The Princess Bride – [Krissy] Geeks Out

I fell in love with The Princess Bride when I was a kid. I have kind of a weird “super power” which is that I can easily memorize dialogue once I have heard it a few times, complete with accent, delivery, inflection … the whole 9 yards. I could perform for you any of your favorite scenes from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Top Gun, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future … or, most especially from my favorite movie, The Princess Bride.

It has been so exciting to see the recent resurgence of Princess Bride enthusiasm since the 25th anniversary in 2012 and the release of “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride” written by Westley himself, Cary Elwes. I hope we can keep this Princess Bride party going in anticipation of the 30th Anniversary in 2017 … just two short years away, guys!

With that in mind, here are my 6 favorite things to geek out about for the movie, the Princess Bride:

1) The movie that defies genre

Featuring fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles, etc., the Princess Bride defies traditional genre description. In fact, as we learn in Cary Elwes’ brilliant recounting of the disappointing theatrical release of the Princess Bride, in 1987 no one knew how to categorize and sell this movie. Is it an adventure? A love story? A kids movie? Is it a comedy? A fantasy? Is it about princesses? Pirates? Revenge? The answer is, of course, yes.  The Princess Bride is all of these movies in one.

2) Quotes!

…On second thought, Quotes deserves a whole post of its own. Be on the lookout!

3) Lessons Learned

Like all of the best movies ever made, you do not simply walk away from the Princess Bride without having learned something. These are my favorite lessons imparted to us by Westley, Buttercup, Inigo & the gang.

  • Never give up. Facing impossible odds? Up against giants or monsters with only your wits to rely on? Mostly dead? Never give up. In fact, approach all your obstacles with confidence and a positive attitude. It is a fundamental lesson of improv comedy, and a lesson we learn in the Princess Bride that is applicable to all areas of life!
  • Always be prepared for a battle of wits! While it is true that Westley is possibly the greatest swordsman in the world, the weapon he relies on most is his wits. Well, that and an immunity to iocaine powder. Still, one has to have the wits to know that, in a battle of wits – should one occur – it is best to have spent the last 10 years building up an immunity to iocaine Powder. Westley not only has the brains to outsmart his opponents, he also takes the time to prepare himself for whatever might come his way.
  • The clever few can defeat the predictable many. In the world of the Princess Bride, it is always a mistake to count the little guy out. Vizzini does not think that Westley, just one man, can defeat his swordsman, his giant and his own intellect to obtain the Princess. He is wrong on all counts, because Westley is prepared for any battle. Prince Humperdink assumes that 60 armed guards will easily outmatch a Spaniard, a giant, and a mostly dead Dread Pirate. What he does not count on is that Inigo, Westley and Fezzik have the ability to be creative and out think all of those guards, and Humperdink himself. They use clever ideas and the resources they have available to overcome greater numbers and power. Another thing the little guys have going for them in the Princess Bride, is that they have more on the line than just vanity or pride. Westley is fighting for his true love, and Inigo is fighting to avenge the memory of his father. Fighting for love, or for honor, or for things we truly believe in gives us a power beyond what we might ordinarily be capable of. In fact, Inigo is nearly defeated by Count Rugen. Yet, Inigo is able to call upon hidden stores of courage and strength, in the name of his father, to fulfill his destiny and complete his quest.
  • And finally, never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line! …unless you are immune to iocaine powder, as previously discussed. Then its fine.
  • The Battle of Wits

4) The cast

Though in 1987 none of these actors were big names or box office draws, looking at what everyone has achieved since then is inconceivable!

Robin Wright (Buttercup) is now killing it on House of Cards and, holy cow, does she look amazing or what?

Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya) is great in Homeland and formerly on one of my guilty pleasures, Criminal Minds. He is also one of my favorite actors in musicals like Sunday in the Park with George. Here is a clip of Mandy singing “Children will Listen” on Larry King in 1995. Its one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite musicals and, frankly, one of my favorite musical actors singing it so beautifully makes me tear up every time.

Christopher Guest (Count Rugen) is a brilliant comedy legend. Known for This is Spinal Tap, Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman, he was also a genius on Saturday Night Live from 1984-85. Here he is with Billy Crystal:

Speaking of Billy Crystal… Billy Crystal! (Miracle Max… doi) There are great stories about what its like to work with Billy Crystal in “As You Wish” which I highly recommend.

Chris Sarandon (Humperdink) is also the voice of Jack Skellington. As a human adult with more than one Nightmare Before Christmas tattoo, that earns him a lot of love.

Wallace Shawn (Vizzini) has been putting that distinctive Vizzini voice to work as Rex the Dinosaur in Toy Story as well as parts on Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, King of the Hill, Fish Hooks, Phineas and Ferb and more. Wally was also a recurring character on Eureka! I also recommend checking out My Dinner with Andre, which made Wallace Shawn well respected even before the Princess Bride.

Carol Kane (Valerie, Miracle Max’s Not-a-Witch-but-a-Wife) can also be heard all over the place, right alongside Wallace Shawn in Phineas and Ferb and Kung Fu Panda as well as Jake and the Neverland Pirates (a favorite at our house.) She is recurring on Gotham and on the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Of course, she will always be best known as Taxi’s Simka Dahblitz-Gravas opposite Andy Kaufman.

And then there is Andre the Giant, Peter Falk, Fred Savage, Peter Cook

So much in this cast to love!

… You may have noticed one cast member missing. That’s because he gets his own heading.

5) Cary Elwes & “As You Wish”

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Is there anyone more handsome than Cary Elwes? The answer is no.

He was first considered because of the strong resemblance he bares to Errol Flynn with his timeless good looks and charm. In fact, Mel Brooks cast Cary in Robin Hood: Men in Tights because of the resemblance to Flynn as well. Cary won the role of Westley because he was not only the handsomest ever, he was also funny and had a good sense of comic timing.

But listen, we can all watch the Princess Bride and agree, without a hint of argument, that Cary Elwes is the most handsome and all around best ever. BUT, don’t worry, I can also confirm that he is a god damned prince in real life as well … and still the most handsome. I had my picture taken with him at 2014 Phoenix Comicon. Anyone who has participate in one of these photo ops know that, a lot of the time, you get rushed in and out in the blink of an eye, as was the case with my photo op with Nathan Fillian. When I had my picture taken with Cary Elwes, he looked me in the eye, asked my name and then following the photo he said, “You look fantastic, Krissy. Have a wonderful day today.” And then I died. (Not true. I am fine.)

I also had the good fortune to see him when he appeared to promote “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales of the Making of the Princess Bride” through Changing Hands Bookstore. Again, he was a god damned prince. He answered way more questions than he needed to and he chose to walk out among the crowd to answer questions face to face with fans, rather than from the stage. He was generous with his hugs, selfies and stories and he was particularly wonderful with the kids.

In fact, when we had the opportunity to have him sign our copies of the book, he spoke to my 8 year old daughter at length. He looked her right in the eye, asked her her name, and said, “Zoe, thank you so much for coming to see me tonight and thank you for loving the Princess Bride.” And then she died. (Not true. She is also fine.)

Cary Elwes certainly does not have to be so gracious with his fans. He is, after all, the handsomest man ever, as we all agreed without argument. The fact that he IS such a goddamned prince makes it easy to love him more and more, and to love the Princess Bride more and more by proxy.

6) Watching with your kids!

The very, very best thing about the Princess Bride is that I can share it with my kids. There are a handful of movies we can all watch together and laugh, and smile and sometimes gasp and cry, without worrying about bad language or risqué moments. The Princess Bride is one of those. My kids love it as much as I do. They quote it as much as I do. I have faith that, based on this fact alone, the Princess Bride will carry on across the generations as a timeless classic.