When it was released in 1987 The Princess Bride did not receive the welcome it hoped for from cinemagoers and failed to perform at the box office. Then over the years this Rob Reiner classic has been introduced to a new generation and gained furious momentum as a cult hit.
At the centre of this fanciful fantasy tale is Cary Elwes in the lead role as Westley starring alongside a stellar cast of Robin Wright and Christopher Guest to name but a few.
We chat with The Man in Black himself about his new book based on his time on set, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.
Myself and the rest of the cast always get asked was it as much fun to make the film as it looked and I always tell folk it was more fun. I wanted to share with the fans just how much fun it actually was especially for me. I can barely remember a day without laughter during the shoot.
Was it easy to write about it after all this time?
No, it was not. I didn’t keep a journal or diary while we were filming. So it was a bit daunting to see if I could remember everything.
I went to lunch with Norman Lear to firstly ask for his blessing to do the book. Then I shared with him my concerns about my memory and how much of the events I could remember. He sent me all the calls sheets from the movie and said that when you look at these it’ll trigger your memory.
Of course he was right. When they arrived at my house and I opened them up, 27 years melted away and suddenly I was back on set.
What advice did Rob Reiner give you if any?
He didn’t really give me any advice. The person who I really wanted the advice from was Bill Goldman, who is the author of the original book and screenplay. He just said tell it like it was, don’t make anything up.
When you first read the script what did you initially think about it and what made you want to do the film?
I read the book when I was 13 so knew the book and Bill Goldman from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Marathon Man as well as All the President’s Men. So I was curious to see how he would adapt the book because the book is very different to the movie.
The book is sort of a best bits version of S Morgenstern’s tale of The Princess Bride. So it sort of cuts back and forth between the telling of The Princess Bride story and a fictional look at Goldman’s own life.
It’s very funny and very different. He is an extraordinary writer so it’s not surprising that he did an extraordinary job.
Were you nervous at all about doing the film?
Very. I was surrounded by a kind of tsunami of talent and I was easily the novice of the group but they all made me feel very welcome. That was nice.
During filming did you ever get any sense that The Princess Bride would turn out to be as popular as it now is?
Again, I think that was surreal for all of us. When it came out it wasn’t a big commercial success so myself and the cast feel blessed to have this delayed success.
As you said, it is a film that gained its popularity years after its release. Why do you think that is?
The film is very sweet, funny and it’s a family movie. Of course it’s a movie about true love which you don’t really get today.
You must still get a lot of requests to say “As You Wish”?
A couple [laughs].
How was it working with Rob Reiner?
Well, Rob was at the peak of his career at that point. He was actually editing Stand By Me when we started production for The Princess Bride so he showed me a rough cut of it.
It was absolutely amazing even in a rough form. You could tell the film was just extraordinary and the acting was amazing. Those kids were unbelievable; River Phoenix and Jerry O’Connell were just great.
Rob is so great to work with: first of all he is an actor and working with actor-directors is always fun.
He’s a comedian and that doesn’t hurt so it was a very light set.
Are you still pretty handy with a sword and are there any skills or hobbies from your films you’ve kept up?
No, everyone likes to think I go home and practice my fencing. I would love to say that I do but I can’t lie.
Not really. I raced cars for a bit after Days of Thunder but that became an expensive hobby. It was just really amateurish stuff, like mostly celebrity events.
Ever keep anything from the film as a memento like Westley’s costume?
I was given the sword by the prop department. But I wanted to give it to Rob and I thought that would be a perfect gift for him.
So he has it on his wall at home.
No chance of anyone trying to break-in to his house then…
Yeah, I guess [laughs].
You were tortured in The Princess Bride and then 17 years later in SAW. So it could be said that Christopher Guests’ character, Tyrone, was the original Jigsaw…?
I guess Tyrone could be considered the original Jigsaw if you want to make that association, sure.
Were you surprised at all by the success of SAW?
Oh my gosh, we were all blown away by the response from that film. We shot it in 18 days, cost $1 million dollars and made over $100 million.
You’ve been working on a number of projects including the screenplay for Elvis & Nixon. How much can you tell us about it?
We’ve just signed Kevin Spacey to play Nixon and Michael Shannon as Elvis. I believe they’ll be shooting in January. I love history and thought that was a fascinating piece of pop-culture, Elvis meeting Nixon. It is the most sought after picture in the National Archives.
That should say a lot right there.
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride (Simon & Schuster, £16.99) by Cary Elwes is out now in hardback