My dad has always called “The Princess Bride” (1987) one of the greatest movies of all time. And I agree with him—it’s got adventure, torture, comedy, romance—literally everything that could make a movie good and interesting is shoved into this one movie. You just kind of fall in love with the characters. Westley is the perfect guy, Buttercup is the most beautiful and flawless woman in the whole world, Vizzini is inconceivably ridiculous, Fezzik is stupidly lovable, Inigo has got the best backstory and one of the greatest lines in the whole movie, Humperdinck is weirdly evil; everyone has these traits that they just make their own, and it’s funny and heartbreaking and wonderful. It’s been my favorite movie for a while. I’ve seen it a bajillion times, and the book by William Goldman is also my favorite book (which I definitely recommend and you all should check out because it’s so easy to read and Goldman is a fantastic writer).
Cary Elwes is the actor who played Westley in the movie, and man, oh man if he wasn’t the studliest muffin in 1987 then I don’t know who was. He recently wrote a book called “As You Wish,” which is basically a memoir-type book about his experiences on set of “The Princess Bride.” Since I’m a huge fan of “The Princess Bride,” of course I pre-ordered his book from Amazon weeks ago and was really excited to get it in the mail. I haven’t been able to read the whole thing yet, but I’ve skimmed a couple of chapters and it seems pretty basic. There were a couple of funny stories in there, like about André the Giant farting on set and Cary Elwes breaking his toe before he was supposed to start training for his big sword fighting scene with Mandy Patinkin that I read about and had me almost in tears laughing so hard.
One of my best friends, Catherine, works at the Jacob Burns Film Center, and they were doing this showing of “The Princess Bride” with a question and answer sort of thing at the end with Cary Elwes, and she asked me if I wanted to go. I said OF COURSE because I’ve been the biggest fan of “The Princess Bride” since forever and also I could witness A FAMOUS HOT PERSON talk in REAL LIFE. So we went when I came home for fall break and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had watching the movie, because (since the movie came out in 1987 and I wasn’t even alive yet, let alone a thought in my parents’ brains) I’ve never seen it in a movie theater. And I hadn’t even realized that seeing a movie in a movie theater rather than just watching it with a small group of people or by yourself makes watching a movie such a different experience. It made everything Vizzini did so much funnier because the audience would just crack up so loudly and everything Westley did so much more romantic because everyone would sigh or whisper to their best girl friend, “If only, if only…” It was great, and a lot of fun.
And then at the end of the movie, Cary Elwes came onstage and took a bow, and all of the middle-aged women in the audience were whistling and I was screaming and clapping and basically fangirling all over the place, and was what they call a HOT MESS.
Cary was interviewed by the president of the Jacob Burns Film Center, this lady named Janet Maslin who used to be a movie reviewer for the New York Times, and she asked him about how he got the role, which he talked about for a bit. He’s an amusing guy in real life—very charismatic, funny, and handsome for a man of 51. He did a bunch of impressions too, including one of André the Giant and one of Fat Albert (?) that were surprisingly accurate. And then Janet Maslin asked him about his broken toe and about working with Rob Reiner as a director and André the Giant.
I’m not sure what I was expecting—I’ve never seen a celebrity interview before except for the ones that I’ve looked up on YouTube. All that I can say is that I was disappointed. Based off of the few chapters that I’d flipped through in his book, he repeated everything VERBATIM to what he had written. He told the story about André the Giant farting on set, with all of the little quips he had written, he told the story about breaking his toe, and he told the story about working with Billy Crystal almost exactly how he had written it. It was so fake to me, and so rehearsed. I wanted to go up there and shake him and ask him, “WHAT ARE YOU LIKE IN REAL LIFE?”
I’m not saying that I didn’t have a good time at the Q & A. It was really cool to get to see Cary Elwes, and to see him speak and talk about his experiences working on my favorite movie in the whole world. I feel like what I wanted was to get to know what he was like as a person, outside of “The Princess Bride.” When Catherine and I left Jacob Burns we started discussing this.
Seeing Cary Elwes speak made me think about all of the celebrities that I look up to. Like Jennifer Lawrence. And Emma Watson. What if the things that they’ve been saying to interviewers or doing (i.e. Jennifer Lawrence falling down at all of these award shows, was that even a real thing, or did her publicist tell her to do it to make people like her more?) wasn’t real? What if JLaw isn’t really this charming, but gets fed these lines to say to people? What if Emma isn’t really the classy woman that she presents herself to be? I mean, that’s okay, they can be whoever they want, no judgment, but the way that they’re pictured in the media makes them seem like these type of people, and one can’t help but wonder what they’re really like.
Then Catherine and I started to look at the other side of this—the celebrity side. Something to consider is the fact that celebrities probably get asked similar questions every day by interviewers and magazines and TV show people, so having the same generic answers prepared for the same generic questions would probably make a lot of sense. I guess that’s what Cary Elwes has to do, since all the questions he’s probably getting asked nowadays have to do with “The Princess Bride” and “As You Wish.”
Even if they’re asked questions that are different, like about their personal lives, they’re going to have respect for themselves and want to keep some stuff private. Or maybe some parts of their personalities are a bit extreme and their publicists want to keep that hidden to maintain their squeaky clean image, so they tell them to act a certain way. You kind of have to forgive them for being so fake, because I guess they have to. And even if they’re not being fake, you’ll never know unless you spend a bunch of time with them and become best friends with them, and fat chance that that’s going to happen. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that Cary Elwes, I forgive you and understand why you act the way that you do, and that I appreciate in real life and on the screen that you are, in essence, an actor and a movie star.