27 years ago, a movie called The Princess Bride was released. Although it only performed moderately well for a short run in theaters, it became a cult classic on VHS, and is now fondly watched by families everywhere. Recently, Cary Elwes, known for playing the role of Westley, published “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride,” and embarked on a book tour, answering questions and regaling attendees with tales from the making of the movie.
This past Wednesday, he visited a Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma. Tickets sold out quickly (which left those who were unaware it was a ticketed event quite out of luck), and the store filled with fans, some dressed in pirate regalia – a few even as the movie’s “Man in Black,” the Dread Pirate Roberts (spoilers: actually Westley).
The event was moderated by Greg Sestero, who is probably very tired of people greeting him with “Oh hi Mark,” after his role in The Room, another film that became a cult classic for vastly different reasons than The Princess Bride. (His own book, “The Disaster Artist,” details his experience with that film.)
Elwes entered the room to great applause, and casually sat down on the table, providing a more intimate, friendly mood to the event. He began by talking about his experience working on The Princess Bride, which he described as “so much fun, [he] decided to write a book about it.”
Sestero asked him several questions, which had been prepared ahead of time, and Elwes’s answers were charming and entertaining. He talked about events leading up to his casting – including his meeting with Rob Reiner in which he attempted to impress Reiner with a Fat Albert impression – and stories from his time on the set.
As Elwes told his tales, he would go into humorous accents for the people he met, such as Reiner, Mandy Patinkin, and the nurse who was on the set. Of course, it was all very affectionate; he spoke fondly of his old co-stars and friends, many of whom also contributed to the book.
“André was truly a sweetheard, he never had a day that he frowned,” Elwes recollected of the pro wrestler and actor in the role of Fezzik. “He was a gentle giant, he would give you the shirt off his back. It would be enough for five people, but he’d still give it to you.”
In fact, his favorite line in the movie is not one of Westley’s famous quotes – “As you wish,” “Get used to disappointment,” or even “This is true love. You think this happens every day?” but is in fact a short, humorous line from Fezzik: “Anybody want a peanut?”
Elwes went on to talk about his experiences with André on the set, including the time he broke his toe on André’s ATV. He spent most of the time after that filming with a broken toe, though for more details, I encourage you to buy the book.
At one point during the event, Sestero asked him about what The Princess Bride and Star Wars have in common. The famous sword fight on the Cliffs of Insanity was choreographed by Bob Anderson and Peter Diamond, who also did the lightsaber choreography for Star Wars. Elwes reflected how the fight was “Described as the greatest sword fight of modern time… so not much pressure,” how they practiced for eight hours a day, whenever they had the time between shots, and it was done without stunt doubles.
Did the effort pay off? Absolutely. If you haven’t seen the fight scene yet, get the movie and watch it now. If you have seen it before, watch it again. You can also find a fan-edit on YouTube that replaced the swords with lightsabers, for an additional touch of Star Wars.
At the end, it was time for a Q&A with the audience. Though the Copperfield’s staff thought there would only be time for two or three questions, Elwes was more than happy to answer as many questions as he could.
The audience members asked about his acting career regarding roles other than Westley, including his appearances in Seinfeld (in which he likened the cast to the characters in The Wizard of Oz), and Psych (where he plays Pierre Despereaux, a role quite literally made for him). When asked about the Mel Brooks comedy, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, he recounted how, when he first got the call from Brooks, he thought it was a prank call. Brooks wanted to cast Elwes as Robin Hood after seeing him in The Princess Bride, and having grown up watching Brooks’s films, Elwes had a thrill working on it.
When asked about the rumored Broadway adaptation of The Princess Bride, Elwes said he looks forward to hearing more on it, and wishes it the best. There are no shortage of song titles they can use, and he particularly wants to hear the musical rendition of “Anybody Want a Peanut?”
The Q&A was concluded with a surprise, as one of the audience members was an old classmate of his from the Sarah Lawrence Theater Department. They reminisced on the good times from 30 years past, and brought the Q&A to a close.
The night ended with a book signing, as the audience lined up a row at a time to meet the man, shake his hand, and get an autograph on the books they bought. Throughout the long night he was kind, took the time to greet each guest, making it a great night for all who were there.
Cary Elwes’s book, “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride” is in stores and online now. His book tour is still going on, so keep an eye out for any near you (and get tickets as fast as you can).