Film

Cary Elwes: "This is a sequel to The Princess Bride"

Swashbuckling hero of The Princess Bride talks about bringing the cast together and how Pope John Paul II was a fan of the film


Is The Princess Bride the most loved film of all time?


I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love it, let me put it that way.

When you won the lead role of Westley – aka the Dread Pirate Roberts – were you aware what you were getting yourself in to?


Yes. I was a huge fan of William Goldman. I’d seen all of the films he’d written the screenplays for like Butch Cassidy and Marathon Man and I knew the director Rob Reiner, I’d seen This is Spinal Tap several times. I thought the combination of these two people was going to be extraordinary. It turned out to be right.

But initially the film flopped at the box office.


As William Goldman says, “Nobody in Hollywood knows anything about what makes a hit movie”. We didn’t make that much of an impact when the movie came out in 1987. It was mostly dead for about ten years until the VHS market took off.

Were you disappointed people did not embrace it straight away?


We all felt we’d made something special and were somewhat perplexed why audiences didn’t pick up on it, but the title was misleading because a lot of adults thought it was a kids movie.

Would it have been more successful if instead of being The Princess Bride it had been called The Dread Pirate Roberts?


I think the title is perfect. It started from a very sweet place. William Goldman asked his two daughters what book they wanted him to write, one said princesses and the other said brides. It’s hard for any marketing department to be faced with such a mesh of genres. Was it a comedy, an action film, a love story, a fairytale? It’s all of these things and more.

There was a real life Dread Pirate Roberts. Do you know much about him?

Captain Bartholomew Roberts. It varies from historian to historian, there are those who champion his piracy and there are others who say he was a sadistic person.

I suppose no pirate is going to be an angel, otherwise they probably wouldn’t go into piracy in the first place.

No. I think when you get the nickname Black Bart it probably means something went down.

Was there ever talk of a sequel or getting the cast all back together?


I’ve written a book about making the movie. It sort of is a sequel – one you can read. Obviously it’s not a feature, but that was my goal, to bring everyone back together. We all like to stay in touch. We are part of a very unique family.

Were there any stories fellow cast members told you that you were surprised to learn?


Sure. I didn’t know Wallace Shawn was terrified constantly of being fired. You look at his role now and it’s inconceivable to think of anyone else playing Vizzini.

There is one figure in the book that looms larger than others in many ways. What was Andre the Giant like to work with?


He was a sweetheart. I miss him to this day. He was a real gentle giant. He’d give you the shirt off his back, which would be enough for five people. That’s just who he was.

And the film has some very famous fans, as you discovered when you met Pope John Paul II…


At first he said, “Are you an actor?” His aide said, “Yes Your Holiness, this is the actor from the film”. And he goes, miscalculating the title, “Ah, The Princess and the Bride!” You could have blown me down with a feather. “Very good film,” he said, “Very funny.”

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride (Simon & Schuster, £16.99) by Cary Elwes is out now in hardback

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