Cary Elwes and Chris Sarandon came together for a mini The Princess Bride reunion at Steel City Con. They talked about their characters, Westley and Prince Humperdink and some fond memories from the set.
Rodents of Unusual Size.
Part of the fun of The Princess Bride is when Westley battles the ROUS’s and Elwes had loads of fun filming this scene.
“People have asked me all the time, ‘do you think they should remake this film?’ and I don’t know if you can. We didn’t have CGI, which I think kind of adds to the charm of the film. We actually had little people dressed in rat suits,” said Elwes.
The actors had to be sewn into the suits that were six inches of foam latex and another four inches of fur.The only way they could breathe was through the mouth of the rat and they had to wander around on all fours. Out of the three rats, only one of them was both a stuntman and an actor, Danny Blackner. Elwes told a funny story about how he got to set to shoot the ROUS scene and Blackner was no where to be found.
“There happened to be a rubber rat, the one that is thrown at me at the beginning of the scene and Rob Reiner (the director) says ‘let’s use that’ so, for about three hours we shot the most absurd footage of be wrestling with a rubber rat… This went on for about two or three hours of nonsense. And then finally Danny shows up,” said Elwes.
Blackner was so excited to have landed the role of lead rat in the movie that he drank a little too much while celebrating and was late to set because he spent the night in jail.
I’m not left-handed either
Elwes is not left handed and spoke about how much training he endured while filming.
“We had quite a bit of training. Actually, Mandy (Patinkin) and I had to fly in early, two or three weeks before productions started to meet with the trainers that Rob Reiner and hired and Rob hired the best guys…They were older guys, but they were really fast, left handed, and right handed and really quick,” said Elwes.
Reiner was adamant that Elwes and Patinkin did all of the fencing in the film, which put a little pressure on Elwes, who had never fenced before.
“So I show up the next day for rehearsal. And Mandy’s already like, left handed everything… it turns out he been rehearsing with some guy in New Hampshire, some fencing champion for two weeks or three weeks already. And I said to him, ‘that’s so Montoya of you.’ Anyway, so I had some catching up to do,’ said Elwes.
Elwes and Patinkin worked incredibly hard learning not only their characterás choreography, but also each other’s character’s as well. In between takes, they’d be practicing.
“I broke my toe in André the Giant’s all terrain vehicle which was a big mistake. So I actually was in a lot of pain. You can see me limping through a couple of scenes like I run into the fire swamp on one foot, I’m hopping into the fire swamp. So we had to move the fight to the end of the movie, but I actually ended up helping me because I couldn’t move my foot very well, I had to really focus on my handiwork. And I think that helped me being better at being left handed. Not that I recommend that in front of the frame. But that’s, that’s how that went,” said Elwes.
“I think from the beginning, we knew that it was special. But I don’t think we had any inkling that it was going to be this big,” said Sarandon. “With that cast, that director, that screenplay, which was obviously a wonderful screenplay, I read the book, like 10 years prior to the time that we were doing the movie and I loved the book. Robert Redford owned the property for a long time, couldn’t get it made. Finally Rob got it made. The process was special, but you have no control over what happens after. You know, I was told by the Secretary, the Attorney General of Utah that every home in Utah own VHS, a blu ray or a DVD of The Princess Bride.”
The film would not have happened without Bill Goldman.
“Bill Goldman, who’s a wonderful writer that you may or may not know his work, he wrote a few screenplays, little films like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men and Marathon Man. So he was quite a legend in the industry already. But this was his favorite, favorite novel and his favorite screenplay. And the reason it was his favorite is that he came up with the story while driving cross country with his daughters, with his wife and two daughters,” said Elwes. “He asked them when he was writing what kids what book should I write about next? And one daughter said princesses and the other said brides, that’s how it came about. So the him when he’s saying he wrote ‘as you wish’ he’s saying, ‘I love you’ to his two daughters. So the film had very deep meaning for him.”
With the inspiration from his daughters, Goldman became invested in these characters’ lives and his passion for the story really made it special. Both Elwes and Sarandon are proud of the movie even though it didn’t originally do well.
“The movie came out, talking about its afterlife, when the movie came out it wasn’t a big hit. It was a moderately, not even moderate success. I think they made a few million dollars and they didn’t know how to advertise it. They didn’t know who to market to,” said Sarandon.
“If you look at the poster, I mean, what can you tell from that? Nothing. Not much. There’s no rats. There’s no giants, no screaming eels, no Buttercup even,” Elwes added. “They didn’t know how to sell it. Most people thought it was a kids movie like for girls. Princess Bride, they didn’t know what it was.”
The film has decidedly done better in the years following its release and Elwes, Sarandon, as well as the rest of the cast are very grateful for their fans.
“This film had been mostly dead for a decade, and suddenly had life again. And so it’s thanks to all of you that this film is now something bigger than all of us. And we’re so grateful for it. We are beyond beyond thrilled that you guys have taken this film to heart,” Elwes said.