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'The Gift That Keeps on Giving': Actor Cary Elwes on the Classic Film, 'The Princess Bride'

Simon & Schuster Publishers
"As You Wish" by actor Cary Elwes offers a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic, "The Princess Bride."

There are some movies people just love to quote.  For many of them, the film mirrors something in real life, but some movies are just so eminently quotable that they seem fit to use in just about any occasion. Case in point, "The Princess Bride," the classic 1987 Rob Reiner film.

The film, about the hero Westley's attempt to rescue Princess Buttercup, is a whimsical fairytale that attracted only spotty attention in theaters 29 years ago, but has proved a lasting winner for filmgoers - and for the people who made it. 

Actor Cary Elwes played Westley, and his memoir of the making of "The Princess Bride," As You Wish, comes out in paperback today. The book offers an inside look with never before told stories, new photographs and interviews with co-stars and members of the film production team. Elwes says he will never take "The Princess Bride" for granted, as he believes it has given him the career and life he has today.

"It's a very rare and brave and bold choice to cast two unknowns in the leads of your film, especially for as an expensive independent film as this was," he says, referencing his casting and that of co-star Robin Wright. "It's the gift that keeps on giving."


Upon its original release, "The Princess Bride" opened and closed within a couple of weeks, says Elwes, and didn't reach its peak popularity until it came out on VHS. "People come up to me who still have their copies, like a family heirloom," he notes.

Despite that dismal theater release, the fact that the film resurfaced a decade later shows that there is no movie element that can guarantee success.

Credit Simon & Schuster Publishers
Simon & Schuster Publishers

"No studios or producers have a clue what makes a hit film, because if they did they'd be making them all the time," says Elwes. "So it's one of those magical things where you have no idea what the formula is."

From whole passages of the scripts tattooed on people's bodies to memorabilia, Elwes finds it "extraordinary" that so many people use the film for more than comedy, but inspiration and as a way to connect with others.

"I had a platoon captain come up to me one time who was in Afghanistan, and he said the only way he could boost morale for his platoon going out on patrol each morning was to say, 'Have fun storming the castle,'" he recalls. 

Actor Cary Elwes and Lake Effect's Mitch Teich will have an on-stage conversation this Saturday night following a screening of the film at the Riverside Theater. 

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.