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I read Cary Elwes’s book (written with Joe Layden) AS YOU WISH in a single sitting. I needed its humorous refreshment and loving sunshine badly and it didn’t disappoint me one iota. He was writing about the group experience of creating the film THE PRINCESS BRIDE, a feature that was a love story and an adventure and a fairy tale and a comic satire that delighted both adults and children…and still does. Elwes notes that “It is ranked among the 100 Greatest Film Love Stories by the American Film Institute, is on Bravo’s list of the 100 Funniest Movies, and Goldman’s script is ranked by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays ever produced.” In fact, the film sprang from a book that was written out of love by the award-winning screenwriter William Goldman for his two young daughters. Perhaps that was the magic ingredient, that wellspring of love, which set the stage for a heart-felt peak experience both in the film’s construction and for the audience.
Cynics pooh-poohed the film when it was new. It didn’t follow old guidelines. Critics often weren’t sure how to assess it. The studios didn’t understand how to market it. They mistook it for a children’s movie because of its tongue-in-cheek innocence, but the movie spoke most clearly to the child within the adult…although children loved it, too. As millions buy the DVD for individual collections and for friends, it reminds us adults that there was a time when we longed for romance and adventure and good humor that was pure, simple, and straight-forward, and the inner child has never stopped yearning.
Even those who wrinkle their noses at THE PRINCESS BRIDE may enjoy AS YOU WISH because it records the memories of many of the key contributors to the film in addition to Elwes, who played the romantic lead when he was still in his twenties beside Robin Wright who was equally young. A great theatrical performance, like any collaboration, stands on the shoulders of a huge team, and the team behind THE PRINCESS BRIDE was special because they shared a love of the project and respect that often swelled into love for one another. Perhaps the word that encapsulates the magic best is heart—beginning with the famously big heart of Rob Reiner, the award-winning director, who cared for his actors as family while fiercely realizing his vision of the film. Another huge heart belonged to André the Giant, who worked through horrific pain, a real-life giant of a man whose gentle kindness and love of life couldn’t help but be contagious.
Besides heart, the many participants in the film shared a passion for excellence to prove the naysayers, who said it couldn’t be made, wrong. The script spread great dialogue throughout the cast, which gave everyone motivation for rising to meet the level of performance around them. In fact, Wallace Shawn, who played the Italian crime boss Vizzini, made himself sick fretting that he wasn’t up to the task. He shouldn’t have worried. Reiner and his producing partner Andy Scheinman took care to locate what they deemed to be the perfect players for each role, extremely talented actors and comedians, all, and the actors delivered.
In graduate school, I hated working in groups because they invariably split into the people who actually did the work and the sliders who did as little as possible. Reading AS YOU WISH, I wished I could have been in that cast or crew, working hard to do my absolute best (which, in my fantasy, would have been extraordinary), enjoying the kind, witty company of cast and crew, and creating a classic. We are rewarded with few peak work experiences in this life. I loved sharing the starlight of THE PRINCESS BRIDE with Cary Elwes…even vicariously.