The movie “The Princess Bride” provided dozens of classic quotes to suit nearly any occasion, as any true child of the late ’80s will attest. For instance:
“Have fun storming the castle.”
“Never get involved in a land war in Asia.”
And that classic, uttered by the farm boy Westley, “As you wish.”
Nearly three decades after the movie was made, Cary Elwes, the leading man who played Westley, has written a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie titled, naturally, “As You Wish” (Touchstone, $26). In his book, Elwes takes readers through the process of the filming of the movie, from his casting at age 23 by director Rob Reiner to the movie’s premiere in 1987.
Sprinkled throughout the book are the reminiscences of Elwes’ cast members Robin Wright, Billy Crystal, Wallace Shawn, Carol Kane, Christopher Guest, Fred Savage, Chris Sarandon and Mandy Patinkin, as well as Reiner, producer Andy Scheinman and the man who wrote the book and adapted the screenplay, William Goldman. Those cast members who have since died, most notably Andre the Giant, are fondly remembered by the surviving cast and crew.
Elwes is bringing his book tour to Madison on Friday, with a screening of the movie followed by a talk at Monona Terrace. When reached by phone at his home in Hollywood, Elwes mentioned that he’s been looking forward to coming to Wisconsin because “I’m a huge Aaron Rodgers fan.”
“I’m actually just a Green Bay fan, period. That last game was hard to watch,” he said. “I bit every single nail off my hand.” Elwes also said that he is committed to getting to a home game at Lambeau, since “I can’t be considered an official Cheesehead” until that happens. That news would be welcomed by the Packers quarterback, who’s been known to quote “The Princess Bride” lines in the locker room.
Q: Why do you think that “The Princess Bride” has remained so popular all these years later?
A: A lot of people have theories, but no one really knows for sure what the reason is. My theory is that the movie, first of all, is a sweet film about true love. It’s also very funny, and it’s a family movie, which is rare today.
Q: Would it ever be possible that somebody in Hollywood could try to reboot this movie?
A: No. If the history of Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that people who attempt to remake a film that doesn’t need remaking — well, often the audiences are well aware of that. “True Grit” is probably the only exception to that rule. I think the Coen brothers really elevated that material.
Q: People are so close to the movie and hold it so dear; a reboot most likely wouldn’t be warmly received.
A: Yes, it’s hard to cast if you think about it. Not overall, but who would you cast for Andre? You would have to get into the whole CGI thing and then it’s a different movie altogether.
Q: How did you find the experience of writing a book, artistically?
A: I loved it. I loved working with Joe Layden, who’s a wonderful writer. I loved working with my co-stars all over again.
Q: Does writing work any of the same muscles as acting?
A: In acting, you’re basically lying. You’re drawing on all of your senses and your emotions in the moment, whereas writing is a very leisurely thing. You write when you feel creative. You have the option of putting the book down when it’s not working and picking it back up when it is. You sort of have that with acting in terms of getting more takes, but you only have a limited amount of time on screen to do that. With a book you have a much more open-ended deadline.
Q: I enjoyed the parts about the sword fighting and the training that you and Mandy had to do. It sounded really intense.
A: It was very intense.
Q: You talked in the book about how much eye contact you had to make, how in tune you had to be with one another during the fight scene. Is there any other acting experience that requires that sort of focus?
A: Focus is the key to everything in life. When you’re acting it’s no different. You have to really be focused on your partner or partners, depending on how many people are in the scene. What we learned in choreographing sword fights is that you really can’t take your eye off your opponent for a second, because if you do, that’s when accidents happen.
Q: Was there a potential for real bodily harm?
A: Go and look at the film again. There are no tips on the swords. We could have poked each other pretty good. If I had missed a shot and he’d hit me with that thing, we would have been in the hospital for sure.
Q: In the book you write about the hours of takes you and Mandy did for that scene, and there were no injuries?
A: No. And those were no rubber swords. It was steel against steel.
Q: Your book tour includes screenings of the movie. Do you find that the screenings are like “Rocky Horror”?
A: It’s exactly like “Rocky Horror.” I think as far as quote-alongs go, “Rocky Horror” and “Princess Bride” are up there as having the most memorable quotes.
Q: Do you get tired of people quoting your lines back to you?
A: No, it think it’s really sweet. You’re lucky as an actor to have your work resonate with anyone.
Q: Do you have a favorite line?
A: Yes, I’m kind of partial to “Anybody want a peanut?” I don’t know why.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: Hopefully this book will reignite interest in seeing the movie. I wrote this book as a love letter to the fans, and I think I can speak on behalf on everybody involved with the film when I say we all feel very blessed by the response that we’ve had. This book is a love letter from all of us to everybody who loves the film.