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Let’s storm the castle once again!

Posted by joeabbott on November 26, 2015

I’m not a movie guy and don’t spend much time with Netflix or my video collection. Yes, even though I don’t watch many shows, I have a few on disk. Of those I’ll make time to see again (and again) is the The Princess Bride. I love the clever wordplay, the memorable lines (see image below), the crazy characters, and the sly wit about the whole movie. The actors are first rate and just thinking about the show encourages me to enjoy another viewing.

imageBut, as I said, I’m not much of a movie guy. I am a book-guy … I have a number of magazines coming to the house, always have a book at my bedside, and will rotate through books-on-tape in my car. While I no longer use “tape”, the important point is that I’ll be listening to a little something I picked up at the library at all times. And so, while Suzy and I were in the Burien Public Library looking for books to listen to while driving about, I spotted As You Wish, Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.

What’s it all about

The book is written by Carey Elwes, who played Wesley in the movie, and at 6-discs, makes for an easy “read” for the month you’re allowed to have it. We did, however, extend our listen for a second month as Suzy enjoyed it first and then I got to enjoy it.

The book amounts to a memoire from the lead actor and recounts, largely in a chronological order, the putting together, filming, and subsequent gatherings of the actors in The Princess Bride. Like the movie, this isn’t a bawdy tell-all or salacious gossip write-up, instead it’s a very sweet, always complimentary, and unerring upbeat telling of the filming, Elwes was a relative new and unproven actor at the time of casting him in the lead and he’s clearly star-struck with some of the other luminaries in the film. While some might find the stories too much of a good thing, it captures a spirit of uplifting positivity that I loved nearly as much as the film.

One thought that occurred to me as listened to the stories is that the role of Wesley never seemed to be what the story was about. While I’d certainly recall Wesley and the Dread Pirate Roberts as key parts of the story, I remember Inigo and his vengeance quest, the ROUS, storming the castle, the giant Fezzik (and how I could never see him on screen without thinking about Andre the Giant’s wrestling roots), the crazy character Vizzini, and all the memorable sword fights.

Thinking on the great parts in the movie, I realized how central Wesley/Elwes is to the story, but with so much fun shared by all the other characters/actors, it’s easy to overlook the story as revolving around him.

I like to hear that

While many of Elwes’ memories are of the gentile nature and sweetness of his costars, he singles out two individuals for much of his praise: Rob Reiner, the director, and Andre the Giant.

I try to avoid listening to or getting wrapped up in “Hollywood stories”, the kind of nonsense that’s reported on TMZ (the website that seems to focus on the bad behavior of folks in the Hollywood scene). So hearing Elwes recount the humanity and decency of Reiner as a director was a boon. During the shooting of The Princess Bride Reiner is colored as always upbeat, full of empathy, and able to pull the disparate actors into a family. And, the one time Reiner was noted as being down, his directing partner brought him out of his doldrums by juggling for him. Juggling! Yes, I’m showing my age but I love that kind of thing.

The other surprise for me was hearing how gentle and decent Andre the Giant was. As a person, it seems he took a calm and philosophical approach to life, being over-sized and always the draw for a roomful of eyes whenever he entered. It was a bit sad to hear about his drinking … and while his enormous size allowed him to drink more than the average person, it was clear it was a more central part of his life than was healthy. Yes, he lived in pain and he imbibed in part to assuage those issues, but I can’t imagine it did him good.

But I read between the lines. Andre was colored as generous, humble, and always gentle, calling everyone “boss”, regardless their position relative to his. Hopefully I’ll remember this more than his wrestling background the next time I watch the film.

imageAnd … action!

But, I’m an action guy at heart so two of the stories I remember best about the book are the injuries.

In one story Elwes breaks a toe and, throughout the rest of the film, must take great pains to mask or work around that discomfort. Read the book if you want the full story but it’s a hoot and I can see myself in the very same position.

The second injury was when Elwes, looking for a bit more realism, asks a fellow actor to give him a good wrap on the head in the scene in which he’s being knocked out. The request was taken to heart, the hilt of the sword was taken to his noggin, and, when he woke up, Elwes was taken to the hospital. Painfully amusing.

Perhaps I connect too deeply with this story as I recall how, in my childhood, I donned my brother’s football helmet and ran headlong into a wall in our basement … assured the protective gear would render me invincible to harm. Alas, that smarted.

Get the book … make that the audio book

If you’re a fan of The Princess Bride you should pick up As You Wish; it’s full of goodness and before the first disc is done, you’ll want to find a copy of the movie and watch it through. What I really liked about the audio book is that Elwes, a professional actor, does a really great job of reading his own book. He has a deep and resonant voice, he flawlessly recounts the tales, and creates an emotional connection you wouldn’t get in reading it yourself.

Another bonus is the contributions of the other actors from the movie, including Reiner. While most of their stories significantly add to the book, there were one or two times where they cut away to another actor to have his/her contribution something like, “yeah, that was really great … just great.” Which, arguably, doesn’t add quite as much as, say, a personal insight or quick story.

It’s a little unfortunate that some of the actors just sent in their comments, read by someone else; if only because hearing the actors/director in their speak their own words is wonderful. I especially missed hearing Mandy Patinkin’s voice, as his character, Inigo, is one of my favorites. But, this goes to show all-the-more why you should seek out the audio book. Just some really good stuff.

In all, I give As You Wish a ten: heartwarming stories, behind the scenes insights, and excellent production read by the author and star of The Princess Bride. Perhaps most telling is that I’ve pulled out our copy of The Princess Bride and we’ll be watching it this weekend.


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