BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Cary Elwes recounts his experiences working on The Princess Bride from casting, working with the director, screenwriter, cast and crew, through to the 25th anniversary of the movie. Also includes accounts from the other major players, such as Rob Reiner, William Goldman, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Billy Crystal and more.
PROS: The whole book was lovely, easy to read, and did I mention lovely?; Read this during the early days of 2015 when I needed an escape from horribleness and this book made me happy.; I’m a fan of the movie and it was a treat to learn more about the making of it.
CONS: The full title is As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. The only “inconceivable” thing is that the book is devoid of any backstabbing celebrity drama that we usually expect to hear from movie sets. While there were some issues, there really was little tension throughout.; If you did not like the movie, you likely will not enjoy this book. It really is a fan experience.
BOTTOM LINE: If you are a fan of The Princess Bride and want to learn more about the making of, then you will enjoy this book. Just have the original book on hand and the movie ready because you will want to (re)read and (re)watch both.
While technically not a SFF book, As You Wish does cover the making of a beloved fantasy movie. We start with some history of the original book and the screenplay, both by William Goldman. Did you know that many famous directors tried to make the movie, but every studio thought it was impossible? Given the current spate of popular Fantasy series and films, it is a bit inconceivable to today’s fan that the studios would have so many issues marketing this movie, but then I remember that Hollywood is insane.
One of my favorite parts (and I have many favorites here) is how much love and respect is given to Goldman. Screenwriters are not known for having a lot of control or access on set, but Goldman is present during much of the process. His words at the first read through, as well as his reaction to seeing an audience react to his words onscreen was very touching. He says that this is “my favorite thing I’ve ever written in my life,” and this sentiment, by the end of the book, seems to be shared by everyone attached to the project, and there is a lot of love expressed for the cast and crew. The cynic in us might scoff at looking back with such a rosy view, but it feels so very genuine that my inner, jaded self was told to shut up and enjoy the ride.
Also touching were all of the stories of Andre the Giant. He comes across as such a kind, gentle person who truly enjoyed playing the part of Fezzik, and there are more than a few humorous anecdotes centered around him as well.
I’m not going to recount all of the poignant and humorous bits, but any mention of the movie or this book should include something about “The Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times,” the epic battle between the Man in Black and Inigo Montoya. I think in the back of my mind I always knew that it would have taken a lot of skill to pull that off, but the amount of training that Elwes and Patinkin did with veteran stuntmen and fencers Peter Diamond and Bob Anderson in a relatively short amount of time is staggering. I really enjoyed reading about how they managed to make it work.
While there is really no diva-esque drama recounted behind the scenes, that doesn’t mean that everything went swimmingly. However, issues are resolved with no ill will expressed in the remembrance.
I realize that I am well in the territory of this review being a love song about the book, but for a book that has relatively little tension, it completely held my attention, and Elwes and Layden have an easy-going style that fit the mood of the piece. I was also in need of a pleasant read to escape into and this one fit the bill completely. If you are a fan of the movie, you should definitely read this book. Now I need to dig out my copy of the original story and queue up the movie. As You Wish made me want to throw myself into everything Princess Bride.