Book Report: As You Wish

Published May 13, 2018 by Iphis of Scyros

I’ve been meaning to read this since the first time I saw it on bookstore shelves, possibly as much as four years ago.  (Not sure if it was the hardback or paperback I first saw.)  This book was selected to meet Challenge #12 “A celebrity memoir.”

The acid test of a memoir like this (that is to say, one narrating only the events during the filming of a particular movie, as opposed to an actor’s whole career, or what-have-you), I think, is if it changes the way you watch the movie afterwards.  So, when I sat down to start my evening’s Internetting (ack), I popped The Princess Bride into the DVD player.  (I thought I had the Blu-ray, but evidently I haven’t upgraded yet.  Or I can’t find the new copy.  Given what this place is like, that’s very possible.)  Thus, I’m only starting to write with a little over an hour to go before midnight, because I can’t multi-task like I used to, and the better the movie, the harder it is to ignore.

So, in short, no, it didn’t change the way I watch the movie; I still love it to pieces.

But let’s back up and try to go about this the way I planned, because I have limited time before I’ll be impinging on the grand(?) return of Missing Letter Mondays.  The 1980s produced a number of live-action fantasy films that are loosely called “family,” in that they’re kid-safe (even kid-friendly), but which have become classics because they’re also entertaining for adults.  In alphabetical order (because I no longer have time enough to look up order of release, though I think I know which ones came out when, but I’d hate to get it wrong), there are The Dark CrystalLabyrinthThe Neverending Story, and The Princess Bride.  And I’m pretty sure there are actually more; those are just the ones that I’ve watched so many times that I pretty much know them by heart.  I mean, I couldn’t recite their whole script to you on demand, but if you’ve read the book of Ready Player One, I could do with all four of those movies what Wade was able to do with War Games.  (I get why they changed that, but it’s also kind of a shame; the one in the book was a much harder challenge to complete, even if it wasn’t as hard to get what you were supposed to do.)  Easily.

Naturally, therefore, the idea of reading what it was like to film The Princess Bride, as it was experienced by the leading man himself, sounded like the perfect experience.  And while it maybe wasn’t “perfect” (that’s actually a pretty tall order!), it was definitely entertaining.

It could have gone terribly wrong, though.  There are movies out there where the behind-the-scenes story is that everyone on set hated each other, and every moment they weren’t filming, the leads were an inch away from killing each other.  (Though I suspect in most of those cases that animosity bleeds through onto the screen…)

Thankfully, however, The Princess Bride was one of those blessed films where everyone got along fantastically (even if some of the actors were convinced that they were about to be fired at any second), and he has nothing bad to say about anyone involved:  even the off-camera people who often go unmentioned are praised for their hard work, skill and dedication.  (Okay, that’s not entirely true.  There was one catering company that was decidedly not praised.)

Don’t let that make you think it’s boring, or some kind of kiss-up situation, though.  It’s very entertaining, because a lot of funny people worked on the movie, and he relates a lot of anecdotes about things they did on and off camera (or the hybrid of on and off camera that is outtakes, which were obviously extensive for Billy Crystal’s 3 minute scene, which took a whopping three days to film, in part because of cast and crew laughing at his ad libs and wrecking the take), and it all feels decidedly genuine.

He also talks about the work that went into creating the fantastic duel between Inigo and the Man in Black, as well as how various stunts and effects were achieved.  Which isn’t the disillusioning thing that it would be in some other movies (for example, do we really want to think about the (actually pretty obvious) way Hoggle gets around the set?) because the effects are minimal (mostly just the R.O.U.S.) and it’s pretty easy to tell in the final film when it’s a stunt person and when it’s one of the cast.  But you can’t tell by watching just how many times a stunt had to be performed, or what the name of the stunt person was (yeah, it’s in the end credits, but there’s that awful song over them) and so on.

In the early part of the book, he talks about how difficult it was to get the movie made, how many other directors had tried and failed to get it going before Rob Reiner got his hands on the script.  And there are some mind-boggling prospective actors mentioned (either attached to failed earlier films, or people talked to but never seriously considered) that are really, well, inconceivable!

Oh, speaking of which, at the beginning, he mentions how many of the lines from The Princess Bride are frequently quoted by fans, and while “Inconceivable!” was of course one of them, he didn’t mention “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”  Which I always thought was just as popular a quote.  (If it isn’t, it certainly should be!)

The book isn’t a one-man show, though.  In addition to the introduction listed on the front, there are also frequent quotes throughout the book, presented at the side of the page in boxes, from the rest of the surviving cast, as well as Reiner, William Goldman, and the producer.  Their additional perspectives definitely add a lot to the experience.

So, all in all, I obviously enjoyed reading this.  Probably most fans would.  (I expect it would be largely uninteresting to those who have never seen the movie, though.  Unless they’re great fans of Andre the Giant, in which case they would surely have seen it, so…yeah, I’m not sure where I was going with that.  It’s getting late; I’m losing coherence.)

One more thing:  there are a few photos throughout the book, but most of the pictures are in a photo section in the center.  In that section is included a shot of the gathered cast (along with the director and the writer) who were in attendance at a 25th anniversary screening at a film festival, which was directly why he decided to write this memoir, as he had wanted to share even more of his memories than there had been time for in the question and answer session.  Looking at that picture (from 2012), I was really stunned at just how long it had been since I had seen any photos of any of the male cast.  I mean, the last picture I’d seen of most of them has to have been at least ten years old.  (And then there’s Robin Wright, who I’ve seen much more recent pictures of, because she was in Wonder Woman.  Which, jarringly enough, I’m planning on watching tomorrow night, because I need to revisit it before I write my fix-it fic for it.)  Random, yes, but there you have it.

Okay, so once again, I have failed to write anything like a coherent review.  (*sigh*)

I’m not sure which challenge I want to try next, so the next book I’m going to read isn’t actually going to be part of the challenge.  Because I’m feeling ambivalent, and it’s newly arrived and I wanna read it.

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