Moontrug spent the majority of her childhood running wild across Scottish glens: building tree houses in the woods, scrambling over the moors and jumping into icy rivers. She only came inside for two reasons: to get food and to watch The Princess Bride – one of most treasured fairytale spin-off films of all time. And so when an email appeared in Moontrug’s inbox recently, asking if she’d like to interview Cary Elwes, the star of The Princess Bride (yes, Westley – with the dreamy hair and farm boy charm), Moontrug practically fainted. This was the guy who had rescued Buttercup from the Fire Swamp, who had fought in the ‘World’s Greatest Sword Fight’ and who had ‘died’ for true love. And Moontrug was in with a chance of meeting him.
And so, on Tuesday this week, Moontrug fought her way through London’s gridlocked traffic and a downpour of rain (Dammit Buttercup, you never had to put up with this kind of stuff), to arrive at the Haymarket Hotel, in Piccadilly, where the interview was to take place. After realising it probably wouldn’t be appropriate to launch herself into the underground swimming pool there and expect Westley to save her, Moontrug waited semi-patiently for Cary to arrive. Over in the UK to promote the launch of his NYT best-selling book, As You Wish, (an account of the making of film, The Princess Bride), Cary arrived in a super-cool leather jacket (sort of Dread Pirate Robertsy in style) and as he recounted incredible behind-the-scenes secrets to the movie (to celebrate its 25th anniversary), Moontrug could totally see why Buttercup had fallen head over heels for him… He was LOVELY.
Moontrug leapt in to ask about one her favourite scenes in the film: the sword fight between Westley and Inigo Montoya (Saul in Homeland – who knew?!). So how much training was involved in the World’s Greatest Sword Fight involving left-handed duelling and epic somersaults? ‘We trained together for three weeks with Bob Anderson, a former English Olympic fencer: eight hours a day, five days a week,’ Cary told me. And the result was sensational. The only part a gymnast did was the somersault. But we’ll let Cary off for that – because he had a broken toe at the time (thanks to riding Andre The Giant’s range vehicle). And if you look reeeeeaaaaally carefully, you can see that Westley hops around when he’s in the Fire Swamp because of the pain in his toe! But that didn’t stop Cary from insisting he jump headfirst into the quicksand to rescue Buttercup (instead of feet first as the director had planned) because, according to Cary, it would look ‘more heroic.’ And it totally did – stipulation for all romantic heros, they MUST dive headlong into adventures rather than shimmy in feet first.
Part of the appeal of the film, an adaption of William Goldman’s brilliant book, is that it has EVERYTHING: Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautiful ladies. Pain. Dreath. Brave men. Cowardly men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles. Each scene is packed full of cinematic magic. Take the Sicilian boss, Vizzini, challenging Westley to a poison-drinking competition (thankfully they were both drinking grape juice – but apparently Wallace Shawn, who played Vizzini, was nearly crippled with anxiety because he believed Danny Devito was the producer’s first choice for the role), take the perilous chase up the Cliffs of Insanity (filmed on the Cliff of Moher in Ireland) and take the effortlessly gorgeous and brave Buttercup launching herself off hills to escape the Dread Pirate Roberts. Cary admits: ‘If I had to have one actor or actress fighting alongside me in the Fire Swamp it would be Robin Wright who played Buttercup. She was great. She was fearless in the role. On the first day of shooting she had to be set on fire and she didn’t even blink about it.’
Many moments in the film are laugh-out-loud funny, and Cary admits that he and Rob Reiner (the director) had to leave the set during Billy Crystal’s scenes portraying Miracle Max because he was so outrageously hilarious. Moontrug remembers lines from him like ‘he’s only mostly dead’ – and a classic from his wife: ‘I’m not a witch. I’m your wife’ with particular glee. And as well as humour, the film boasted the kiss that left all other kisses behind. Cary admits: ‘We took 6 takes to get that kiss right. We kept giggling. Robin and I had become good friends during the film – we’re still best friends – and it was weird kissing my best friend.’ The film even managed to get Dire Straits lead singer, Mark Knopfler, on side to write the soundtrack. He had only one condition when accepting – that Rob Reiner include the baseball cap Marty De Bergi wore in the 1984 rock music mockumentary, Spinal Tap – and Fred Savage (who plays the little boy listening to his grandfather read the story) wears a baseball cap similar to this!
William Goldman’s script is totally brilliant and although Moontrug’s favourite line comes from Westley when Buttercup is about to kill herself (‘There’s a shortage of perfect breasts in this world. It would be a pity to damage yours’), Cary revealed his favourite line was from Andre The Giant: ‘Anybody want a Peanut?’ Cary’s book, As You Wish, is a MUST READ for any Princess Bride fan. Reading it is like stepping into their magical world – where giants roam, princes duel for your life and miracles do actually happen. But perhaps just as wonderful as the book is Cary himself. I’ve not met a lot of super-famous Hollywood stars but people tell me they can be pretty painful. Well, in Cary, you have a guy who, despite being on tour to publicize his OWN book, offers to read MY book and who is genuinely interested in other people, not just himself. And for that, Cary, you are every bit as wonderful as I imagined Westley to be. Thank you so much for such a lovely interview and for signing the book you gave me with your immortal line: ‘As You Wish.’