As You Wish: A Night Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of The Princess Bride [NYFF 2012]


Where does one begin to speak about my love and millions of others for The Princess Bride? It’s inconceivable! A film that in its initial release was a failure at the box office (as Rob Reiner mused ‘because a one sheet and a trailer hadn’t come out, even a week before the film went to theaters.’) but over these last 25 years has become what most films could only dream. Endlessly quotable, with fantastic performances all around, a killer script by the book’s author and famed screenwriter William Goldman and a fan who wanted to direct it and had no idea about the hellish nightmare the script and writer himself had been going through for many years before (with such directors as Francois Truffaut, Norman Jewison and Robert Redford had eyed the production but left the script dangling in the ether).

What’s truly amazing is that this film somehow, through thick and thin and a fun shoot according to all the stars and the director, was made and 25 years ago stumbled into theaters and kind of died there. Or so it seemed. Reiner joked that ‘Fox just couldn’t figure  out how to market the thing. Was it a comedy? A love story? An action-adventure? A spoof?’ We see the same thing happen still to this day, where some films are ultimately put on the shelf for years, such as Cabin in the Woods, which when released people smack their heads and ask, “Why did they do that to a perfectly good film?”

Considering the film didn’t make much at the box office, it is what most would call a ‘cult film’, primarily because word of mouth, home video and repertory screenings gave new life to a film that could have been buried by the box office but due to how charming, witty and sweet the film is, it deservedly received a packed sold out screening, where everyone was laughing over lines, quoting along and cheering like crazy, which usually would annoy someone like me who likes to appreciate a film in a proper setting. But this was the perfect setting for a film, where everyone there who had paid to get a ticket were showing their love for a film that many of us saw at a young impressionable age and has stuck with us these decades later.

Even greater still is the love the stars of the film have for it. Billy Crystal mentioned it was his favorite film to make and even though the makeup process he and Carol Kane had to go through in order to be the old couple Miracle Max and Valerie, the joy they got by still being in character, even when getting food at catering, made them look back fondly. Crystal went on to say how he would watch it with his daughters, and now a grandfather, watches the film with his daughters and their daughters, keeping the cycle going and seeing the film be appreciated by kids and adults alike. Mandy Patinkin amused us by speaking about the day Wallace Shawn, fearing heights and the big shot to take place in front of the smaller 35 foot tall Cliffs of Insanity, where he thought he was going to ruin it all. Patinkin, Robin Wright and Shawn all went on their respective places on bicycle seats strapped around Andre the Giant. Andre, who was much weaker from his wrestling days and could hardly carry a few pounds, was on a forklift and they would lift them up, making it appear that he was climbing. He saw Shawn shaking and being very nervous and took his big hand, stroked Shawn’s head and patted his back and told him everything was going to be okay, he’d protect him. Wallace calmed down and they got to be able to shoot that scene. One of many Patinkin stories about Andre that tends to warm the coldest of hearts.

Another great filmmaking story was that Rob Reiner didn’t want stunt people for the big sword fight scenes in the film, especially between Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts and Inigo Montoya. So Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin trained for many months with Bob Anderson and with one another during any breaks they had. It’s still a fantastic fight scene, one that reminds me of the classic Adventures of Robin Hood. We also were told by Reiner that the castle they filmed in was built by William the Conqueror for his bastard son back in the 10th century. And almost a thousand years later, Reiner, Patinkin and Christopher Guest were singing three part harmonies from the 1950’s such as ‘What’s Her Name?’

Another rumor that has been going around for ages was for the supposed inevitable sequel to be written, Buttercup’s Baby, and someone asked William Goldman if that would ever come to be.  I’m desperate to make it and write it and I don’t know how,’ said Goldman, looking a bit saddened from the question. He called his attempts at writing it a total failure, saying “It’s just one of those things when you go to your pit, and everything sucks there.’ So, sorry to break the bad news to you fans who were clamoring for a sequel anytime soon. Goldman is now 81 years old and it doesn’t seem to have come to him yet.

The best part of any repertory screening is when they have a 35mm print, especially a newly restored one, which was the case with The Princess Bride, especially since a new Blu-ray was being released that same week. It was a gorgeous print, better than I’ve ever seen it, and I’ve owned it in every form. It was my first VHS I ever bought with my own money (low price of $19.99!) and I’ve proudly owned every edition, with the Blu-ray being a future one. I still prefer the cover for the Dread Pirate Roberts version, though. But I can go on and on about this great event, but I’ll leave you with one question you should ask Cary Elwes the next time you see him: Can you do your Bill Cosby impression for me?