The Princess Bride (film)
The Princess Bride is a 1987 American romantic comedy fantasy adventure film directed and co-produced by Rob Reiner, and starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant and Christopher Guest. Adapted by William Goldman from his 1973 novel of the same name, it tells the story of a farmhand named Westley, accompanied by befriended companions along the way, who must rescue his true love Princess Buttercup from the odious Prince Humperdinck. The film effectively preserves the novel's narrative style by presenting the story as a book being read by a grandfather (Peter Falk) to his sick grandson (Fred Savage).
|The Princess Bride|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Rob Reiner|
|Screenplay by||William Goldman|
|Based on||The Princess Bride
by William Goldman
|Music by||Mark Knopfler|
|Edited by||Robert Leighton|
|Box office||$30.9 million|
The film was first released in the United States on September 25, 1987, was well-received by critics at the time, and was a modest box office success. Over time, particularly with the introduction of the Internet, the film has become a cult classic and considered endlessly quotable. The film is number 50 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies", number 88 on The American Film Institute's (AFI) "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions" list of the 100 greatest film love stories, and 46 in Channel 4's 50 Greatest Comedy Films list. In 2016, the film was inducted into the National Film Registry, being deemed as "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant".
The film is an enactment of the following story read by a sick boy's grandfather to the boy, who is initially dismissive of the story. The enactment is occasionally interrupted by scenes of the reading in this frame story.
A beautiful young woman named Buttercup lives on a farm in the fictional country of Florin. Whenever she orders the farmhand Westley to do chores for her, he complies and answers, "As you wish." Eventually she realizes he loves her and admits her love for him. Westley leaves to seek his fortune so they can marry, but his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts.
Five years later, believing Westley is dead, Buttercup reluctantly agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck, heir to the throne of Florin. Before the wedding, she is kidnapped by three outlaws: a short Sicilian boss named Vizzini, a gigantic wrestler from Greenland named Fezzik, and a Spanish fencing master named Inigo Montoya, who seeks revenge against the six-fingered man who killed his father. The outlaws are pursued by Prince Humperdinck with a complement of soldiers, and also by a masked man in black.
The man in black catches up to the outlaws at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity, where he defeats Inigo in a duel and knocks him unconscious, chokes Fezzik until he blacks out, and kills Vizzini by tricking him into drinking poison. He takes Buttercup prisoner and they flee, stopping to rest at the edge of a gorge. When Buttercup correctly guesses that he is the Dread Pirate Roberts, she becomes enraged at him for killing Westley; as he suddenly notices Humperdinck and his men appear in the distance, she shoves him down into the gorge and wishes death upon him. She then realizes he is Westley himself when he replies, "As you wish!" She throws herself into the gorge after him, and together they enter the dangerous Fire Swamp. When they are captured on the other side of the Fire Swamp by Humperdinck and his sadistic six-fingered vizier Count Rugen, Buttercup agrees to return with Humperdinck in exchange for Westley's release. However, Humperdinck secretly orders Rugen to lock Westley in the castle torture chamber.
When Buttercup expresses unhappiness at marrying Humperdinck, he promises to search for Westley; but his real plan is to start a war with the neighboring country of Guilder, by killing Buttercup and framing Guilder for her death. Buttercup taunts Humperdinck after learning that he never tried to find Westley. Enraged, Humperdinck tortures Westley almost to death. Meanwhile, Inigo and Fezzik meet when Humperdinck orders a gang of goons to arrest the thieves in a nearby forest, and Fezzik tells Inigo about Rugen. Inigo decides that they need Westley's help to get into the castle, and when he hears cries of anguish, he realizes they must be from Westley. Inigo and Fezzik find Westley and fear him dead. Upon bringing him to a folk healer, Miracle Max, however, they learn that Westley is "only mostly dead", and Max revives him to a state of heavy paralysis.
After Westley, Inigo, and Fezzik invade the castle, Humperdinck orders the wedding ceremony shortened and Inigo finds and kills Rugen in a duel, repeatedly reciting his greeting of vengeance: "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Westley finds Buttercup, who is about to commit suicide, and assures her that her marriage is invalid because she never said "I do." Still partly paralyzed, he bluffs his way out of a duel with Humperdinck, shares a passionate kiss with Buttercup, then rides away with Buttercup, Inigo, and Fezzik.
Back in the boy's bedroom, the boy eagerly asks his grandfather to read the story to him again the next day, to which the grandfather replies, "As you wish".
- Cary Elwes as Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts/The Man in Black
- Robin Wright as Buttercup/The Princess Bride
- Chris Sarandon as Prince Humperdinck
- Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya
- Christopher Guest as Count Tyrone Rugen
- André the Giant as Fezzik
- Wallace Shawn as Vizzini
- Billy Crystal as Miracle Max
- Carol Kane as Valerie, Max's wife
- Peter Cook as The Impressive Clergyman
- Mel Smith as The Albino
- Margery Mason as The Ancient Booer
- Malcolm Storry as Yellin, a soldier of Florin
- Willoughby Gray as The King
Rob Reiner, who had been enamored with Goldman's book ever since he was given it as a childhood gift from his father Carl Reiner, realized he wanted to make the film adaptation after successfully demonstrating his filmmaking skill with the release of This is Spinal Tap in 1984. During production of Stand by Me, released in 1986, Reiner had spoke to an executive at Paramount Pictures regarding what his next film would be, and suggested the adaptation of The Princess Bride. He was told they couldn't do that, leading Reiner to discover that several studios had previously attempted to bring Goldman's book to the big screen without success.
Among those previous attempts include 20th Century Fox, which paid Goldman $500,000 for the film rights and to do a screenplay in 1973. Richard Lester was signed to direct and the movie was almost made, but the head of production at Fox was fired and the project was put on hiatus. Goldman subsequently bought back the film rights to the novel with his own money. Other directors had also attempted to adapt the book, including Francois Truffaut, Robert Redford, and Norman Jewison, and at one point, Christopher Reeve was interested in playing Westley in one planned adaption. However, Reiner had found success by gaining financial support from Norman Lear, who Reiner knew from All in the Family and who had funded production of This is Spinal Tap, with the production to be distributed by 20th Century Fox. Reiner worked closely with Goldman to adapt the book for the screenplay.
Reiner had quickly decided on Cary Elwes for Westley, based on his performance in Lady Jane. However, during the casting period in Los Angeles, Elwes was in Germany on set for Maschenka. Reiner flew out to Munich to meet with Elwes, confirming his appropriateness for the role. While Reiner and casting director Jane Jenkins auditioned other actors for Westley, they knew Elwes was perfect for the part. Elwes himself had read the book in his childhood and associated himself with the character of Westley, but never believed he would have the opportunity to play him.
Robin Wright was cast late in the process, about a week prior to the start of filming; Reiner and Jenkins had auditioned a number of English actresses but had not found their ideal Buttercup. Wright's agent had heard of the casting call and encouraged Wright to audition. Though initially shy, Wright impressed Jenkins, and later Reiner. They invited Wright to come meet Goldman at his house. Jenkins recalls: "The doorbell rang. Rob went to the door, and literally, as he opened the door, [Wright] was standing there in this little white summer dress, with her long blonde hair, and she had a halo from the sun. She was backlit by God. And Bill Goldman looked across the room at her, and he said, 'Well, that's what I wrote.' It was the most perfect thing."
Mandy Patinkin and Wallace Shawn were early choices for the cast; Shawn in particular was chosen as Vizzini due to his diminutive size to contrast that of the giant Fezzik. For Fezzik, the production crew told Jenkins they wanted someone the likes of Andre the Giant in size. She contacted the World Wrestling Federation to ask about hiring Andre, but were told that the filming conflicted with a wrestling match in Tokyo that would pay him $5 million dollars. Jenkins auditioned other tall men, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lou Ferrigno, and Carel Struycken, but these didn't pan out. Near the end of filming, the World Wrestling Federation told Jenkins that Andre's match in Tokyo had been cancelled, clearing him to play the part in their film.
- Carl Wark, Sheffield, England
- Burnham Beeches, Buckinghamshire, England
- Lathkill Dale where it meets Cales Dale (the 'Battle of wits' scene)
- Cave Dale, Castleton, Derbyshire, England
- Bradley Rocks and Robin Hood's Stride, Birchover, Derbyshire, England
- Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland (for the Cliffs of Insanity)
- Haddon Hall, Bakewell, Derbyshire, England
- Penshurst Place, Kent, England
Reiner rented a house in England near these sites and frequently invited the cast over for meals and light-hearted get-togethers. Many cast members believed this helped to create a sense of "family" that helped to improve their performances for the film.
Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin learned to fence (both left- and right-handed) for the film, and performed these scenes themselves, outside of the two sumersaults which were performed by stunt doubles. They were trained by fencing instructors Bob Anderson and Peter Diamond, both whom had also worked on training the actors in the original Star Wars trilogy. Elwes and Patinkin spent about three weeks prior to filming learning to fence, and while spending most of their off-camera free time to practice. Anderson encouraged the two to learn the other's choreography for the fight, as to help them anticipate the movements and avoid an accident. They also watched as many sword fights from previous films to see how they could improve on those.
Popular professional wrestler André the Giant had undergone major back surgery prior to filming and, despite his great size and strength, could not support the weight of Cary Elwes during their fight scene or Robin Wright for a scene at the end of the film. For the wrestling scene, when Elwes was pretending to hang on André's back, he was actually walking on a series of ramps below the camera during close-ups. For the wide shots, a stunt double took the place of André. When he was apparently carrying Wright, she was actually suspended by cables.
Billy Crystal and Carol Kane spent time before traveling to England to work out the backstory between Miracle Max and his wife, and develop a rapport for their characters. Once on set, Reiner allowed the pair to improvise some of their lines.
The original soundtrack album was composed by Mark Knopfler, and released by Warner Bros. Records in the United States and Vertigo Records internationally in November 1987. The album contains the song "Storybook Love", performed by Willy DeVille and produced by Mark Knopfler. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 60th Academy Awards.
In his audio commentary of the film on the special edition DVD, director Rob Reiner said that only Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits could create a soundtrack to capture the film's quirky yet romantic nature. Reiner was an admirer of Knopfler's work but did not know him before working on the film. He sent the script to him hoping he would agree to score the film. Knopfler agreed on one condition: that somewhere in the film Reiner would include the USS Coral Sea (CV-43) baseball cap (which had been modified to say "USS Ooral Sea OV-4B") he wore as Marty DiBergi in This Is Spinal Tap. Reiner was unable to produce the original cap, but did include a similar cap in the grandson's room. Knopfler later said he was joking.
The Princess Bride received critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 97% "Certified Fresh" rating, based on 64 reviews, with an average rating of 8.3/10. The site's consensus states: "A delightfully postmodern fairy tale, The Princess Bride is a deft, intelligent mix of swashbuckling, romance, and comedy that takes an age-old damsel-in-distress story and makes it fresh." On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 77 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."
Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert gave the film a "two thumbs up" rating on their television program. Ebert also wrote a very favorable print review in his column for the Chicago Sun-Times. Richard Corliss of Time said the film was fun for the whole family, and later, Time listed the film as one of the "Best of '87". Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised the cast and the sweetness of the film.
The Princess Bride was not a major box-office success, but it became a cult classic after its release to the home video market. The film is widely regarded as eminently quotable. Elwes noted in 2017, on the film's 30th anniversary, that fans still frequently come up to him and quote lines back to the movie, while he knows that Wallace Shawn had it "worse", in that any time Wallace made a small error like dropping his keys, people would shout the word "Inconceivable!" to him.
In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted The Princess Bride the 38th greatest comedy film of all time. In 2006, William Goldman's screenplay was selected by the Writers Guild of America as the 84th best screenplay of all time; it earned the same ranking in the Guild's 2013 update. The film was selected number 88 on The American Film Institute's (AFI) "AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions" listing the 100 greatest film love stories of all time. BBC Radio 5's resident film critic, Mark Kermode, is a fan of the film, frequently considering it a model to which similar films aspire..
- American Film Institute lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – No. 88
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father; prepare to die!" – Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 – Nominated Fantasy Film
In December 2011, director Jason Reitman staged a live dramatic reading of The Princess Bride script at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), with Paul Rudd as Westley; Mindy Kaling as Buttercup; Patton Oswalt as Vizzini; Kevin Pollak as Miracle Max; Goran Visnjic as Inigo Montoya; Cary Elwes (switching roles) as Humperdinck; director Rob Reiner as the grandfather; and Fred Savage reprising his role as the grandson.
In 2014, Cary Elwes wrote As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride, a behind-the-scenes account of the film's production, co-written with Joe Layden. To help Elwes recall the production, Lear sent him a bound copy of the filming's call sheets. The book debuted at #3 on the New York Times Bestseller list. In addition to a foreword by director Rob Reiner and a limited edition poster, the book includes exclusive photos and interviews with the cast members from the 25th anniversary cast reunion, as well as unique stories and set secrets from the making of the film.
In North America, the film was released on VHS and Laserdisc in 1988 by Nelson Entertainment, the latter being a "bare bones" release in unmatted full screen. New Line Home Video reissued the VHS in 1994. The film was also released on Video CD by Philips.
The Criterion Collection released a matted widescreen version, bare bones version on laserdisc in 1989, supplementing it with liner notes. In 1997 Criterion re-released the Laserdisc as a "special edition". This edition was widescreen and included an audio commentary by Rob Reiner, William Goldman, Andrew Scheinman, Billy Crystal, and Peter Falk; excerpts from the novel read by Rob Reiner; behind the scenes footage; a production scrapbook by unit photographer Clive Coote; design sketches by production designer Norman Garwood; and excerpts from the television series Morton and Hayes, directed by Christopher Guest.
By 2000, MGM had acquired the US home video rights to the film (as part of the "pre-1996 Polygram film library" package) and released the film on VHS and DVD. The DVD release featured the soundtrack remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1 with the film in wide and full screen versions, and included the original US theatrical trailer. The next year MGM re-released the film in another widescreen "special edition", this time with two audio commentaries—one by Rob Reiner, the other by William Goldman—"As You Wish", "Promotional", and "Making Of" featurettes;[clarification needed] a "Cary Elwes Video Diary"; the US and UK theatrical trailers; four television spots; a photo gallery; and a collectible booklet.
In 2006, MGM released a two-disc set with varying covers—the "Dread Pirate" and "Buttercup" editions. Each featured their respective character, but had identical features: in addition to the features in the previous release were, the "Dread Pirate Roberts: Greatest Legend of the Seven Seas", "Love is Like a Storybook Story", and "Miraculous Make Up" featurettes, "The Quotable Battle of Wits" game, and Fezzik's "Guide to Florin" booklet.
Another year later, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the film, MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (whose parent company 20th Century Fox continues to hold all US rights to the film except for US home video rights) released the film with flippable cover art featuring the title displayed in an ambigram. This DVD did not include any of the bonus features from the older editions, but had new short featurettes and a new game. A Blu-ray Disc was released on March 17, 2009, encoded in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Special features include two audio commentaries, the original theatrical trailer and eight featurettes.
It was announced that composer Adam Guettel was working with William Goldman on a musical adaptation of The Princess Bride in 2006. The project was abandoned in February 2007 after Goldman reportedly demanded 75 percent of the author's share, even though Guettel was writing both the music and the lyrics. Some of Guettel's music for the production has since surfaced in concert performances and workshops.
In 2008, PlayRoom Entertainment released The Princess Bride: Storming the Castle, a board game based on the film.
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- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees
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- Goldman, William, Which Lie Did They Tell?, Bloomsbury, 2000
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