I've been looking forward to this read since I first heard about it months ago, so I was positively giddy cracking open the first page. I LOVE behind-the-scenes stories already, but throw in stories from one of my favorite movies of all time? SOLD!
Ok, so, let's start with the obvious: if you're as big a fan of The Princess Bride as I am, you're going to buy this book. And really, if you're that uber fan, you absolutely should.
For everyone else, though? Who may only have a passing interest in a movie they certainly like, but don't, say, quote daily & maybe even have "As You Wish" inscribed in a spouse's wedding ring? (WHAT.)
Well... for those folks, maybe not.
Don't get me wrong; there are some delightful tidbits in Elwes' book, stories that make the movie that much more magical in my eyes - but those tidbits are few and far between. Much of the book's 270 pages feels like filler, as Elwes gushes about how wonderful his co-stars are, how brilliant the director Rob Reiner is, and how blessed overall he feels to have been a part of this movie.
I'm relieved this isn't some grimy tell-all, of course, but after two hundred pages of everyone being wonderful and amazing, but very few personal stories to go along with all the gushing, you start to wonder if you're getting the whole truth. Or maybe we are getting the truth, but Elwes just didn't have enough material to properly fill out the book. Realistically, I think the "good stuff" could have been condensed down to 50 pages, and not felt rushed.
For example, Elwes spends 4 or 5 pages detailing the entire plot of The Princess Bride. Not just reminding us what happens in case it's been a while; actually explaining it as if we've never seen the movie... but still chose to read a book about it. (Ohhh... kaaaaay....)
I'm sad to say that, even as short as the book is, I ended up skimming several sections. Elwes drags out even the most interesting stories - trying to milk them for all their worth, I guess - and even then, I didn't feel like I was really getting an insider's scoop. It all felt a little too sanitized, too diplomatic, like he didn't want to reveal anything too interesting for fear of offending his co-stars. (There's a vague reference to Mandy Patinkin's competitive streak during fencing training, but no examples or details.)
In fact, the most interesting stories revolve around Andre the Giant, and I can't help but wonder if Elwes felt more free sharing those because Andre is no longer with us. (Or maybe because those stories are already so well-known?)
On the plus side, sprinkled throughout the book are quotes from the rest of the cast and crew, often recounting their own memories of the same events. Those breaks help give Elwes' memoir a more well-rounded feel, and while there were no big revelations, it was still a nice addition.
That's my spoiler-free review, but now, as a reward, I'm going to tell you a few of my favorite things I learned. Some (all?) of these were already on the internet, so it's possible they won't be spoilers at all! Still, if you'd rather wait and get your movie trivia from the book, then STOP HERE.
Ok, my #1 go-to trivia for the next time I need a good ice-breaker - because I go to at least one or two parties a year and hey, IT COULD HAPPEN - In this scene:
Elwes woke up later in the ER, as they were stitching up his head. In Guest's defense, they didn't have a prop sword, so the heavy metal handle came down harder than he intended, plus Elwes *told* him to just go ahead and hit him.
And in this scene:
Watch how Westley gets up; see how he favors one leg? That's because Elwes had just broken his big toe riding Andre the Giant's 4-wheel ATV - I think the same day, even - and was in a huge amount of pain.
Those are the only two injuries Elwes sustained the whole movie, and I guess it says something about me that I find those the most interesting. :D
On the funny side, for the scenes with Billy Crystal as Miracle Max, Elwes spoiled so many takes by laughing that they had to replace him for most of it with a prop dummy on the table:
Again, to be fair, *everyone* was spoiling takes by laughing, including the director. The only injury Mandy Patinkin received during the whole shoot was during this scene; he bruised a rib, trying to hold in his laughter. Ha!
And finally, the sweetest revelation for me:
Wallace Shawn (Vizzini) was terrified of heights, and though all the long shots in this scene were done with stuntmen, the close-ups were done on a 30-foot tall fake cliff set. He was apparently so distraught that they physically tied him to Andre, who told Shawn, "Don't worry, I'll take care of you." (FEELZ!!) After that, Shawn was able to do the scene.
There were a few other really fascinating bits about Shawn, but I'll leave those for the book.
So, what'd you think, guys? Any favorite parts I missed? Or did you already know all these from various BuzzFeed articles? :D ([shaking fist at sky] Curse you, Buzzfeeeeed!)