I remember being a kid, sitting down to watch The Princess Bride and feeling a warmth that only real storytelling can give you as a child. Sometimes that adoration fades when you find out the behind-the-scenes of a favorite movie, but these details about the making-of this classic only made me love it more.
If you checked out the ‘As You Wish‘ documentary that came with the newer DVD and Blu-Ray releases of The Princess Bride, none of this is going to be too surprising to you. However, for those who have not — I wanted to share some key moments from the Making-Of that purely touched me and reignited a deep love for this film. Sad to say, but there are spoilers ahead which I shouldn’t have to point out seeing as the movie is 30 years old now. Just go see the movie. Sit with your family and friends and just… feel good.
Mandy Patinkin’s father and his on-screen catharsis:
Mandy Patinkin, who plays the iconic Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, had lost his father due to cancer in 1972. It was something he was desperately struggling with and the character of Inigo was something he used to help him cope. To him, fighting the man who took the life of his father in the film, was helping him also destroy the cancer that made him lose his own father. He mused about wandering around the set of the castle, large and looming behind him, speaking quietly to his father and letting him know his work on this movie was purely for him. For them both, truly.
Knowing that made watching The Princess Bride even more intense of an experience for me, as you can see the passion and intensity behind his words when he finds, finally, the Six-Fingered Man that took his parent from him. He got so deep within those scenes that he even kept accidentally swatting and stabbing at Christopher Guest, who played Count Rugen. Guest would stop every so often and take a moment to be sure he was alright before they’d resume fighting once more.
Cary Elwes and the inspiration of Douglas Fairbanks Jr:
A lot of that incredible footwork you see as Cary Elwes weaves, hops and swings about in The Princess Bride is inspired by the actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Fairbanks (And his father, Douglas Fairbanks Sr.) was well known for his fight choreography back in a time where stuntmen weren’t as commonplace as they are now. You got trained and you worked hard at it, which is why early movie actors were so delicately balanced yet thrilling on the big screen. Check out this clip from The Prisoner of Zenda, and then the scene of Elwes and Patinkin in their own iconic fight scene.
The drama and the delight in the casting of Fezzik:
William Goldman, author of The Princess Bride, wrote with Andre Roussimoff aka Andre the Giant in mind for the delightful role of Fezzik. If you remember, Andre was a rather hot commodity in the late 80’s and because of that, they weren’t sure they could clear his schedule for the film. Casting directors were seeking out Arnold Schwarzenegger as the lovable criminal with an attachment to friendship. However, the film was stuck in a hellish development cycle that took so many years to get off the ground that, when finally seeking out Arnold, he had become far more famous and was riding strong after The Terminator. When I say that The Princess Bride was having one heck of a time getting made, I’m not kidding.
The Princess Bride was published in 1973 and immediately 20th Century Fox jumped to make it. However, the head of the studio left and it put the future of the film in limbo. This limbo lasted so long that casting directors weren’t sure the people they had hoped for would be able to do the film. This is when they finally could get Andre in some downtime and the perfect person for the role, the definitive and intended actor, was cast as Fezzik.
Andre was so beloved on the set that the actors would seek him out simply to spend some quality time with him. Make sure to check out that lovely little featurette up there where the cast details their favorite moments with such a wonderful human. Honestly, I can’t even imagine anyone else playing such an incredible character. Get your tissues ready.