’[xxiv]

Robin Wright’s first day involved Buttercup’s dress getting caught on fire by one of the swamp’s trademark plumes. ‘The first day we shot with her,’ said Reiner, ‘was this scene where she gets lit up by the Fire Swamp. Bill Goldman says, “I can’t believe we’re setting our leading lady on fire on the first day!” We were all so worried she was going to get burned.’[xxv]

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Shooting Westley’s fight with the ROUS was put in jeopardy when the stunt artist employed to operate the rodent suit was arrested for burning down a kennel in a fight with his wife. He had been forced to spend the night in gaol, and was bailed out by production staff. Cary Elwes said ‘the little fellow who was playing the rodent of unusual size I was put to wrestle with didn’t show up to work. And Rob decided that the only alternative available to us, because we were going to lose the set that day, was to have me wrestle a rubber rat. And that – I had some – I had some moments there while Rob was directing me on how to make the rubber rat seem more realistic. I was definitely going to myself, hmm, I wonder if this is going to sell.’[xxvi] Thankfully the missing artist arrived on the set, albeit late, allowing the scene to be completed as intended.

The ROUSes are easily the least convincing aspect of The Princess Bride, but it is questionable whether a more complex and expensive realisation of the beasts would have significantly improved the film. ‘I suppose there are more technologically advanced, more complicated ways to do the ROUS,’ said Andy Schienman, ‘we could have spent millions on animatronics. But to me, because the story is told so well, what we have is just fine and very effective.’[xxvii]

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On the other side of the swamp the lovers are ambushed by Humperdinck’s lieutenant Count Rugen. Buttercup is returned to the castle and her fiancée, while Westley is secretly taken back to Humperdinck’s underground torture chamber.

It is worth considering at this point just how out of balance The Princess Bride’s narrative structure is. Students in film school are taught all about three-act structures, and how all films need to have a tightly-defined beginning, middle and end. The Princess Bride’s structure is much more difficult to pin down. It functions in more of an episodic fashion. Furthermore it is one that is interrupted from time to time by the grandfather and grandson reading the story.

At this point in the film the story seems to briefly collapse altogether. Inigo takes to drink. Fezzik joins the Prince’s “brute squad” militia. Buttercup has agreed to marry Humperdinck so long as Westley is set free, and Humperdinck has had Westley killed in a fit of jealous rage. It’s a masterpiece of writing, because at this point in the film there is no possible way for the story to continue – and so William Goldman found an impossible one instead.

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Inigo and Fezzik are reunited, and together they retrieve Westley’s corpse and take it to Miracle Max to be resurrected. It is Max, played in a one-scene cameo by comedian and actor Billy Crystal, who explains how Westley is only mostly dead. He can easily be revived by swallowing a chocolate-coated miracle. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but it is staged and performed so delightfully that as viewers we simply do not care.

Shooting the Miracle Max scene took three days. ‘Those were the three greatest days of my life,’ said Mandy Patinkin. ‘For three days, I stood off camera while Billy Crystal had cataract contact lenses in so he couldn’t see. I was camera left, the camera was between Rob Reiner and myself and we were facing Billy. My job was to keep feeding Billy his off-camera – my off-camera lines so he could keep doing it. He improvised 13th century period jokes, three days straight, 10 hours a day, never the same thing, never the same line twice. Rob got so hysterical on almost every take, he’d have to leave the room because he couldn’t keep quiet from laughing and it would end up on the soundtrack.’[xxviii]

‘Yes, well, that’s Rob encouraging that,’ said Crystal. ‘The mutton, lettuce, and tomato – that was improvised, a couple of other little things. There was tons of stuff that didn’t end up in the movie where it got a little dirty, which was really funny. And he said, “Listen, I’ve got the scene, go have fun.” How can you not have fun?’[xxix]

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With Westley alive, but effectively paralysed for the time being, Inigo and Fezzik storm the castle. While Westley is left lying on a bed to have a final verbal confrontation with Humperdinck, Inigo finally faces the six-fingered man who murdered his father: Humperdinck’s henchman Count Rugen. Guest recalled that ‘in that final sword fight, I was so into it, I was making the sound of the sword hitting the other sword. I was doing the “chk-chk-chk” – because that’s what you do when you’re a kid. Rob said, “Cut! You don’t need to do that. We’re going to put in the sound of the swords later.” I was like, “Ah!”’[xxx]

I mentioned earlier that Inigo and Westley’s duel atop the Cliffs of Insanity was the film’s second-best scene. It is second because it is beaten by this: Inigo finally coming face to face with Rugen and duelling with him for his father’s honour. In a film that has spent much of its time indulging in comedy, it is unexpectedly and forcefully dramatic. It begins humorously, then becomes much more serious as Inigo finds himself outclassed by Rugen’s swordplay and badly injured. It then becomes funny again, as a vengeful Inigo simply refuses to die. By the time he’s recovered his momentum, disarmed Rugen and stabbed him to death, it’s positively heartbreaking. Inigo’s response to Rugen’s pleas that he will give him anything to have his life spared – ‘I want my father back, you son of a bitch’ – contrasts starkly to every other line of dialogue in the film. Everything else has been a whimsical fairy tale. This scene hurts. The Princess Bride is ostensibly a film about overwhelming romantic love between Westley and Buttercup. It is also a film about the tragic love between a dead father and an orphaned child.

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Westley’s climactic confrontation with Humperdinck bears acknowledging. I mentioned earlier how poorly this film ascribes to the conventions of traditional story structure. Here we reach the point where all past experience tells us that Westley and Humperdinck will engage in a thrilling duel of their own, and that Westley will slay Humperdinck as fiercely as Inigo slayed Rugen. Goldman refuses to give it to us. Instead we have Westley, still largely unable to move, forcing Humperdinck’s surrender through verbal threats alone. It’s a stunning monologue, and Elwes – who it must be said is marvellous in this film – performs it to perfection. Humperdinck doesn’t die. He isn’t even overthrown. He simply drops his sword and lets the other characters run away.

With Humperdinck defeated, Buttercup rescued, and Inigo’s father avenged, the heroes gallop into the night on four white horses stolen by Fezzik. André the Giant was too heavy to place his weight on any of the horses back, so he was suspended over it instead: a pair of cables supported his weight while a horse simply stood between his legs. For shots where the four protagonists ride the horses out of the courtyard, a significantly shorter stunt double was used.

With the story complete, the grandfather bids his grandson farewell. The grandson, so dismissive and cynical about the book in the beginning, asks him to come back the next day and read it again. ‘As you wish,’ says the grandfather, demonstrating that the true love exposed throughout the film can apply to the two of them as well.

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Making The Princess Bride was one battle. Promoting it was another. As the North American distributor, 20th Century Fox struggled to make head or tail of what Reiner had directed ‘They (the studio) were very supportive,’ said Elwes, ‘it’s just their marketing department was confounded about the best way to sell the film. Was it a comedy? Was it an adventure film? Was it for kids? Was it for adults? They didn’t know which angle to take. They were not used to having so many genres thrown at them.’[xxxi]

‘The studio never knew how to market it,’ said Reiner. ‘We literally never had a trailer. They tried to sell it like a zany comedy. I remember having this conversation with Barry Diller, who was the head of Fox at the time. I was screaming at him. I said, “Barry, I don’t want to have a Wizard of Oz!” Because when The Wizard of Oz came out, it was a disaster – nobody liked it and it didn’t do well. I’ll never forget what he said to me. He said, “Rob, don’t let anybody ever hear you say that. You’d be so happy to have a Wizard of Oz!”’[xxxii]

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The indecision of Fox’s marketing department cost The Princess Bride badly. By the time of its theatrical release on 25 September 1987, the studio had not even released a trailer. The film’s only poster featured an artist’s rendition of Peter Falk reading to Fred Savage against a mountainous landscape. Fox went with a limited release at first, screening the film in a few theatres in Los Angeles and New York, before expanding more widely on 9 October. At the time audiences were flocking in droves to watch Adrian Lyne’s thriller Fatal Attraction, and the body-swapping comedy Like Father, Like Son. The best The Princess Bride managed was third place, grossing around four million dollars. After another week it slipped to fourth place, then to seventh, and then eleventh. By the end of its theatrical run it had grossed a few hundred thousand shy of US$31 million dollars.

Barry Diller’s mention of The Wizard of Oz turned out to be remarkably prescient. While it underperformed in cinemas, The Princess Bride became a massive hit on home video. It continued to develop a keen fan following that grew year on year. It continues to grow today, with new generations of viewers discovering its immense charm all the time.

Despite attempting to pen a sequel for decades – the first chapter of a proposed Buttercup’s Baby was even published in a new edition of The Princess Bride novel – William Goldman has failed to complete one. ‘It’s just one of those things,’ he said, ‘when you go to your pit, and everything sucks there.’[xxxiii] It is probably for the best. A follow-up at this stage would almost certainly disappoint when lined up against the now-iconic, beloved original: both novel and film.

The film may have entertained millions by now, but Rob Reiner only ever really made it for an audience of one. He said: ‘It was very important for me that Bill like this, because it is his favourite piece of work, and the fact that he loves this film is the biggest thrill for me.’[xxxiv]

 

Reference List

[i] Quoted in “William Goldman”, CNN online chat (http://edition.cnn.com/COMMUNITY/transcripts/william_goldman_chat.html)

[ii] Josh Rottenberg, “The Princess Bride: the cast and director share the story behind the beloved fantasy”, Entertainment Weekly, 14 October 2011.

[iii] Greg Burliuk, “Andre the Giant talks Princess Bride, Hulk Hogan”, The Kingston Whig-Standard, 1 April 1989.

[iv] Interviewed in 1987 by Roy Faires, “Interviews with Cast and Crew of the Princess Bride”, Roy Faires Collection, No 5, Texas Archive of the Moving Image. (http://www.texasarchive.org/library/index.php?title=2013_04969)

[v] Drew McWeeny, “An epic discussion with Rob Reiner about Flipped, Princess Pride, Misery and more”, Hitfix, 4 August 2010.

[vi] Drew McWeeny, “An epic discussion with Rob Reiner about Flipped, Princess Pride, Misery and more”, Hitfix, 4 August 2010.

[vii] Myra Forsberg, “Rob Reiner applies the human touch”, New York Times, 18 October 1987.

[viii] Anthony Breznican, “The Princess Bride: 10 inconceivable facts from the Academy’s live-commentary screening”, Entertainment Weekly, 16 August 2013.

[ix] Harlan Jacobson, “Prince Rob”, Film Comment, Sep/Oct 1987.

[x] Breeanna Hare, “The Princess Bride: Wright wanted the fairy tale”, CNN.com, 18 May 2014. (http://edition.cnn.com/2014/05/16/showbiz/movies/princess-bride-robin-wright/)

[xi] Cardner Clark, “NYCC: Cary Elwes tells behind-the-scenes stories from The Princess Bride”, Spinoff Online, 26 October 2014.

[xii] Josh Rottenberg, “As you wish: Princess Bride cast and director talk inconceivable(!) cult hit”, Entertainment Weekly, 7 October 2011.

[xiii] Josh Rottenberg, “The Princess Bride: the cast and director share the story behind the beloved fantasy”, Entertainment Weekly, 14 October 2011.

[xiv] Drew McWeeny, “An epic discussion with Rob Reiner about Flipped, Princess Pride, Misery and more”, Hitfix, 4 August 2010.

[xv] Greg Burliuk, “Andre the Giant talks Princess Bride, Hulk Hogan”, The Kingston Whig-Standard, 1 April 1989.

[xvi] Carolyn Todd, “13 things Cary Elwes revealed about The Princess Bride in his Reddit AMA”, Entertainment Weekly, 3 October 2014.

[xvii] Aaron Broverman, “Chris Sarandon talks The Princess Bride, playing Jack Skellington and Jesus”, Moviefone, 3 August 2012.

[xviii] Interviewed in 1987 by Roy Faires, “Interviews with Cast and Crew of the Princess Bride”, Roy Faires Collection, No 5, Texas Archive of the Moving Image. (http://www.texasarchive.org/library/index.php?title=2013_04969)

[xix] Quoted in “As you wish: take a peek at the making of The Princess Bride”, All Things Considered, National Public Radio (NPR), 12 October 2014.

[xx] Quoted in “As you wish: take a peek at the making of The Princess Bride”, All Things Considered, National Public Radio (NPR), 12 October 2014.

[xxi] Drew McWeeny, “An epic discussion with Rob Reiner about Flipped, Princess Pride, Misery and more”, Hitfix, 4 August 2010.

[xxii] Cardner Clark, “NYCC: Cary Elwes tells behind-the-scenes stories from The Princess Bride”, Spinoff Online, 26 October 2014.

[xxiii] Anthony Breznican, “The Princess Bride: 10 inconceivable facts from the Academy’s live-commentary screening”, Entertainment Weekly, 16 August 2013.

[xxiv] Jenna Hughes, “Cary Elwes talks The Princess Bride at Dragon Con 2014”, Target Audience, 10 September 2014. (http://targetaudiencemagazine.com/cary-elwes-interview-dragon-con-2014/)

[xxv] Anthony Breznican, “The Princess Bride: 10 inconceivable facts from the Academy’s live-commentary screening”, Entertainment Weekly, 16 August 2013.

[xxvi] Glenn Beck, “As You Wish: Glen interviews Princess Bride star Cary Elwes”, Glenn Beck, 28 December 2014. (http://www.glennbeck.com/2014/12/18/as-you-wish-glenn-interviews-princess-bride-star-cary-elwes/)

[xxvii] William Rabkin, “Welcoming the Princess Bride”, Starlog 125, December 1987.

[xxviii] Quoted in “Mandy Patinkin: 25 years after The Princess Bride, he’s not tired of that line”, Monkey See, National Public Radio (NPR), 5 October 2012.

[xxix] Sandra Gonzalez, “When Mindy (Kaling) met Billy (Crystal): a conversation”, Entertainment Weekly, 5 May 2014.

[xxx] Josh Rottenberg, “The Princess Bride: the cast and director share the story behind the beloved fantasy”, Entertainment Weekly, 14 October 2011.

[xxxi] Jana Monji, “Interview: Cary Elwes on the lasting power of The Princess Bride”, RogerEbert.com, 14 October 2014.

[xxxii] Josh Rottenberg, “As you wish: Princess Bride cast and director talk inconceivable(!) cult hit”, Entertainment Weekly, 7 October 2011.

[xxxiii] Hillary Busis, “An ROUS arrested, Inigo’s ninja skills, & 12 more things we learned at the 25th anniversary of The Princess Bride”, Entertainment Weekly, 3 October 2012.

[xxxiv] Interviewed in 1987 by Roy Faires, “Interviews with Cast and Crew of the Princess Bride”, Roy Faires Collection, No 5, Texas Archive of the Moving Image. (http://www.texasarchive.org/library/index.php?title=2013_04969)

  1. Reblogged this on Pirates of the Burley Griffin and commented:
    A fabulous essay on The Princess Bride that I highly recommend. As usual with reblogs, please click through to the original.

    Reply

  2. Loved this essay – so awesome. Definitely inspired me to a rewatch (and to double check that Ral and Fox have even *seen* it)

    Reply

  3. Hi, You have the hill scenes as being set at ‘Higger Tor, close to England’s border with Scotland.’ Higger Tor is in fact in Sheffield. See Graham Hogg’s http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3261818

    page. Higger Tor can be seen in the Background. The scene was shot at a nearby location called Carl Wark. Other Hill scenes were shot a different locations in Derbyshire. See the http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2928677 wedpage and follow the links to see these locations.

    Reply

    1. fictionmachine July 27, 2015 at 4:12 am

      Thanks for the correction!

      Reply

  4. I used to teach “The Princess Bride” to my Year 8s, partly for valid educational reasons, but mainly because I wanted to share and enjoy.

    Reply

    1. The Princess Bride has long been my “go-to” present for people.

      Reply

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