As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

Jul 15, 2015

I think I was probably only two weeks into my first semester of college before someone was organizing a party to see The Princess Bride. Now, that doesn't surprise me at all (more surprising is that it took two weeks), but at the time, I'd never even heard of The Princess Bride, so I was absolutely baffled by the enthusiastic response the title invoked.

You see, when I was growing up, my parents had very strict movie standards: no PG movies, no exceptions. They've since relaxed the standard a bit, but when I left home, that was still the rule. So that's why I hadn't seen The Princess Bride (although I'm still surprised I hadn't heard of it). Not knowing anything about it, and not being one to blindly jump into something I wasn't already familiar with, I made it through an entire college semester without seeing this cult classic.

And then . . . I met Mike.

And never having seen The Princess Bride was just not going to work for him.

He grew up in a home, not unlike many of your homes, I'm sure, where The Princess Bride was the golden standard. Everyone, parents and siblings, loved it. They could quote every line and fit in a reference in just about every situation. Basically, if I wanted to keep dating him, I had to watch it.

And so I did. And I have to say that that first viewing left me less than impressed. I can remember thinking, Why is this so funny? Why does this movie have such a following? What am I missing? Is it ever going to be over?

But I'd watched it, so Mike's and my courtship was saved. But Mike wasn't done yet.

During our second or third year of marriage, Mike checked out the book by William Goldman, and we read it together over Christmas break. This was a different experience for me. I loved it, and I can still remember laughing so hard on our drive to my parents' house. Reading the book called for another viewing of the movie, and I know I tolerated it much better the second time (although it still wasn't a favorite).

Anyway, I'm telling you all of this so that you'll understand that when this book about the making of The Princess Bride came out, it looked interesting to me, but I wasn't like, Oh my goodness, I have to check out that book!

But I thought Mike would like it, so I requested it for him (yes, I'm that wife . . . ), and he liked it (although he thought there was a little too much of the cast gushing over each other), but he confirmed my original thoughts: a lukewarm fan like myself wouldn't find it overly enjoyable and probably only semi-interesting.

I probably would have  taken his advice except that it was already scheduled as my book club's book for August. So I just decided to go ahead and listen to it--it was only six CDs after all, and if I listened at double speed, the torture would be over in no time.

I hope you can catch the underlying sarcasm there. Because, the truth is, I loved this book. It was so entertaining and interesting, and when I was just about done with it, I borrowed the movie and insisted that Mike and I watch it together (I don't think he ever imagined such a thing would happen). What's more, something finally clicked on this third time through. Whether it was because I'd listened to the book and could watch for little details or just because three's the magic number, I loved it. It was hilarious, and it was like all the cleverness and wittiness finally came through. About twelve years too late, I think I've finally turned into a devoted fan (anyone want to come to a Princess Bride party at my house?).

I'm not saying if you do not love The Princess Bride that you should rush out and buy this book and you'll be an instant convert. I've always loved behind-the-scenes info, so I think I was predisposed to like it. (Mike says I better read a book about the making of Star Wars.)

But I will say that if you decide to read it, then please promise me you'll check out the audio. Cary Elwes (i.e. Wesley, i.e. the Dread Pirate Roberts) reads it, and this is not like some author reading his book. No, this is an actor performing his book, and it's fantastic. He's a very animated reader, and he gives flawless impressions of many of the cast members.

Even if the audiobook was comprised entirely of Cary Elwes reading it, it would be fun to listen to. But then, scattered throughout the book, are these little side notes written by Vizzini, Buttercup, Miracle Max, Rob Reiner (the director) and several more, and these actors read their own parts (except for Inigo Montoya, Fred Savage (who plays the grandson), and William Goldman). Hearing their actual voices as they shared little details definitely enhanced the overall experience.

As Mike warned, and so now I'll warn you, there is a superfluous amount of praising going on between the various cast members in this book, but I tended to find it endearing rather than annoying (although, by the end, I'd had about enough). They all really did seem to have a genuine bond with each other, and that was fun to hear.

One day as I was listening to it, I turned to Mike and said, "Could you believe that they used the take where Count Reuben actually knocks Wesley unconscious?" Mike looked back at me blankly. "You know," I prompted, "where he hits him on the head with the hilt of his sword?" Finally, Mike responded, "I know the part of the movie you're talking about, but I don't remember anything about it in the book." So I decided to try another recent scene: "But you did hear the part about Wesley breaking his foot on Andre the Giant's ATV?" "Nope," Mike said, "I definitely didn't hear that."

Turns out, he'd accidentally skipped over an entire CD and missed some of the best info in the whole book: the two scenes just mentioned, plus the filming of The Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times. So he listened to it right then and there. That particular CD had very little complimenting in it and a lot of action, so, out of the whole book, it was definitely the one he should not have missed.

Mike and I own very few movies. I'm not kidding--if you saw our movie collection, the only words you could use to describe it are "pitiful" or "pathetic." It's because we watch so little TV, so it makes more sense to just check out from the library or rent anything we're interested in watching; the chances are very high that we'll only want to see it once. But I've decided The Princess Bride is one we need to own. It's obvious that, more than 25 years later, it has become something of a classic. I know we'll want to share it with our kids. And I need to watch it a few more times so that I can flawlessly quote lines from it with the best of them.

On a scale from one to ten, how much do you love The Princess Bride? What's your favorite line? Are you interested in reading this book?


  1. Can't believe you didn't "get" the Princess Bride until try three, but glad you finally got there! Love the movie and loved listening to the making of. I would have to agree that there were some excessive gushing.

    1. I know! I think the first time was doomed from the start because I went into it thinking I wouldn't like it and so wasn't fully invested in watching it.

  2. I read the book as a teen, and loved it, and so was ready to either like or hate the movie. It's a good example of where the book and movie do different things, but do them in a way that complement each other.

    And my kids have both watched the movie and read the book (it was a family book club pick last summer) although they did it in that order. We quote it a lot. I'd say we are a 9.

    1. Yep, I think the movie definitely stays true to the feeling of the book even though they're different, and that's probably because William Goldman wrote the screenplay.

      The Princess Bride would be a fun one for a family book club! We're reading The Boys in the Boat for my family reunion this year, but maybe next year . . .

  3. Ten! Woohoo! And I just finished listening to this audiobook myself (which is why I couldn't read your review sooner. Didn't want it to taint my experience. Which was good, because the complimenting didn't bother me at all, but might have). YES I will come to a movie party at your house. In fact, we listened to this one in the car as a family and HAD to have a movie party the day our road trip was over. Even my boys, who grumbled about being made to listen to an audiobook at first, were begging for it by disc 3 or 4. Stellar book. Now I want to reread Goldman's book as well.

    1. I'm so glad your whole family enjoyed it! You definitely sound like devoted fans! I'm excited to introduce my boys to the movie, and I agree that now I want to reread the book.


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