The Princess Bride swept into theaters in 1987. Audiences didn’t latch onto the film right away, and the movie didn’t seem to resonate until it came to VHS. From there, well, Rob Reiner’s film adaptation of William Goldman’s book became a classic. It’s an adventure, a romance, a comedy, and more all wrapped into one, and the word I’d choose to describe the movie is charming. The Princess Bride made careers for some of its cast members, including Cary Elwes. He so enjoyed a reunion for the movie’s 25th anniversary at the New York Film Festival that he was inspired to record his recollections from filming for posterity. The result, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, is a love letter to the movie and to fans from Elwes and co-author Joe Layden.
As You Wish… chronicles the making of The Princess Bride from the challenging beginning (Goldman had a difficult time getting his screenplay out of development hell), to casting, to Elwes’ last day of filming. The journey is framed with a foreword by Reiner and an epilogue from executive producer Norman Lear. I’ve been guilty of skipping those sections in some books, but these are worth reading and are thankfully short.
Elwes’ memories are peppered with asides from Reiner, Goldman, and several cast members including Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya), Chris Sarandon (Humperdinck), Robin Wright (Buttercup), and more. It seem as though the making of The Princess Bride was one of the smoothest and happiest productions of all time. Like, they could make a Disney attraction about it. The most trying moments on set were a caterer who served the same dish multiple days in a row and the uncooperative weather. It’s hard to tell whether everyone is looking back in time with rose-colored glasses (it has been over 25 years) or whether they’re all being sincere. They come across as genuine, and the romantic me leans towards believing it.
There aren’t any scandalous stories. That also makes the whole experience feel a bit too shiny and sparkling, but the stories are entertaining nonetheless. If you’re a hardcore fan of The Princess Bride who has listened to every recorded commentary and scoured the internet for every behind the scenes story, I’m not sure how many new tidbits you’ll learn. Even if the 250 pages cover familiar ground for you, you are getting them from Elwes’ point of view and the context adds entertainment.
I’ve seen The Princess Bride more times than I can count and have read a handful of making-of stories, but I came across plenty of fresh information. There are a plethora of stories about Andre the Giant that paint him as a sweet and kind man, some surprising (to me) tidbits about Wallace Shawn’s anxieties, and interesting details about the training Elwes and Patinkin underwent to perform the greatest sword fight of all time without using stunt doubles. The person Elwes is hardest on is himself and that’s because of an injury he obtained while goofing around on set.
Though there are plenty of delightful recollections and I relished learning about the ins and outs of production on a movie I adore, some of the material felt like filler. At one point, Elwes summarizes the film in case anyone reading hasn’t watched it, and that doesn’t seem like a circumstance likely to happen. He recounts scenes from time to time too, and while it’s nice to put anecdotes into the context of the film, blow-by-blow recaps aren’t necessary. Not for the audience he’s targeted with the book.
Nothing’s wrong with light and fluffy. In fact, I sat down with the intention of only reading a few chapters and coming back for more later, but I spent the entire afternoon on the couch devouring every page. I couldn’t put the book down, and I suspect As You Wish… will have that effect on anyone who adores The Princess Bride. As soon as you start the book, you’ll want to clear your schedule for the next few hours to enjoy this romp through warm and fuzzy memories of the making of what I would call one of the most beloved films of all time.
Have you read As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride? Head to the comments and tell me what you thought.