In 1987 director Rob Reiner adapted William Goldman's satirical romantic fantasy adventure novel "The Princess Bride" for the screen. Although not an immediate success at the box office, the whimsical fantasy has exponentially developed an "Inconceivable!" cult following in the ensuing years.
Upon the film's 25th anniversary and a new Blu-ray release, we had an exclusive chat with the dashing star of "The Princess Bride," 49-year-old Cary Elwes, to talk about what makes the movie such a perennial favorite and also what fans can do to support a good cause.
You've been in films that have had huge grosses but are nowhere near the enduring popularity of "The Princess Bride," which was not a moneymaker initially. How do you think your life would have been different if "The Princess Bride" had made $100 million and then no one ever talked about it again?
I think my life has been changed completely as a result of this movie anyway. I think I can speak for them all when I say it was a life-altering experience. The film is the gift that keeps on giving. From generation to generation, from kids who saw it when it first came out and I meet them later on and they come up to me and say, "I'm now showing it to my kids." It's just incredible! The enduring nature of this movie is quite unfathomable to me. I'm so proud to be part of it. I get fan mails to this day from kids all around the world.
You play an Errol Flynn-type in this movie, and then you parody Flynn in "Robin Hood: Men in Tights." What gave you such an affinity for that specific niche?
I grew up watching Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks movies as a kid. I loved Errol Flynn. I think "The Adventures of Robin Hood" is one of the greatest Warner Bros. movies of all time; one of the earliest uses of Technicolor. I think they should restore and re-release that movie on Blu-ray, if they haven't already. It's an extraordinary movie, Errol is fabulous, Olivia de Havilland, my gosh, the colors are so vivid.
Westley is such an utterly romantic character. What's the most Westley-like moment from your own life?
Meeting and falling in love with my wife, then meeting and falling in love with my little daughter when she was born, I guess. That would be my best achievement on the planet, being a good husband and hopefully a good father.
How old is your daughter?
Wonderful! So after "As you wish," what's the OTHER line people quote to you the most?
That's a good question, I don't know. That's pretty much the one most people remember. Sometimes I won't even get past TSA agents at the airport who won't let me through without saying it. "I wanna make the flight, whatever you want."
Rob Reiner gathered such an eclectic cast: a singer, a couple of stand-up comedians, theatre actors, wrestlers, Brits and Yanks all in this outrageous stew. How do you think he managed to glue all this together with such aplomb?
He's just one of those guys. Rob is a very decisive person. Being an actor was something that drew actors to him because obviously he gets it and knows how to relate to actors. As a director he has an incredible eye and a great vision. He doesn't waver from that, he just knows what he wants. By the way, actors love that, when they meet a director who has a very specific vision, and if he's able to share that vision with his cast and crew, is able to articulate it well, then you're on to something because everyone knows what's expected of them. Early on he said to us at the read-through, "I don't want any of you to play this for laughs, the writing is all there. You don't have to tip it, just play it for real." And that's what we did.
You were all committed.
We were, and Robin said something really interesting to me last night, she said, "It's one of those movies where we all got to work with almost every actor in the movie." Usually in movies you meet some cast members you didn't have any scenes with. We all kind of worked with each other in the story.
It's a very picaresque story ...
Yes, where all the actors kind of interact with each other. They all somehow by fate have to come across and deal with each other in some way, shape or form. That's Bill Goldman for you; very intelligent man.
Westley isn't just a hero -- he's the archetypal hero, he's the über hero, which makes it all the more ironic that in the years after you've played so many bad guys. Was it a conscious choice to go from Westley to Ted Bundy (in "The Riverman")?
I pick and choose my roles based on the level of interest for me. Is it a film I would go and see myself? I don't consciously pick them by saying I'm gonna play a serial killer here, or a Pope, there. Whatever. I just pick them based on the level of interest for me.
In the Blu-ray doc you talk briefly about the aid work you do in Darfur. Could you tell us what drew you into that?
I work with this organization called Mercy Corps. They're unlike any other aid organization. Most go to an area where there's been a natural disaster or human conflict and they provide essentials like food, shelter and medicine. After most organizations have left the area Mercy Corps sticks around because their goal is for long-term economic recovery for that community. They come up with incredible programs like micro finance, micro insurance and helping farmers get back on their feet. They're very intelligent guys; they're out of Portland.
We thought it would be fun for the fans to get limited edition "Princess Bride" memorabilia and at the same time feel good about themselves. If they want they can go to www.mercycorps.org/princessbride and donors can get things like some of Rob Reiner's beard hair, posters that were turned down by the studios. "As you wish, dude" is one of the posters. They can get the bottle I whispered "As you wish" into. There's a screenplay signed by myself, Rob and Robin. It's good stuff for a good cause. 88% of all the money raised by this non-profit goes straight into their program so that's a rare and wonderful thing.