Friday, July 17, 2015

Nonfiction: As You Wish by Cary Elwes

I'll admit it. I had never actually seen The Princess Bride all the way through until a couple of years ago. It had been on my parent's television in the house I grew up in many times, so I remember many scenes, specifically the epic battle of wits between the Man in Black and the Sicilian Vizzini. But for whatever reason, as a child, I never saw the movie all of the way though, but I knew it was beloved by many people my age. However, that didn't automatically mean that once I sat down to watch it that I was going to enjoy it just like everyone else. I had tried that with other so-called classics that I had missed out on when I was younger and the result was me not being able to finish them (Labyrinth, I am looking in your direction). Of course, The Princess Bride was different in that I loved it, and I understood why it was so quotable. And if I hadn't liked it, there is no way I would have read the actual book, or read As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes.

Genre, Themes, History: This is of course a nonfiction book about the behind-the-scenes adventures that went on while making The Princess Bride, a movie that was adapted from the book of the same name by William Goldman. The book's author, Cary Elwes, portrayed the male lead in the film, Westley/the Man in Black. Starting with getting the call from his agent that director Rob Reiner wanted to meet with him, Elwes tells the story of the making of the now classic movie, with periodic inserts from others who either acted in the film or were involved in its production in some way. The reader gets insight from Reiner himself, his partner Andy Scheinman, Robert Wright (Buttercup), Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya), Billy Crystal (Miracle Max), etc. The only ones we don't get to hear from are the ones who, sadly, have passed away, such as André the Giant and Peter Falk. And it seems as if Elwes has left nothing out as he talks about what it was like to work everyone; the excruciating training he and Patinkin had to do for their epic sword fight; how smitten he was with Wright; how great Reiner was to work with; and even how he suffered two injuries during filming. It is a book Elwes took on writing after attending the 25th anniversary for the movie. And I am sure that fans that are far more loyal than I am are grateful for it.

My Verdict: I am sure I would have gotten even more out of this book had I been a loyal fan since the movie came out in the 1980s. But even though I am late to the party, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book and the stories it told, even the ones I had already heard. Reading from Elwes' point of view about wrestling the Rodents of Unusual Size and drinking with André the Giant is better than reading facts and trivia off of IMDb, which is is also fun. Elwes continues the story well after the movie was done filming, talking also about how Fox didn't know how to market it, how it was moderately received, and then how it had ultimately exploded into the popular phenomenon it is today. I would recommend this book even to those out there who, much like myself, aren't necessarily die hard fans of the movie. It is simply an enjoyable read and a fun behind the scenes look at a wonderful movie, written by the Man in Black himself.

Favorite Moment: Any time Elwes tells a story that has André at the center, I was thrilled. He was apparently the very definition of a gentle giant and the sweetest person alive.

Favorite Character: I get that it's weird to pick a favorite character from a nonfiction book, but I am doing it anyway. From the book, my favorite was absolutely André the Giant. From the movie, my favorite character is most certainly Inigo Montoya. 

Recommended Reading: One of my favorite memoirs of all time is Born Standing Up by Steve Martin. It is a different kind of book from As You Wish, mostly because it focuses on the career of one man as opposed to the behind-the-scenes action from one film. And it is written in the fun and easy-going manner that only Martin could pull off.

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