This book is the memoir Cary Elwes wrote about filming The Princess Bride. I raced through this book in something like four days of actual reading. This is a feather-light float down memory lane. This book is also not meant for people who have worked in Hollywood, or who know anything at all about the movie-making process. Elwes is very kind to hold everyone’s hand through concepts like “Development Hell” and I found all of this a little boring.
The book comes alive, however, when he stops trying to explain everything and just tells stories. Like the time he was actually knocked unconscious on set. Or stories about Andre the Giant’s generosity and kindness. Or when he relates a story Billy Crystal told him about soldiers in Iraq quoting Miracle Max to keep their spirits up. “Have fun storming the castle!” Or casting choices that (thankfully) never came to fruition like Sting as Humperdink and Colin Firth as Westley.
As a former competitive fencer, I cannot stress how much the fencing scene between Westley and Indigo meant to me growing up. So it was really gratifying to see that really large portions of this book are taken up with explaining how that all went down. I too have had the experience of underestimating a fencing master and being shown what was what terrifyingly quickly.
This book also talks a lot about how funny the set was. Almost none of whatever was so hilarious about whatever was happening makes a smooth transition to the page, so it feels a little like watching a group of friends fall to pieces over an inside joke, while you wonder what the hell was so funny about “toast.” I guess I don’t think of The Princess Bride as that funny. I saw it so long ago, all the jokes and laugh lines are lived-in, accustomed. And what is laughter if not a surprise response?
I struggled with The Princess Bride as I grew up. It’s a great movie and I love it, but it’s also not particularly kind to its women. As a kid I was really confused because the only girl I had to look up to was Buttercup, but I wanted to be Westley. Why couldn’t Buttercup kick a little ass too? It took me a long time to settle into the notion that Buttercup is supposed to satirize helpless damsels in distress. Reading As You Wish, it seems like William Goldman meant this as a mostly straight fairy tale for his daughters. Which really sort of depresses me, frankly. I’m not one for strict adherence to authorial intent, so I’m free to interpret Buttercup as a damnation, not a paradigm. It just burst my bubble a little.
Overall, I would recommend this. It would make excellent beach reading.