Wednesday, 7 January 2015

As You Wish - Cary Elwes


Encapsulate the book in one sentence?

A flashback to 1986 and the making of one of my all-time favourite movies, written by the actor in the lead role – and accounting for the wonderful time they all had making it, and how they always knew that it would end up being a film the world would eventually treasure.

When did I buy it? Where and why did I buy it?

Another present from Jeremy – much-hinted at.

What year or edition?

First edition, brand new, just out – not published in the UK yet.

What’s your verdict?

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love reading behind-the-scenes stuff about movies, even though I always think I don’t. I love every dull anecdote about broken toes and dodgy egos and all the waiting around they have to do in rainy locations. For some reason I don’t mind reading that stuff. And when it comes to reading that stuff about one of my favourite movies – that’s a perfect match.

This is sweet, engaging stuff. The director was a genius, the writer was a genius, all the actors were geniuses. Everyone was brilliant and funny and on top of that – they were nice. They all did their damndest and made a classic movie. They had a couple of decades following that when they thought no one cared, but now the whole world loves it. It’s a dullish story of mild tribulations and eventual triumph over disinterest. Hurray!

Did you finish it? Did it work for you?

Yes, it worked. It did the business. I found it a bit plainly written, and a bit mild in many ways. Everyone is lovely and generous with their praise of each other. There are no ‘scenes’ and no traumas. Everyone was perfectly decent and did their best. There is no mystery or darkness. (NB. My favourite ever book devoted to the making of a single movie is INSIDE THE WICKER MAN by Allan Brown. This book doesn’t come anywhere near that one, in which the combo of style, mystery, intrigue and cult movie is utterly compelling.)

The ‘box-outs’ with quotes from other actors are sometimes worth hearing (William Goldman, Carole Kane, Billy Crystal) – other times, less so. Hilariously, whenever the author is being particularly modest about his own talents or looks, there is a conveniently-placed box-out containing a quote, quite nearby, praising him to the skies…

What genre would you say it is?

I’d say – rather than an insightful and historic examination of the Princess Bride as both movie and phenomenon – this is more along the lines of a celebration. We hear about costume fittings and learning to fence. I didn’t really learn anything about how they captured magic on the screen – and made a wobbly, uneven comic tone work so fantastically well.  

What surprises did it hold – if any?

The locations! Finding out that so much of the location work was shot less than an hour away from here was wonderful. We often go out for spins in the car near Buxton and Bakewell! And, thinking about those lush, strangely-shaped wooded hills around Castleton and the like – well, of course that’s the world of the Princess Bride. I should have known. And now I want our next writing retreat to happen down that way again, and for us to make a pilgrimage…

What scene will stay with you? What character will stay with you?

The stories to do with Andre the Giant will stick with me most, I think. The revelation that, growing up in a rural French village, even as a child he was too big to get aboard the school bus. The writer Samuel Beckett lived in the same village at that time, and offered to drive Andre to school each day in his convertible. Andre comes back to life as a hugely generous and sweet character, and the real star of the book.

What will you do with this copy now?

It’s a keeper. I think there’s yet to be a great book written about the amazing fantasy movies of the 1980s – in that pre-CGI age. Those films look astonishing on Blu-Ray (Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, Willow, Neverending Story, Time Bandits, Flash Gordon and The Princess Bride. For those of us who’ve always loved them, it’s good to see (at least some of) them getting attention now.

Is it available today?

Yes, in the US.

Give me a good quote:

“Your Holiness…” I stammered. “You’ve seen the movie?”

He nodded approvingly. “Yes, yes. Very good film. Very funny.”

1 comment:

  1. I remember hearing about Beckett and Andre years ago and it still amuses me to no end