The Princess Bride (1987)

Director: Rob Reiner
Writing Credits: William Goldman (screenplay & book)
Cast: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Wallace Shawn, André the Giant, Fred Savage, Peter Falk, Peter Cook, Mel Smith, Carol Kane and Billy Crystal.
Music by: Mark Knopfler
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Comedy.
Budget: $16,000,000
USA Release Date: 25 September 1987 (limited, 9 theaters)
USA Widest Release: 803 theaters.
Box Office USA: $30,9 million
Filming Locations: United Kingdom and Ireland.
Filming Dates: 18 August 1986 – December 1986
MPAA rating: PG
Runtime: 98 minutes

‘The Princess Bride’ is a 1987 American romantic fantasy adventure comedy film directed and co-produced by Rob Reiner.

Adapted by William Goldman from his 1973 novel of the same name, it tells the story of Buttercup (Robin Wright) who has grown up on a farm in the Renaissance Era, in the (fictional) country of Florin. She orders the farmhand Westley (Cary Elwes) around mercilessly, but he only replies “As you wish” to her every whim.

Buttercup eventually comes to understand that this is his expression of love, which she then comes to return. Westley leaves to seek his fortune so that they might marry, but Buttercup learns that the ship Westley was on was attacked by a pirate lord, the Dread Pirate Roberts, who is famed for leaving none alive. Westley is, therefore, presumed dead.

Five years later, Buttercup reluctantly agrees to marry Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), Crown Prince of Florin. Before the wedding, she is kidnapped by a trio of bandits; a Sicilian boss named Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), a giant named Fezzik (André the Giant), and a Spanish master swordsman named Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), who is seeking his father’s murderer, whom he knows to be six-fingered. These three are in Humperdinck’s employ and have been ordered to kill Buttercup once in Guilder, Florin’s enemy, as a pretext to start a war.

The four are soon followed by a man dressed in black, and Vizzini orders Inigo and Fezzik to kill him. The man in black bests Inigo in swordplay, knocking him out with the butt of his sword, chokes Fezzik unconscious in melee combat, tricks Vizzini into drinking lethal poison during a battle of wits, and thereby frees Buttercup.

Buttercup, believing the man in black to be the Dread Pirate Roberts, tries to escape and pushes him down a hill, but when he shouts “As you wish”, she realizes he is Westley.

The story is presented in the film as a book being read by a grandfather (Peter Falk) to his sick grandson (Fred Savage), thus effectively preserving the novel’s narrative style. Scenes of the reading occasionally interrupt the main story; for example, when the boy tells his grandfather to skip the parts with kissing in it.

Robin Wright as Buttercup:
Some people think ‘The Princess Bride’ is the debut of Robin Wright in cinema, but that’s not true because, a year earlier, she made her first feature film called ‘Hollywood Vice Squad’ where she had a supporting role as a runaway teenage girl, who gets caught in the world of pornography and prostitution.

Wright’s billing in ‘The Princess Bride’ is “Introducing Robin Wright”, the same that was used a year before in ‘Hollywood Vice Squad’.

In an interview from 1993 Robin talked about this: “I didn’t know anything about the business. I thought ‘Hollywood Vice Squad’ was an escape from the soap (Santa Barbara) and so far for me to play a teenage hooker. But then I did ‘The Princess Bride’ and everyone thought it was my first thing. And I didn’t want to go: “well, I did a semi porn before that”.

In 1986, director Rob Reiner was looking for someone “beautiful, vulnerable, regal and young” to play Princess Buttercup in his long-planned movie version of ‘The Princess Bride’. He auditioned more than 500 young women. Courteney Cox and Meg Ryan were among them. Uma Thurman also auditioned for Buttercup, but the producers thought she was too exotic looking for the part.

Rob Reiner said that “the moment Robin walked into my office, I knew she was my Buttercup. We need a new Julie Christie. We all had our image of what Buttercup should look like and Robin was perfect.”

Almost 30 years later, in September 2015, Rob Reiner talked about Robin as Buttercup. He said: “I couldn’t find anybody. First of all, Buttercup is described as the most beautiful girl in all the land. I needed a young girl because I had already cast Cary who was 21 at the time. Robin was only 19 or 20. I needed to find a young girl that could do the British accent. She did a perfect British accent because her father is British, so that was in her ear. She was the only one that I could find.”

But, before her audition in 1986, Robin Wright didn’t think she had a chance. “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”.

In 1986, Robin Wright was also offered the leading role in ‘Dirty Dancing’ but she had to turn it down because the filming was at the same time that Rob Reiner’s movie.

In fact, ‘The Princess Bride’ required a 4 month shooting schedule on location throughout England and Ireland. And the time of filming the movie, Robin Wright was playing Kelly Capwell, one of the heroines of soap opera ‘Santa Barbara’. In exchange for allowing her time off to film the movie, they required her to extend her contract by almost a year. Robin wanted to leave the soap in July 1987, but then she was chained until June 1988.

“That wasn’t a fair trade,” Robin said, “but it was worth it. My agents and managers decided that I should agree to anything, to work Saturdays, to kiss their butts for the next nine months, whatever it took to get out and do the film.”

Years later, in 1992, Robin also talked about this. She explained: “I had a clause in my two-year TV contract that let me out for four weeks once a year to do films. But no film gets shot in four weeks and I did two movies, so every extra week extended approximately a month or two onto my contract. I could have walked, but I would have had to have paid [in legal fees] three times the amount I made on that show in the whole two years.”

In December 2015, Cary Elwes also addressed this subject: “I consider Robin a very dear friend. Everyone knows what an extraordinary talent she is, so we were lucky to get her on the film. She was doing ‘Santa Barbara’ at the time, and they wouldn’t let her out of the contract so Norman Lear, our producer, and Rob Reiner worked very hard to get them to release her.”

Today we can say, without a doubt, that Buttercup is one of the iconic roles in the career of Robin Wright and ‘The Princess Bride’ is a movie generally loved by all the generations.

Production:
There were many attempts to turn the novel into a film. In 1973, 20th Century Fox paid Goldman $500,000 for the film rights and to do a screenplay. Richard Lester was signed to direct and the movie was almost made, but then the head of production at Fox was fired and the project was put on hiatus. Goldman subsequently bought back the film rights to the novel with his own money.

The movie almost got financed several times over the next decade. At one point or another, Robert Redford, Norman Jewison, John Boorman, and Francois Truffaut all tried to get the book made into a movie.

At one stage in the early 1980s Christopher Reeve was interested in playing Westley before Rob Reiner managed to secure funding from Norman Lear.

Soundtrack:
The original soundtrack album was composed by Mark Knopfler, and released by Warner Bros. Records in the United States and Vertigo Records internationally in November 1987.

The album contains the song “Storybook Love”, performed by Willy DeVille and produced by Mark Knopfler. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 60th Academy Awards.

Critical response:
The Princess Bride received critical acclaim. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 97% “Certified Fresh” rating, based on 64 reviews, with an average rating of 8.3/10. The site’s consensus states: “A delightfully postmodern fairy tale, ‘The Princess Bride’ is a deft, intelligent mix of swashbuckling, romance, and comedy that takes an age-old damsel-in-distress story and makes it fresh.”

On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 77 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews.”

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert gave the film a “two thumbs up” rating on their television program. Ebert also wrote a very favorable print review in his column for the Chicago Sun-Times. Richard Corliss of Time said the film was fun for the whole family, and later, Time listed the film as one of the “Best of ’87”. Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised the cast and the sweetness of the movie.

Box Office:
‘The Princess Bride’ was not a major box-office success when it premiered in 1987. Of all the movies released that that year, it ranked just 41st in domestic grosses, bringing in $30,857,814. (For perspective, the No. 1-ranked film, “Three Men and a Baby,” raked in $167,780,960.) But then it gained a lot of popularity in the VHS marketplace.

Cary Elwes about Robin Wright:
“It was as if I were looking at a young Grace Kelly, she was that beautiful. I couldn’t concentrate on much of anything after that first encounter with Robin. We were just incredibly close friends, and we bonded as such on the film. Everybody… it’s hard not to fall in love with Robin. I think I can speak for anyone who has gotten to know her. She’s an extraordinary lady, so yeah, we all fell in love with her.” (Cary Elwes, August 2014)

2014 09 The Daily Beast Interview
MARLOW STERN: There are quotes from both you and Robin Wright about being “smitten” with one another during filming. Did this ever blossom into a full-on romance? I know Robin recently said of you, “I was convinced we were going to be married.”
CARY ELWES: I didn’t know that at the time! But no, no! Everyone was in love with Robin. We all fell in love with her because she’s just a wonderful, sweet human being. It’s hard not to fall in love with Robin. But we were like a big family and I felt more like her older brother, really. I adore her dearly, and she’s a fabulous woman and an enormous talent.
MS: And according to the book, both you and Robin kept demanding more and more takes of the final kiss.
CE: We couldn’t stop giggling, you know? It’s like kissing your sister! It’s weird. We were laughing and couldn’t believe we were actually doing it. We ruined a lot of takes from giggling, which is why it took six of ’em. But it was a really nice way to end the picture, too, and I also didn’t want the film to end, in a strange way.

Trivia:
-Writer William Goldman was on set during one of the flame burst scenes in the forest when Robin Wright’s dress caught fire. Although Goldman knew this was intentional, he was so caught up in the moment that he shouted, “Her dress is on fire!”, thus ruining the take.

-Popular professional wrestler André the Giant had undergone major back surgery prior to filming and, despite his great size and strength, could not support the weight of Cary Elwes during their fight scene. Also Robin Wright had to be attached to wires in the scene where Buttercup jumps from the castle window into Fezzik’s arms because he couldn’t support her himself.

ROBIN WRIGHT AS BUTTERCUP AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS

  • Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films (Saturn Award) | Best Actress | Nominated

Check out the full Robin Wright Filmography

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