“There’s a shortage of perfect breasts in this world. It would be a pity to damage yours.”
It’s tough to not like The Princess Bride. It’s got something for everyone: Cary Elwwwweeeessss for the ladies, Robin Wright for the fellas, Andre the Giant for the everyone. Not to mentions swamps and giant rats and Wallace Shawn and sword fights and Kevin Arnold and Christopher Guest and hello my name is Inigo Montoya you killed my father prepare to die. It’s one of the few cult movies that deserves all the adoration it receives.
On Thursday night, director Rob Reiner joined Jason Reitman at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in front of a rapturous crowd to talk over The Princess Bride. Rather than MST3K it, though, they instead provided interesting facts about the movie — a real-life directors commentary. Here’s what we learned.
Reiner: Originally, Peter Falk [who was around 60] said, “I don’t know if I’m old enough to be a grandfather.” He said maybe we should put prosthetics on me, to make me older. So we did. We did a test on it. He looked at it and said, “Rob…I look like a burn victim!” I said, “Peter, maybe we do it without the prosthetics?” He says, “I think you’re on to something.”
Reitman: There’s a piece of trivia I heard about this scene. There’s a hat in the scene that [composer] Mark Knopfler wanted you to use?
Reiner: There it is! You see it hanging? You see that little cap there? That’s the cap I wore in Spinal Tap. And Mark Knopfler, who wrote the score for The Princess Bride, said to me, “I’ll only do it if you put something from This is Spinal Tap in the movie.” So I threw the hat in there for Marty DiBergi, and then I was lucky enough to get the guy who was the lead guitarist for Dire Straits. Here, you can hear his guitar. It’s a classical score, but his guitar work is very distinctive.
Reitman: I read somewhere Cary Elwes said everywhere he goes to this day, women ask him to say that to them.
Reiner: Yes, and people have Princess Bride weddings. They have ‘As you wish’ written inside their rings. They do all kinds of things like that.
Reitman: I read that you were in a restaurant in New York once, and one of John Gotti’s men said…
Reiner: Yeah, I walked outside the restaurant, and John Gotti was there with six wiseguys. There was a guy beside the limo who looked like Luca Brasi. He looked at me, and said: “You killed my father…Prepare to die!” I almost went right then! He said, “I love dat movie, da Princess Bride!”
Reiner: The first day we shot with [Robin Wright] was this scene where she gets lit up by the Fire Swamp. Bill Goldman says, “I can’t believe we’re setting our leading lady on fire on the first day!” We were all so worried she was going to get burned.
Reitman: This is obviously all practical.
Reiner: Oh yeah, that’s real fire.
Reitman: Wallace Shawn was not the original actor that you had in mind, right?
Reiner: Well, I mean, [Vizzini’s] supposed to be a Sicilian. And Wally Shawn is probably the furthest thing from a Sicilian you could possibly imagine. And he thought we were going to fire him after the first day, because the first thing we did with him was The Battle of Wits scene with the iocane powder. He was sure we were going to fire him. “I can’t get the Sicilian accent!” I said, “Wally, we want the Sicilian to sound just like you.”
Reiner: I sent [Andre the Giant] his part on tape. I recorded his entire part.
Reitman: Your voice?
Reiner: Me, personally. And I said, “Listen to this, and study it.” And he studied it. We never had to [re-record his dialogue.] He learned the whole thing [phonetically.]
Reiner: Here’s an interesting thing. You’ll see the [Rodents of Unusual Size] come in, and there’s a scene where one rat kind of sniffs around. They were little people in rat suits. And the scene where he fights the rat, there was another guy named Anthony who could scurry really good. He could run around.
Reiner: This is a place called Higger Tor, it’s way up close to Scotland, and it’s a rocky outcropping. Here’s something interesting. Cary Elwes, he always walks very gingerly. Wait until he sits down and you’ll see…See the way he’s holding that leg out. Looks like it’s very elegant. That’s because he had almost broken his ankle, and he could put no weight on it. So when he sits down like that, and then when he gets up, you’d say, “Oh wow, look how graceful and debonair and elegant.” But he just couldn’t put any weight on it.
Reiner: You see those four horses? At the end of the movie, we had a scene where Peter Falk leaves and the little boy picks up the book and is leafing through it, wanting to relive the book again. And he hears a voice outside his window and sees the four white horses with the four heroes on it, waving at him. In order to find a horse that could carry Andre, we had to find a pulley system to lower him onto the horse, to take the weight off the horse. [They shot the sequence, but Reiner decided during the editing that it didn’t work.]