As you wish: It's a 'Princess Bride' reunion

Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 11:52am

"Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Not a day goes by without someone asking Mandy Patinkin to say this famous and oft-repeated line. Despite Patinkin's numerous other accomplishments and recent hit turn on the Showtime drama "Homeland," "The Princess Bride" is what people want to hear from him, "and I never let them down," he told CNN.

"I get asked for that line, too," laughed Chris Sarandon, who played the dastardly Prince Humperdinck. "They always want me to quote Mandy, or Wally Shawn: 'Inconceivable!' And once in a great while, I get a plea for 'I'm swamped.'"

"A girl once showed me a tattoo of 'As you wish' on the back of her neck," said Cary Elwes, who played Westley.

Such is the love -- some might even say true love -- for "The Princess Bride." The New York Film Festival celebrated the film's 25th anniversary (and release on Blu-Ray) on Tuesday with a special screening and cast reunion at Lincoln Center. En route to the event from LAX, even Billy Crystal was told, "Have fun storming the castle," (in reference to his cameo as Miracle Max) when he showed his boarding pass. It's a line, by the way, that an army sergeant told Elwes that he tells his men when they leave the barracks, to rile up the infantry.

"So many different generations find this movie not only appealing, but have such a strong affection for it," Sarandon said. "It's a film people see when they're young, and then they watch it with their own kids. Someone even told me that they hired an actor, got him ordained online, and had him perform a marriage ceremony exactly the way it is in the movie." ("Mawwiage is what bwings us together...")

Along with director Rob Reiner and author and screenwriter William Goldman, the "Princess Bride" cast -- including Robin Wright (Buttercup), Wallace Shawn (Vizzini) and Carol Kane (Valerie) -- reminisced about the making of the film, which they hadn't seen with an audience since before its release, and a small private screening for friends at that, since it didn't have a big premiere back in 1987.

The Cliffs of Insanity? Made of rubber. The Rodents of Unusual Size? Played by little people, one with a talent for scurrying, one with a talent for lumbering, and one with a talent for getting arrested. And that sword fight between Inigo and Westley as the Dread Pirate Roberts? Done for real.

"Our greatest pride is that there's not a single stunt man doing a single move, except for the flip in the air," Patinkin said. "I trained with an Olympic fencing coach for two months with just my left hand -- it's like ballet first position, second position -- and then Cary and I trained for four more months, so six months together, for 10 hours a day. Except for the flip, we did everything."

Elwes revealed another talent that in addition to sword fighting cinched him the job in the first place -- a dead-on Bill Cosby imitation. "I had no idea if he had a sense of humor, but he looked the part," Reiner said. "And when he did schtick, I was surprised. Wow, this beautiful looking kid, he looks like Douglas Fairbanks, and he does schtick!"

Elwes demonstrated his sense of humor at last December's Jason Reitman-organized stage reading of "The Princess Bride," when he played the part of Prince Humperdinck instead of Westley, allowing that role to go to Paul Rudd. "And I did a dreadful job," Elwes told CNN, laughing. "I was awful. It was so hard stepping into those shoes, and it was so weird because Paul Rudd was being me, and doing a better job than me, two chairs down. So it was a very surreal experience." (Upon hearing this, Sarandon deadpanned, "Oh, I've got to talk to Cary now. I want to hear what he did with me, if he screwed me over or not.")

Even though "The Princess Bride" is "a perfect movie," as Kane called it, Goldman has been toying around with the idea of a follow-up, which is mentioned in the later editions of the novel, some of which feature a sample chapter of "Buttercup's Baby."

"See, I told him he should call it 'Humperdinck's Revenge!'" Sarandon joked.

"I smell a sequel!" Elwes laughed.

The plot involves the kidnapping of Buttercup and Westley's daughter, Waverly, and at first it was a fiction (along with other faux-dramas Goldman created as part of the "Bride"-verse), but then it started to become a reality of sorts. "I've been trying to write it," Goldman admitted, "and it's a total failure. I was looking at it today before coming [to the reunion]. All I can say is that I would love some day to have written it."

If Goldman can finish the book, and if the book were to ever be turned into a movie, count on most of the original cast members to make cameos.

"If they call me, I'm there," Patinkin promised.

"Ask me!" Sarandon begged.

"I would probably find myself begging to do a cameo in anything Goldman wrote," Kane said. "And I would riff all day long [with Billy Crystal] if he would let me."

Crystal noted that he had several unused lines that ended up on the cutting room floor that he'd be happy to trot out, such as, "Don't bother me, sonny. I had a bad day. I found my nephew with a sheep." (Would that be as memorable? He's not worried, because there's no danger of any sequel tarnishing the original anytime soon.)

"I'm in something that is really important, that is so beautifully made, and it's all about the right things," he told the audience. "What better life is that, for the life of a movie? That's the 'As you wish' for the movie."

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