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Review: As You Wish by Cary Elwes

21412202From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.

Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets, backstage stories, and answers to lingering questions about off-screen romances that have plagued fans for years!

With a foreword by Rob Reiner and a limited edition original poster by acclaimed artist Shepard Fairey, As You Wish is a must-have for all fans of this beloved film.

My love of the movie “The Princess Bride” is pretty well documented. I’ve raved about it in a number of reviews, and it’s my go-to movie when I’m feeling crummy and need something comforting to watch. There’s so much about it that I love – great dialogue, wonderful story (thank you, William Goldman – the book is also exceptional), fabulous cast and a sigh-worthy ending. Hard to believe that it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (coincidentally happening right now as I write this review) in 1987 – that’s twenty-seven years ago! When I heard that Cary Elwes had written a book about his experiences working on the movie, I knew I had to read it.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the making of The Princess Bride is a lovely look behind the curtain by one of the main players. The first thing that strikes you is just how grateful Elwes remains for the opportunity provided by Rob Reiner and the impact that the role of Westley had on his future. He is completely honest about how anxious he was about starting the film, about the exhaustion he felt after the intensive sword-fighting practices and choreography sessions, and about meeting some of his favourite actors on set. It’s refreshing to read a ‘behind-the-scenes’ memoir that doesn’t propose that ‘everything was wonderful, dahling, and we all fit together from day one’. Elwes is clear that he had his share of anxious moments on the film, wanting to be everything that Reiner wanted him to be and not wanting to lose this role that he could feel was so important.

What makes this book for me, however, are the anecdotes about those little moments in the film, and about the real people behind the film. Elwes is generous in his explanations of how certain scenes were filmed, including the scene in the Fire Swamp with the Rodents Of Unusual Size (ROUS), the quicksand shot and (memorably) the raising of mostly-dead Westley by Miracle Max and his wife. Hearing just how funny Billy Crystal could be over three days of straight filming, “improvising thirteen-century period jokes, never saying the same thing or the same line twice” makes me wish I could have been there – exactly the feeling you want to have with a memoir like this. I was also fascinated to read about the intensive training that ‘Westley’ and ‘Inigo’ had to undergo, with every spare moment devoted to practicing and rehearsing. That they managed to learn everything – and then to learn it again with the other hand is truly remarkable.

Ever the gentleman, Elwes is very complimentary about his cast and crew, but you understand quite quickly that this is not merely due to politeness. I had the sense that this whole production was definitely work, but work with a huge family who absolutely enjoyed each other’s company. Even the sidebar notes by other actors comment on the relaxed feel to the shoot, and how Rob Reiner went to great lengths in order to ensure that everyone felt that they were part of something wonderful. The author’s respect for Reiner is evident, and the affection and admiration for Andre the Giant is overwhelming.

This is the perfect book to give to the rabid Princess Bride fan, but it’s also a great read for those who just enjoy the movie for  what it is. Elwes is a charming, engaging narrator who brings you right into the setting and feel of the action, and you pick up on exactly how everyone felt at the time. This is a wonderfully warm and affectionate look at a pivotal time in the author’s life that will make you want to re-watch the film once you’ve finished.

Full disclosure: Jen from The Misbehavin’ Librarian and I waited in line at BEA for the chance to meet Elwes and to pick up a chapter sample of the book. He was as charming and down-to-earth in person as he appears in the book, and  reading the book felt like he was telling me the story in person.

“…But whatever else I’ve done or whatever else I might do, The Princess Bride will always be the work with which I am most closely associated; and WEstley, with his wisp of a must ache and ponytail, the character with whom I will be forever linked…. And that’s just fine by me.” ~ Cary Elwes, As You Wish

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the making of The Princess Bride was provided by Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. It is available for purchase from your favourite independent bookseller, and other fine booksellers. ISBN: 9781476764023, 272 pages.  

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2 Responses »

  1. As soon as I saw it in store I knew you’d be all over this book. Would now be a bad time to say I’ve never really watched The Princess Bride”


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