Cary Elwes’ ‘As You Wish’ Memoir Burnishes the Warm Glow of ‘Princess Bride’

If things were as I wish, “The Princess Bride” 25th anniversary reunion two years ago  at the New York Film Festival and the launch of Cary Elwes’ memoir of the movie’s making would have been at the San Diego Comic-Con and not on the East Coast. Sure the Academy Awards failed to see Rob Reiner’s genius and the ensemble’s inconceivable chemistry, but the Burbank-based Saturn Awards from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror did not. The movie won the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film and Best Costumes (Phyllis Dalton), and Robin Wright was nominated for Best Actress and William Goldman for Best Writing.

If things were as I wish, I’d have gotten an in-person interview with Elwes instead of a phoner. I won’t even be in town on the one day Elwes is scheduled to sign books in Los Angeles. It’s inconceivable, considering I sat next to Elwes for the Psych cast SDCC appearance, that I still didn’t get autographs from Elwes, Dulé Hill and James Roday. At SDCC,  I had asked if there would be a Princess Bride-themed “Psych” episode. That and my other hope (a spin-off starring Elwes as Pierre Despereaux in a “It Takes a Thief” meets “Get Smart” goofiness series) was dashed when we learned Season 8 would be Psych’s final season.  Yet as the Man in Black once said, “Get used to disappointment.”

Despite those disappointments, Elwes’ “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of ‘The Princess Bride‘” written with Joe Layden is not a disappointment. If anything, it will make fans of  “The Princess Bride” cherish the movie even more. The 1987 movie crosses many genres–it’s a rom-com, it’s a family-friendly tale about a grandfather connecting with his grandson, it’s a fantasy romance. It was a movie that both Ian and I cherished although we met by dancing.

Ian even learned to fence with both hands because of this movie. While one of the DVD extras as a master swordsman proclaiming that good fencers make good dancers, you’ll be disappointed to learn that Elwes has not only dropped fencing but declares he’ll never be a contestant on a reality dance show like “Dancing with the Stars” or “Strictly Come Dancing.”

According to Elwes, “I had an idea to write it a while back, but I didn’t think anyone would be interested. My manager encouraged me and I said, ‘If you think you can get a publisher interested.'” Then at the anniversary panel, he found “There wasn’t enough time to share what I really felt. I couldn’t pick any one particular scene” that could be called his favorite memory.

Simon and Schuster was indeed interested and if you’re a real fan, you will be, too. There are no disappointing bits of ugly gossip to tarnish the film’s glow. And Elwes has incorporated the comments of his fellow actors, the director Rob Reiner and the writer William Goldman (original book and movie script).  Elwes explained, “The idea came together to have the memories almost in the margin in a way with little blocks of little snippets.” The book includes never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.  Reiner wrote the forward. Lear wrote the epilogue.

“The Princess Bride” was Elwes’ first Hollywood film and although he was the cast member who rented a video camera and shot some behind the scenes footage, some of which you may have already seen in the DVD extras. Elwes reviewed his cache while writing the book and some of his signings, such as NYCC, will feature screenings of never-before seen in public footage.

Some of the stories you’ll read in “As You Wish” have been told before–in previous interviews, but this book gathers them all together and puts them in chronological order. The greatest disappointment is the giant, Andre (1946-1993), wasn’t able to participate since he passed away years ago, but every effort is made to include him. The absence of Peter Falk (1927-2011) is also keenly felt but he wasn’t really part of the on-set gang.

It’s hard to believe that this movie failed to excite the public despite a rave review from Roger Ebert when it initially came out. Elwes faults the PR people who didn’t know how to sell it to the public and credits the rise of home-viewing VHS with its rise in popularity. Proof of this can be seen in the original trailer, Elwes commented, as well as the original movie posters in English and Italian.

I could tell you about all the many marvelous tales in this charming book like why Danny DeVito’s presence was felt on the set and who had to be banished from the set or just how did Elwes come about that elegant way of sitting during the Man in Black’s discourse with Buttercup just before the famous roll down the hill, but I could in no way do the stories justice. You must read the book because so much of the nuance, the many different voices piping in via grey blocked in comments would be lost in translation. An S. Morgenstern-ish abridgment wouldn’t do this slender 250-page volume justice.

The book is available officially on Oct. 14 although it has been available for pre-order for several months on Amazon.

The audiobook, also out on Oct. 14,  is 7 hours and 2 minutes, unabridged, with narration by Elwes, Christopher Guest, Carol Kane, Norman Lear, Rob Reiner, Chris Sarandon, Andy Scheinman, Wallace Shawn and Robin Wright.

In 2002, the American Film Institute listed “The Princess Bride” as number 88 on its AFI’s 100 Years…100 Passions, a list of the 100 greatest cinematic love stories. The 1942 “Casablanca” tops that list, but “The Princess Bride” comes after the 1988 “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” but before the 1966 “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Dirty Dancing,” “Lady and the Tramp,” “Grease” and “Pillow Talk.”

At the end of the interview, after I mentioned that Ian and I both discovered “The Princess Bride” was a favorite movie before we married,  Elwes fondly noted that “The Princess Bride” is a movie that brings people together romantically and has inspired themed weddings complete with The Impressive Clergyman and “mawage” vows, except one supposes that the bride and groom actually say, “I do” and find “twue wuv.” Wish we had thought of that.

Cary Elwes will be made his first book signing appearance at New York Comic-Con (Jacob Javits Center).  For those without Comic-Con tickets, he will be making four other appearances in New York along with six other dates in three other states. Tickets may be required for some of the events listed below. If you aren’t having fun storming the castle, storm into one of these venues.

Sunday, Oct. 12: New York Comic-Con with Word Bookstore at Autographing Hall.

Monday, Oct. 13: Barnes & Noble Union Square, 33 E. 17th Street, New York, NY. 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.. Elwes in conversation with Rom Santopietro.

Tuesday, Oct. 14: Book Revue, 313 New York Ave., Huntington, NY, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. In conversation with Loren Aliperti.

Wednesday, Oct. 15: Jacob Burns Film Center, 364 Manville Road, Pleasantville, NY. 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Screening and Elwes in conversation with Janet Maslin.

Thursday, Oct. 16: Northshire Bookstore, BowTie Cinemas, 19 Railroad Place, Saratoga Springs, NY, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Screening and Elwes in conversation with Joe Layden, co-writer.

Friday, Oct. 17: Porter Square Bookstore, Brattle Street Theater, 40 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Screening and Elwes in conversation with David Waldes Greenwood.

Sunday, Oct. 19: Rainy Day Books, The Unity Temple on The Plaza, 707 W. 47th Street, Sanctuary, Kansas City, MO, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.  Elwes in conversation with Vivien Jennings.

Monday, Oct. 20: The Alamo Drafthouse, 1120 S. Lamar Blvd., 1120 S. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX, 7:30 p.m. Quote-along screening and Elwes in conversation with Henri Mazza.

Tuesday, Oct. 21: Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building, #2, San Francisco, CA, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Elwes in conversation with Jesse Hawthorne Ficks.

Wednesday, Oct. 22: Copperfield’s Books, 140 Kentucky Street, Petaluma, CA, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Dread Pirate Roberts Day! Elwes in conversation with Greg Sestero.

Thursday, Oct. 23: Barnes & Noble, The Grove, 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles, CA. 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Elwes in conversation with Jon Lovitz.


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