As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

as-you-wishThe Princess Bride was such an integral part of my childhood that I can’t really imagine what being a kid would have been like without it. There aren’t many films I feel this way about–Star Wars is the only other one that comes to mind. Given how beloved The Princess Bride is to me, it’s surprising that it took me so long to get around to reading this book. Thankfully, I finally did, and what a joy.

This book isn’t for everyone. If you have no personal connection to The Princess Bride, I suspect it’ll bore you. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it, but there are no big revelations into the film industry, no major insights into life and art, no scandals.

Essentially this book is 270 pages (or 7 hours, if you listen to the fantastic audiobook as I did) of happy, golden nostalgia. It’s basically an exercise in how many ways Cary Elwes can say: making this movie was magical and everyone involved was a delightful, wonderful, kind, beautiful human being.

Elwes recounts many funny stories about the making of the film. He goes into detail about his friendships and impressions of most of the cast. There’s a lot of fun behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the set, the stunts, the filming, etc. But for the most part, the book reads like a public trip down memory lane. It was truly a gift to read about how much fun the cast had while making this movie, about how special they all felt it was at the time. It is a special film, and there’s something comforting about knowing that it’s not just audiences and fans who think so.

The book also includes interviews with many members of the cast and crew, which added a lot of richness to the narrative. The book centers on Elwes’ experience, but (as anyone who loves the movie knows) part of what made it so good was the superlative cast. I loved hearing the thoughts and memories of everyone involved–from Billy Crystal and Carol Kane recounting the bits of their scene they improvised (spoiler: the funniest bits) to Wallace Shawn recounting how he would never have taken the part if he knew it involved scaling cliffs (not real ones, but still). All these little interviews made the book, like the movie, feel like a group effort and added to its charm.

I particularly loved reading about how much work went into the duel between Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin (months of training!), the sheer number of takes in the movie that were ruined by laughter, and all the 1980s-style low-tech stunts, sets, and special effects that make the movie so good and so earnest.

The audiobook was just perfect. Elwes is a wonderful reader (I mean, it’s like having Westley read to you), and it also features the voices of a lot of the cast and crew: Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, Carol Kane, Chris Sarandon, Mandy Patinkin, Andy Scheinman, and Rob Reiner.

This book is utterly warm–there is no conflict, no meanness, no back-stabbing, no gossip. It’s just lovely. It reminded me that sometimes it’s okay for something to just be magical, without any bigger meaning or truth behind it. If The Princess Bride is as beloved to you as it is to me, then I suspect you’ll love this book as much as I did. I laughed, I got all choked up–and then I promptly went and watched the movie again for the 381st time. And, of course, it was just as perfect as I remembered.

 

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