With the assistance of Layden (The Ghost Horse: A True Story of Love, Death, and Redemption, 2013, etc.), Elwes shares tales of the making of the 1987 film The Princess Bride, in which he starred in the role of Westley.
By the time Rob Reiner and his producing partner Andy Scheinman decided to make a film version of William Goldman’s book, Goldman’s screenplay adaptation had become legendary in Hollywood as an unproduced script. Robert Redford, Norman Jewison and even Francois Truffaut had all tried and failed to get the movie past development stages. Elwes gives a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie and theorizes on how an infamously unproducible script became a cult classic. The book is driven by the author’s thoughts and memories but is complemented by rich quotes featured in pop-out text boxes from Reiner, Scheinman, Goldman and other stars of the film, including Christopher Guest, Robin Wright and Billy Crystal. Elwes’ description of how Reiner’s simple stage directions helped achieve his tongue-in-check vision, or Scheinman’s thoughts on how today’s special effects may have overwhelmed and ruined the gently satirical tone of the movie, are interesting from a broad cinematic perspective. But the book is intended less for film aficionados than simply for lovers of this specific movie. As a rookie star in his first big production, Elwes often felt “like a kid at theater camp who has been suddenly plucked from the ranks of the ordinary and tossed onto a Broadway stage,” and while his observations ooze with positivity, they come across as genuine.
The book, unlike the movie it describes, struggles at times to balance a tone of charming over cheesy. But Elwes’ case—that the film has endured because it was made with a lot of heart—is made persuasively enough that readers will entertain the sentiment even if they aren’t totally convinced by it.