Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: "As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride" by Cary Elwes and Joe Laydon

If you asked me to name my favorite movies of all time, “The Princess Bride” would certainly be in the Top 3, if not No. 1. So it should come as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride” ($26, Touchstone), a memoir of the making of the movie by Westley himself, Cary Elwes, and Joe Laydon.

In the book, Elwes offers his thoughts on the movie and the popularity that it’s come to enjoy over the years despite its soft initial run in theaters, as well as some fantastic stories from his casting through a reunion of the surviving cast members 25 years later.

Scattered throughout Elwes’ remembrances are short notes from many of the film’s stars, as well as director Rob Reiner and producer Andrew Scheinman.

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve watched “The Princess Bride” over the years, and it’s one of those movies that never gets old. Even though I can quote just about every line – and certainly every memorable one – I still watch and continue to quote along with the characters on screen. It’s a movie that always takes me on a journey and makes me wish that I were a dashing rogue like Westley or, my personal favorite character, Inigo Montoya.

Back when I was doing stage plays, I always dreamed of doing an adaptation just so I could deliver the line, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die.” That’s despite the fact that a stage version would be a very difficult feat, and I, in no way, fit the role of Inigo. But a guy can dream, right?

And that’s exactly what “The Princess Bride” is all about in the first place. It’s an escape into a world of dreams and heroes, with a sly tongue-in-cheek humor that doesn’t take away at all from its sincerity. It’s a difficult balance to strike, as Elwes elaborates on often during this memoir.

While “As You Wish” starts a little slow with Elwes discussing his casting for the role, it soon becomes required reading for fans as he gets into the challenges involved with the filming and some candid stories from the set.

The most striking thing about this book, though, is that it’s just as much a book about Elwes’ co-star Andre the Giant as it is about “The Princess Bride.” The best stories in the book, none of which I’ll give away here, all revolve around Andre. It’s obvious that Elwes and the other members of the cast shared a deep love and respect for their huge co-star, and as a kid who grew up watching Andre in the ring, it offers a very different picture of the man that seemed unstoppable on the TV screen.

Another interesting aspect for me was discovering Wallace Shawn’s thoughts on his own performance as Sicilian assassin Vizzini. While millions of us would probably find any other actor playing the role – pardon the pun – inconceivable, we learn that Shawn was very insecure about it, and perhaps didn’t quite get the humor in it. Maybe, in the end, that’s what made him work so well.

“As You Wish” is filled with great stories from the set and some, at times, surprising insight. It seems clear that Elwes and his co-stars share a deep affection for “The Princess Bride” and a great appreciation of the surprising phenomenon that it has become in the years since its release. Even a casual fan of the film should find it interesting. If you’re like me and quote along with the TV every time you watch it, it’s required reading.

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