'The Princess Bride' turns 30: Cary Elwes shares stories from the set

(ABC News) -- When "The Princess Bride" opened 30 years ago today, it wasn't exactly a hit with audiences. During the 11 weeks it played in theaters, the film earned $25.5 million, according to Box Office Mojo, and ranked 41st in domestic grosses that year.
 
However, Cary Elwes, who starred as Westley in the fantasy film, told ABC News that he was delighted when audiences rediscovered and embraced the movie after it was released on video.
 
"I’m very proud of it," he said. "It gave me the career and life I have, so I’m very grateful for it."
 
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In celebration of the movie's anniversary, Elwes reflected on making the film and shared personal stories of his time on the set. Though many of his memories were recounted in his 2014 book, "As You Wish," here are a few thoughts that even the biggest "Princess Bride" fans might not know:
 
1. He was a fan of the book as a teenager: Elwes' stepfather gave him a copy of "The Princess Bride" when he was 13, and he was instantly hooked. Author William Goldman's sense of humor captivated him, and of course, he said he was "enamored" with Westley. Still, he added, "I couldn't have imagined myself playing him!"
 
2. The audition process was pretty informal: Elwes was shooting the film "Maschenka" in Berlin when his agent called to tell him director Rob Reiner and his producing partner wanted to come to Germany to interview him. The audition happened in Elwes' hotel room, and though he didn't think he needed to prepare anything, Elwes ended up reading Westley's monologue from the fire swamp for Reiner. "I didn't think I was going to get it at all, frankly, because I was an unknown actor at the time and it's not often that they hire unknown actors to be the leads of films in Hollywood. It's very rare," he said. "A week later I got the call and that was that! I was beyond excited."
 
3. Robin Wright wasn't cast until the eleventh hour: Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest had already signed on by the time Elwes was cast, but Reiner had yet to find his perfect Princess Buttercup. With just a week to go before filming, a very nervous Reiner, who had been auditioning English actresses, agreed to look at Wright's audition tape at the behest of casting director Jane Jenkins. She joined the cast almost immediately thereafter. "She’s just fun to be around! She’s one of the guys," Elwes said of Wright. "Very down to earth."
 
4. The cast and crew were very comfortable together: During the shoot, which Elwes said lasted for about a month-and-a-half, the cast and crew grew very close. "I can't remember a day without laughter," he said. Reiner acted as the father of the group, hosting dinners for the cast and encouraging game nights and other hang outs. One indication that the group was going to jell came on the first day, Elwes said, when wrestler André the Giant, who played Fezzik in the movie, "let out a 16 second fart and brought production to a standstill." "It could be heard three counties away," Elwes said with a laugh. "Nobody said anything except Rob, who said 'Are you OK, André?' and André replied, 'I am now boss.' He was comfortable enough to do that!"
 
5. Production had to shift because of an injury: Elwes said he "stupidly" broke his toe while goofing around on André the Giant's ATV, which caused Reiner to move the filming of Elwes' fight scene with Mandy Patinkin's Inigo Montoya toward the end of production. Still, "we rehearsed pretty much every day," he said of the highly choreographed duel. "We never stopped working on it."
 
6. Elwes did many of his own stunts: "Rob wanted to see our faces a lot so that was not much of a choice," Elwes said of doing his own stunts in the film. However, he said he did have a "fearless" stunt double who showed him how to safely pull off some of the more complicated moves. That stunt double can be seen rolling down the hill in one of the film's most famous scenes ("I didn't want to do the hill but Rob didn't want me to do it either," Elwes said), and, Elwes added, an acrobat came in to perform the swing during the fight sequence.
 
7. No, he didn't have a ponytail during filming: "They had wigs and little ponytails -- stuff like that," Elwes said of his on-screen look. "But the funny thing was, by the end of the movie, my hair grew to the exact length they needed!"
 

© 2017 ABC News


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