October 23, 1987 | By Philip Wuntch | Dallas Morning News.
Three years ago, director Rob Reiner was auditioning young actresses to costar in ‘The Sure Thing’. Among them was Robin Wright beautiful, vulnerable, regal and young. “That was the problem. I was too young” she says. “I didn`t know anything about auditioning for a movie. I didn`t know how to act on an audition. I was supposed to be playing a confident woman, and I was scared stiff.”
She didn`t get the part. (The film was a modest success, but today hardly anyone remembers the name of the female lead- Daphne Zuniga.)
Fast-forward two years. Reiner is looking for someone “beautiful, vulnerable, regal and young” to play the luscious Princess Buttercup in his long-planned movie version of William Goldman’s whimsical ‘The Princess Bride’. He auditions more than 500 young women. But as he likes say, “the moment Robin walked into my office, I knew she was my Buttercup”.
Wright, of course, didn’t think she had a chance. “I kept on remembering my audition for ‘The Sure Thing”, she says. “I knew there were 500 other girls dying to play the part. I had heard that Rob wanted someone who looked like Julie Christie in ‘Doctor Zhivago’. I didn’t quite think I fit the bill”.
Nevertheless, she captivated Reiner. And, in a personal appearance, she captivated audiences at the Toronto Film Festival, where ‘The Princess Bride’ was one of the most popular films.
“The hardest part was getting over the fact that I was working with such people,” she says. “Mandy Patinkin won a Tony for Evita. Wallace Shawn starred in ‘My Dinner With Andre’ and plays in all the Woody Allen movies. And here I am, best known for my work in ‘Santa Barbara’, where all I do is try hard not to make my character seem like a drip. But Rob was so reassuring. He kept telling me to just play myself, only use an English accent. I would have liked to have had a few laughs with my role, but he said never to be funny. He wanted the rest of the cast to be funny, but not me. Just be mellow, he kept telling me. Be mellow.”
Wright was born in Dallas, but hardly remembers the city. “We moved when I was 5.” she says. “I honestly have no idea what Dallas was like. My mother worked for Mary Kay Cosmetics, and we moved around a lot, mostly in the South at first. It wasn`t a bad life. We got a new pink Cadillac every few years, so why complain about moving around? We stayed the longest in Santa Monica (Calif.) -about seven years.”
Her parents divorced when she was a small child. To play the title role in ‘The Princess Bride’, she studied the voice of her English stepfather, Andy Carmichael.
She started modeling when she was 14 after an agent saw her skating and was impressed by her poise. “I never went to college, although now I would love to go to night school”, she says. “But I thoroughly hated modeling. It`s such a chauvinistic world. Women are treated like commodities. They sell their looks. All a model is ever told is to put her clothes on and shut up. I did it for the money-and to see the world.”
Does acting in ‘Santa Barbara’ prove more emotionally rewarding than modeling? “Oh, yes! In ‘Santa Barbara’ at least you get to converse with human beings. And they actually ask my opinion about what goes into the show. Besides, if you do a soap, you can do anything in the world. Working on a soap is so hard and so fast.”
‘Santa Barbara’ is not Wright`s first television stint. Three years ago she played a supporting role in the short-lived, Texas-flavored series ‘The Yellow Rose‘, which starred Sam Elliott and Cybill Shepherd. Shepherd was then on the rebound from an unsuccessful movie career, but apparently was not humbled by the experience. “She stayed away from the supporting cast”, Wright says, grimacing slightly.
Wright is engaged to writer Dane Witherspoon, whom she describes as “a fine 80s man”. “We have no immediate plans to get married”, she says. “Neither he nor I wants to pin a label on our relationship”.