Three stars? Inconceivable!
–I do not think that word means what you think it means–
It’s true; it is barely conceivable that one could not adore “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride.” But despite a deep and lasting fondness for the movie (of course I own a copy), this was a mixed adventure, much like a stroll through the Fire Swamp. Despite containing fencing, giants, and the miracle of a sleeper hit, I found it lacking in fighting, revenge and true love.
I spent an accidental Audible credit on the audio version (I didn’t cancel quite soon enough), noting it was read by Elwes. It was delightfully read; though somewhat stilted at the beginning, he soon finds his pace and story-telling voice, and it stops sounding quite so much as reading, and more like telling. His voice is charming, soothing, measured, resonant; clearly the voice of someone trained in theater. It also appears that Elwes is a surprisingly accomplished mimic, as he reads certain sections in voices of the involved people. There are also guest appearances recounting their own roles in that particular section, including the director Rob Reiner, his friend and co-producer Andrew Scheinman, author William Goldman, actors Robin Wright, Christopher Guest, Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Carol Kane and Fred Savage (basically, all the actors with speaking parts who were still alive).
The trouble for me was that so much of what Elwes was saying was–forgive me–dull. Elwes seems a genuinely nice guy, as evidenced by his effusive praise for absolutely everyone involved with the project. Everyone has a body of work he admires. Everyone is enormously talented. Everyone is incredibly kind to someone virtually naive to a Hollywood style production. The first chapter sounded more like someone reading an Imdb page than storytelling. “Of course, his work in Spinal Tap…” “I was a big fan of… “etc.
I’m not a film buff and much I didn’t recognize nor did I particularly care as it was basically resume-listing. It isn’t that I wanted scandal, but I was looking for personal and character details that couldn’t be found in a filmography. I suspect a three-fold effect was in operation: first, that Elwes is genuinely nice; second, his recount is through the golden glass of nostalgia; and three, that he doesn’t want to burn any professional bridges. I actually tried speeding up the read at one point, something I have never done, because it was so tedious. I wouldn’t recommend it. While it did indeed go faster, I found I missed Elwes’ speaking cadence almost immediately.
The overall content was intermittently interesting. Here are the specific insights:
- –Robin Wright is gorgeous. At the time was locked into a contract for the soap Santa Barbara. They set her free long enough for the movie, but demanded an additional year commitment.
- –Andre the Giant was a huge person, an alcoholic, sweet, and incredibly generous. He was troubled by back pain. Note Elwes never used the word ‘alcoholic,’ but instead described the vast amounts he would drink. And his farts were epic. Hearing Elwes say the word ‘fart’ totally made my inner ten-year-old giggle.
- –I have a suspicion that Elwes and Mandy Patinkin were very competitive on set, although most of the detail about this was left out. Practice for the swordfight took weeks.
- –The actor that played the ROUS fighting The Man in Black caused a delay in shooting when he was picked up the night before for operating under the influence.
- –Wallace Shawn (Vizzini) was dreadfully afraid he was inadequate after hearing the part was first offered to Danny DeVito. No official word if this was true. Personally, I think DeVito couldn’t have played it straight enough and would have failed my one of my favorite lines: “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous of which is ‘never get involved in a land war in Asia.’“
- –Elwes was a total dolt and broke his toe on Andre’s four-wheeler. That scene where he says, “life is pain, Highness” –totally real. He also genuinely fell unconscious when Christopher Guest (Count Rugen) knocked him on the head. No acting needed!
- –That scene in the Fire Swamp when Robin is set on fire? Also totally real. Fire-retardant dress. William Goldman ruined the first take because he forgot the scene and over-reacted.
- –Rob Reiner gives a lot of hugs.
Most of the content is the recounting of various emotional states before, during and after filming with details that are too hazy for people who weren’t there. Let me ‘splain: twenty plus years ago, I was the waterfront director at a rustic girl scout camp. I remember it as absolutely glorious, and I can recount a few specific instances of when we laughed so much it hurt and a couple moments of unspeakable beauty, but on the whole, I wouldn’t expect anyone to want to listen to me recount details. I could only give enough specifics for ten minutes of good story-telling; the rest of the time, the listener would just be listening to my interpretation of my emotional state.
Overall, not sad I listened to it–it is The Princess Bride, after all–and I’m sure the details will add another layer of appreciation to the movie, and another reason for haters to be annoyed by my movie love. But I’d suggest borrowing this one.
“No more rhymes now, I mean it!”
“Anybody want a peanut?”