Sunday 18 September 2016

#CBR8 Book 103: "As You Wish: Inconcievable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride" by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden

Page count: 259 pages
Audio book length: 7hrs 1 min
Rating: 4 stars

The Princess Bride is my favourite film. Probably of all time. Ask me to name my favourite book, and I really wouldn't be able to choose, as that would very much depend on genre, my mood, the weather, what I'd eaten recently and I would frankly have trouble even narrowing down a top 10. But my favourite film is The Princess Bride. I have loved it since I first discovered it back in the late 80s (or possibly very early 90s, I can't say exactly), when we had a number of movie channels on cable and I first saw the film. Because it was one of those channels that would repeat the movies a few times over the course of a month, I made sure to record it on vhs, so I could watch it whenever I wanted. I was the only one of my friends who had seen this film. I had no one to share my adoration with.

When I went to the US, on a language exchange trip before I was about to start high school, in 1995, I discovered that not only did most American teenagers my age know about the film, they loved it and could quote it pretty much verbatim (as evidenced when we watched the movie in our dorm during my stay there) It was an eye-opening and absolutely wonderful experience and I was also told about the book it was based on, and bought my first paperback copy (I now have the book in both paperback and hardback, as well as the 25th Anniversary edition, which includes the first chapter of the unlikely to ever be finished sequel, Buttercup's Baby). I have owned the film on VHS, multiple versions of DVD (because of new extras), and while I have yet to get round to buying it on Blu-Ray, it's only a matter of time. While initially, none of my Norwegian friends had seen it, I made it my life's mission to show it to as many as possible, and I still cannot wholly trust a person who doesn't see what a magical film it is. I don't require them to love it as much as I do (cause that's not likely to happen), but they need to at least like it. This was an important test early in my relationship with my now husband, just as we would have had serious difficulties if I hadn't really liked Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

All of this is to explain why once Cary Elwes' book came out, it was a very natural present for my husband to buy me. Now, because I have literally hundreds of actual physical books (even after my big and very necessary purge when moving house a year ago, I think I have more than 700) and closer to twice as many if you count all my e-books, I gratefully accepted my pretty hardback copy, flicked through it and looked at some of the pictures included, put it on a bookshelf and sadly forgot about it. Then in August, this was an Audible Daily Deal and I picked up the audio book (because having the book read to me by Cary Elwes seemed a pretty good thing) but it wasn't until fellow Cannonballer Beth Ellen actually reviewed the audio version that I decided that enough was enough.

Cary Elwes was a young and relatively unknown actor when he was cast in The Princess Bride. Because his American step-father worked in publishing, he had read and loved the book and couldn't believe his luck when he was cast as Westley. He talks about the casting process, the months of intense fencing training he and Mandy Patinkin had to go through to manage the stunning fencing scenes. He recalls the camaraderie among the cast, how much fun everyone had making the film, everyone's absolute love for the project and their disappointment at how badly marketed the film was upon its initial release, causing it to bomb at the box office. He also talks about how despite his long and varied career, and that of many of his cast members, most will always be remembered for their part in the movie, because it is now such a well-known and deeply loved phenomenon. As well as Elwes' own recollections, there are stories from most of the other cast members, as well as input from Rob Reiner, the director and William Goldman, the author and script writer.

If you're looking for juicy celebrity gossip, this is not the book to go for. Elwes is glowing in his praise of the whole experience, and it seems that not a single person involved with the filming had anything negative to say either (if anyone did, they certainly haven't been included in the book). I loved hearing about the kindness of Andre the Giant, how Elwes broke his toe while in the middle of shooting, or was literally knocked out during filming (both incidents you can see in the film if you look closely). How Billy Crystal came up with the mannerisms and look of Miracle Max. How after months of gruelling training, Elwes and Patinkin were so skilled at fencing that the originally planned fencing scene was over far too quickly and they had to go back and rehearse an extended, much more impressive fight. I don't want to reveal too much, but if you like the movie and/or novel, this is absolutely a behind the scenes book that's worth checking out.

Judging a book by its cover: It's Cary Elwes at his hottest, dressed as the Dread Pirate Roberts, holding a sword. What more do you want from a cover? 'Nuff said.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read. 

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