As You Wish: Everything You Wanted to Know From BTS of 'The Princess Bride'
Did you know that François Truffaut almost directed 'The Princess Bride'? Seriously.
When it was released, The Princess Bride was novel for the way in which it spun a heart-warming, action-packed yarn, while simultaneously sending up some of the most hoary tropes of the fairy tale genre to which it ostensibly belonged. With uniformly excellent performances (down to the cameos from the likes of the late, great Peter Cook, as the "Impressive Clergyman") this is a film with which it is difficult to find much fault. And so, in honor of its 30th anniversary this week, here are some facts about the film and its making that you might not have known from CineFix and BTS clips.
1. Fezzik was almost played by Ah-nold
The film, which was in development for quite some time, (based on legendary screenwriter William Goldman's 1973 novel) had several different directors attached over the years, including John Boorman, Robert Redford, A Hard Day's Night helmer Richard Lester, and, intriguingly, François Truffaut. Not only that, but the actors who were considered for various roles also ran the gamut from Colin Firth (then an unknown) to play Westley, to the similarly unknown (during the film's development) Arnold Schwarzenegger as Fezzik. One bonafide star who was interested in the part of Westley was Superman himself, aka Christopher Reeve, while the part of Vizzini almost went to Danny DeVito or Richard Dreyfuss. Oh, yes, and Sting was in talks to play Prince Humperdinck, all of which would have made for a very different film, indeed.
2. André's dialogue coach was a tape recorder
Though Arnold was, for perhaps the only time in his career, not physically imposing enough to carry off a part, the eventual Fezzik, wrestler André the Giant (all 7'4" and 520 pounds of him), found himself hampered by the same problem that dogged Arnold in the early years of his career, namely an accent that execs were worried would mystify, rather than enchant, audiences. Andrés' French pronunciations might have been an issue, but they weren't enough to stop him from getting the part, or to stop director Rob Reiner from coming up with an ingenious solution to the problem. Rather than looping his lines, or having them dubbed by another actor (which would have been terrible, I think we can agree), André learned them via tape recordings of his lines made by producer Andy Scheinman.
3. Christopher Guest really KO'd Cary Elwes
There is a famous scene where Buttercup and Westley are waylaid by the villainous Prince Humperdinck and Count Rugen, played by noted comedian and director Christopher Guest. In it, Westley (Cary Elwes) told Guest to really lay into him with the sword handle, since when he held back it looked fake. Guest did, and Elwes found himself waking up in the hospital, being treated by the same doctor who had treated his toe following a previous A.T.V. misadventure with André.
Thankfully, Elwes was none the worse for wear, and he turned out to be right about the action, since the take of him getting knocked out by Guest is the one that made it into the movie (at the end of the video, above).
4. "Her Dress is on Fire!"
The first day of shooting was memorable for all involved, but especially star Cary Elwes and writer William Goldman, who was on set at the invitation of Reiner. Elwes' duties that day included, he was told beforehand, some "pretty basic stuff," which turned out to be not only the revelation of his identity as the Dread Pirate Roberts, but carrying Robin Wright's Princess through the swamp and "then," said Reiner, after all this was accomplished, "all you have to do is save Robin from the fire."
Unfortunately, no one told Goldman that Wright's dress was supposed to catch, and the writer reportedly ruined a take when he screamed, "Oh my god, her dress is on fire!"
5. Errol Flynn to the rescue
The intricate sword fights between Westley and Inigo Montoya were choreographed by Peter Diamond and Bob Anderson (who had worked out the epic lightsaber battles in many of the original Star Wars films) and both actors trained for months, enabling them to film the scenes almost entirely without using stunt doubles. However, when time came to film, it turned out that Reiner required even more swashbuckling than had been prepared (the training had apparently taken place in slow motion), and so, in order to get the roughly 90 seconds of additional sword fighting that were needed, the director and his stars watched to classic swordfights from Errol Flynn movies for inspiration.
And now, as an added bonus, check out some behind-the-scenes videos from the making of The Princess Bride, where you can see these facts, and more, recounted (and enacted) by the cast and crew.
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMZwX1LKllU&list=PL7vON7iov7oFHrKIhhNIrWU6oM8Cp6YVP&index=1&ab_channel=JohnnyCade
There's a whole playlist, so make sure to check out all the videos, and, go back and watch the movie while you're at it, because, really, it's just a good movie, and, unlike the news, is pretty much guaranteed to put you in a good mood.