Released in 1987, The Princess Bride went on to become a beloved classic film. It is the frequent subject of midnight movie screenings as well as the favorite feature at many a quote-a-long event. Indeed, so much of the movie’s dialogue has come to permeate popular culture and been referenced elsewhere that many people who have never seen The Princess Bride can still quote the famous line, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
This is a remarkable legacy for a film that, even thirty years after its release, defies convention and definition. It is hard to describe just what kind of movie The Princess Bride is to the uninitiated. Is it a family-friendly fairy tale? A rousing adventure? A romance about love conquering all? A brilliant satire of fairy tales, adventures, and romances?
It is perhaps best described by the Grandfather who reads the story to his Grandson, as part of the frame story of the film – “Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” The Princess Bride is all of that and more.
So lie back, cuddle up under your blanket, and relax as we tell you 15 Shocking Things You Didn’t Know About The Princess Bride.
15. Christopher Guest was accidentally stabbed by Mandy Patinkin
Ironically, the only actor who suffered an injury during one of the film’s many sword fights was the star who spent the least amount of time fighting on-screen. Christopher Guest, who played the sadistic Count Rugen, was stabbed in the thigh by Mandy Patinkin as the two rehearsed Inigo’s final confrontation with the six-fingered nobleman who killed his father.
Guest may have had only himself to blame for his injury. Reportedly, before beginning the fight that led to his being stabbed, Guest told the film’s fencing master that he was honestly fearful of Patinkin, who is a notorious method actor, getting so into his performance that he might honestly try to kill him. Guest abandoned the planned choreography in favor of just trying to defend himself – an action that clearly proved ineffective.
14. Andre the Giant refused to be Fezzik, so Arnold Schwarzenegger almost starred
The casting of Fezzik was a matter of great importance. While most of the characters didn’t have a set look to them, Fezzik had to be physically threatening yet capable of portraying a softer side. Ironically, professional wrestler Andre the Giant was Goldman’s first choice, but he refused to read for the part in the 1970s, worried that he wasn’t good enough.
Following that, Goldman’s preferred choice was bodybuilder turned actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom he met at some point in the 1970s. Unfortunately, by the time they got the ball rolling in 1986, Schwarzenegger’s asking price was too high! Richard Kiel – Jaws in the James Bond films – was also considered for the role.
13. Andre The Giant was in pain for most of the shooting
Nearly two decades in professional wrestling had taken a tremendous physical toll on Andre the Giant, to the point that he had trouble walking for extended periods. This resulted in some spectacular measures being taken to accommodate Andre’s recovery from back surgery during filming, such as procuring a giant-size ATV for Andre to drive to and from the shooting locations.
A stunt double had to be recruited for Fezzik’s fight with Westley, since Andre could not withstand Cary Elwes jumping onto his back. The scenes where the two talk as Westley rides Fezzik were shot at an angle with both actors walking up a ramp. Another scene where Princess Buttercup jumps from a balcony to a waiting Fezzik required a wire rig be used to lower Robin Wright safely into Andre’s arms.
12. Cary Elwes and Robin Wright were a little too into their kissing scenes
The romance between Buttercup and Westley may have required far less acting on the parts of Robin Wright and Cary Elwes than one might expect. Elwes confessed, in his biography As You Wish, that he was smitten with Wright the first time they met and that he had difficulty concentrating on his work whenever he was around her.
The feeling was more than mutual, as Wright stated in one interview that she definitely had a crush on her co-star and was convinced they were going to be married by the time the movie’s filming was over. Both actors’ sense of professionalism won out in the end, but they both apparently requested multiple retakes of their final scene together, enjoying the greatest kiss in the history of kissing.
11. Whoopi Goldberg and Courtney Cox auditioned for Buttercup
Reiner and Goldman also had difficulties in finding an actress who lived up to Goldman’s description of The Princess Buttercup – “She was the most beautiful woman in a hundred years. She didn’t seem to care.” Robin Wright was cast after being asked to read for the role, following Reiner seeing a picture of her hanging on a casting agent’s wall.
Before that faithful glimpse, hundreds of actresses auditioned for the role, including Courtney Cox and Meg Ryan. Comedian Whoopi Goldberg campaigned for the role, but Reiner turned her down flat. Uma Thurman was considered for the role but ultimately rejected for being too exotic. Amusingly, though rejected for the role of the most beautiful woman in the world, Thurman would go on to play the love goddess Venus in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen one year later.
10. Cary Elwes was injured twice during filming
Give the intense physicality of the role of Westley, it is not surprising that Cary Elwes suffered some injuries while shooting The Princess Bride. What is surprising is that his injuries did not come from the film’s intensive sword-fighting scenes.
Elwes’ first injury came after he broke his toe from accepting an invitation to take Andre the Giant’s ATV for a spin. Despite this, Elwes attempted to finish the day’s shooting before seeking treatment. You can visibly see him taking steps not to put pressure on the offending foot in the scenes following Westley’s rescue of Buttercup from Vizzini.
The second injury occurred on set, during the scene where Westley taunts Count Rugen and is knocked unconscious. Elwes asked Christopher Guest, who played Rugen, to truly hit him. Guest obliged and shooting was suspended for a day as Elwes was rushed to the hospital.
9. Andre the Giant had difficulty speaking his lines
While an experienced performer, Andre the Giant was nervous about acting roles that required him to speak extensively. Born in the town of Grenoble, France, Andre was incredibly insecure about his thick French accent and ability to speak English fluently. This was why he initially refused to read for The Princess Bride in the 1970s and largely limited his acting to non-speaking roles, such as Bigfoot in one episode of The Six Million Dollar Man.
Thankfully, director Rob Reiner was willing to go the extra mile to put William Goldman’s first pick for the role of Fezzik at ease. To that end, he personally read all of Fezzik’s dialogue in the movie phonetically and recorded it onto tapes that Andre the Giant could listen to so that he could practice his pronunciation.
8. William Goldman ruined several takes when Buttercup’s dress caught fire
Whether they work on stage or screen, it is the actor’s goal to make the audience believe in the reality of their performance. Cary Elwes and Robin Wright did such a good goal of accomplishing this that even writer William Goldman forgot that he was watching two actors performing.
The first day’s shooting involved several scenes set in The Fire Swamp – a nightmarish place where the ground occasionally released spurts of flame. One scene involved a stunt where Buttercup’s dress catches fire and Westley beats out the flames. Goldman, caught up in the scene, reportedly shouted “Oh my God! Her dress is on fire!” and ruined the take.
Goldman also ruined the very first take of the first scene. When listening to the playback, Reiner noticed an odd noise in the background. The noise turned out to be Goldman, praying out loud for the production to be a success.
7. Mandy Patinkin suffered a bruised rib… from not laughing
Actor Mandy Patinkin, who brought the revenge-seeking Spanish swordsman Inigo Montoya to life, also received an injury during the shooting of The Princess Bride. Like Cary Elwes, his suffering came about during an unexpected scene rather than one of the film’s many duels.
Patinkin’s injury was acquired while filming opposite comedian Billy Crystal, who played the mystic Miracle Max. Crystal, who was given permission by director Rob Reiner to improvise, reportedly spent ten hours a day over three days coming up with new gag lines. Patinkin, who was expected to remain stone-faced for all of this, bruised a rib holding back his laughter.
Patinkin was not the only one who suffered from Crystal’s comedic onslaught. Reiner laughed so hard at Crystal’s antics that he became nauseous and eventually had to direct the Miracle Max scenes by video monitor because his laughter kept ruining the takes.
6. Over a decade of development hell
For years The Princess Bride had a reputation in Hollywood as the book that everyone wanted to make into a movie but nobody dared to touch. Robert Redford, Norman Jewison (In The Heat Of The Night), John Boorman (Excalibur), and François Truffaut (Fahrenheit 451) all displayed an interest in directing the movie at some point during the 1970s. An effort to produce a Princess Bride film in the early 1980s fell through, despite Richard Lester being attached to direct and Christopher Reeve, at the height of his post-Superman popularity, being interested in playing Westley.
Why the difficulties? Chalk it up to Hollywood politics. So many people had their hands on the rights to The Princess Bride over the years that producers became fearful of backing the movie since, if it were successful, their rivals could take credit for having helped ease the film through pre-production.
5. William Goldman bought the film rights back
Author William Goldman originally sold the film rights to The Princess Bride to 20th Century Fox for $500,000 and the right to write the screenplay himself. Goldman quickly came to regret the deal, as control of the prospective film bounced from producer to producer. At one point the movie was one day away from being green-lit, when a sudden power-shift resulted in the one executive who loved The Princess Bride being fired and their successor’s first action being cancelling everything that executive had approved.
Frustrated by the politics, Goldman took the unusual move of buying the film rights back with his own money. It was not until he was approached by director Rob Reiner (a fan of the novel, whose work on This Is Spinal Tap Goldman had enjoyed) that Goldman considered letting someone else take a stab at adapting his favorite work.
4. Danny DeVito was considered for Vizzini
Described in the original The Princess Bride novel as short, cherub-faced, and sharp-tongued, the role of Vizinni the Sicilian almost seemed to have been written for Danny DeVito. The diminutive Italian-American actor, best known at the time for his portrayal of petty tyrant Louie De Palma on the sitcom Taxi, was known for his ability to convey menace despite his small stature.
While history is confused on whether DeVito was ever approached about the role, rejected it outright ,or turned it down due to scheduling conflicts, it is certain that Wallace Shawn was informed that he was not the first choice to play the criminal mastermind. This gave Shawn a persecution complex, as the actor feared that he would be fired and replaced at any given moment because he couldn’t even do a Sicilian accent, much less play the role the same way DeVito would have.
3. It’s based on a lie
Released in an abridged “good parts” version edited by author William Goldman, The Princess Bride first saw life as a novel in 1973. Goldman explained in the introduction that his father had read him The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern as a child and that he had procured a copy for his son as a birthday present. He was mortified, after his son said the book was boring, to discover that The Princess Bride was a political satire and his father had cut out the dull bits in his telling of the tale.
This story, it turned out, was a complete lie. There was no S. Morgenstern. There was no preexisting The Princess Bride novel. And Goldman didn’t have a son! Goldman did however, have two daughters, who inspired The Princess Bride by asking their father to tell them a story about a princess who was a bride.
2. Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits created all the music
When it came time to select a composer for The Princess Bride, Rob Reiner felt there was only one man who could handle the job and give them the sound he envisioned – Mark Knopfler. While Knopfler had worked as a film composer before (on the 1983 film Local Hero and the 1984 film Cal), he was best known as the lead guitarist, lead singer, and songwriter of British rock group Dire Straits.
Knopfler agreed to take the job, but only on one condition. He insisted that Reiner had to sneak the USS Coral Sea (CV-43) baseball cap that he wore while playing director Marty DiBergi in This Is Spinal Tap somewhere into the setting of The Princess Bride. While unable to locate that specific hat, Reiner did place a similar hat in the background of the grandson’s bedroom set.
1. False reputation as a “bomb”
It’s wrongly reported that The Princess Bride was considered a bomb on its initial release. While the film wasn’t the smash hit it was hoped it would be given the book’s reputation, the movie was a financial success. The film’s final gross was $30.8 million – nearly double its $16 million budget. It would go on to make much more on the home-video market.
The film was also a critical success, scoring a Two Thumbs Up rating from famed movie critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. Rotten Tomatoes’ compiling of the major reviews of the time rank The Princess Bride as 97% fresh. It went on to win Best Fantasy Film and Best Costumes at The Saturn Awards as well as The Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. Most impressively, it was inducted into the National Film Registry in 2016 – an honor only afforded to 25 films per year.
Is there some inconceivable The Princess Bride fact that we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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