Although it might be hard to believe now, when The Princess Bride first hit theaters 30 years ago, audiences just didn’t respond. Rob Reiner’s 1987 movie adaptation of William Goldman’s beloved novel had everything: fantasy, adventure, a gorgeous love story, pirates, princesses, and one of the most quotable vendettas of all time. And still, it just didn’t click.
“I think we were all disappointed that it didn’t quite get the traction we wanted, since we put a lot of hard work into it and thought it was a lovely movie,” Cary Elwes, who starred as the dreamy Westley, revealed on a recent phone call with me in light of the film’s anniversary this year. “Luckily for us, the invention of the VCR breathed new life into our movie. The Princess Bride had been dead for 10 years, so we were so grateful for that invention, because that’s when the movie found its audience. Kind of like when Wizard of Oz found its audience on TV.”
Once the film finally got its legs, new fans found themselves caught up in the sweeping romance between Westley and Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright), who find their way back to each other over countless obstacles and with the help of an eclectic cast of characters. Of all the movie’s fans — of which there are many, of all ages, from all over the world — few are as passionate as Elwes himself.
In the years after The Princess Bride‘s success, the English actor has eagerly embraced the love people have for Westley and the movie in general, no matter how many times he’s greeted by strangers with “as you wish” (which is often, as you might expect). He even went on to write a book about his experience on the film, which ended up being not merely another acting job but a deeply personal homage to his childhood.
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