As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from The Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes (3 out of 5)
The handsome gentleman above is British actor Cary Elwes, who played the lead role of “Westley” in The Princess Bride, a legendary film of its own merit, as well as what can be termed a “cult classic”. This memoir by Elwes charts the course of the film, from the multiple, failed attempts by various directors to adapt William Goldman’s classic literary novel to screen, to the film’s completion. I usually like to read entire biographies of a film star, but once in a great while, I will read one on the making of one film. Last year’s book was The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, by Greg Sestero. That was largely based on my friend Dave urging me to read it. This one I saw in a Simon & Schuster newsletter and reading that they made a book about one of the favorite movies of my young adulthood, made me want to read it. This copy is an advance provided by Ms. Wendy at Simon & Schuster. The book itself is out on October 14, 2014.
Cary Elwes was working on doing off-Broadway plays when his manager informed him that Rob Reiner was flying overseas to meet him and talk to him about playing a lead role in the film adaptation of The Princess Bride, by William Goldman. Elwes is shocked that they even know who he is, and is a colossal bundle of nerves. He also had somewhat of a personal reason for wanting the role; he grew up reading the book and loving it. He meets Reiner and Andrew Scheinman, the other producer, and reads for the part. Reiner goes far in calming the nerves of the frazzled actors, not just Elwes, but also Wright, Andre the Giant, and even veterans Mandy Patinkin, Billy Crystal, and Carol Kane. The way that the actors communicate the story, not just to the producers, but also to one another, comes across splendidly on a reel of film, as rabid fans of the movie can attest to. It’s the behind-the-scenes that the reader is enchanted by, much like the film itself. Elwes is a great narrator. There are no secrets left untold (although funny ones), no mistakes left unadmitted, and competitiveness between Elwes and Patinkin in preparing for the “Swordfight of the Century”, but all in good nature. It reminded me of one gigantic lovefest at an elementary school. It’s a quick, fun book to read.
Not only is much learned from Elwes about the movie, the actors, and even the author participating in the film, but all of the principal players get dialogue boxes where they get to tell their own impressions, stories, etc. The most heartrending part of the story is the absence of Andre the Giant, who played Fezzik. The stories of Andre? Legendary. I don’t think I’ve read any book where someone could drink that much, even the entire band of Motley Crue (see the book The DIrt for details). By the time you finish with this book, you feel as if you were not just someone on the movie set who witnessed the filming of the movie, but a close personal friend as well. A small book, a quick read, but overall, a lot of fun is to be had reading this memoir.