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Touchstone

Happy Friday nerds and welcome to the first installment of the GeekyNerdy Book Club for 2017!! I know our “meeting” was originally scheduled for yesterday, but it’s been a crazy week over here and better is late than never, right? (I know, I know, it seems to be the unofficial theme of this week.)

Anyway, I hope you all had as much fun as I did reading Cary Elwes’s As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride. As I mentioned in our selection post, I’ve always loved the film version of William Goldman’s fairy tale and have long been intrigued to learn more about what it was like to make it. In that regard, Elwes did not disappoint! In 13 chapters, he covered just about all of the critical scenes in the film, or at least that ones that everyone seems to think of or quote. I was also glad to learn that everyone involved seemed to have as much fun making the movie as we do watching it!

There were so many interesting nuggets of information in the book, from the fact that Goldman’s screenplay had been around for years, but studios thought it was un-filmable to André the Giant (Fezzik) passing out in the lobby of the ritzy Dorchester Hotel in London to Count Tyrone Rugen being played by Christopher “These go to 11” Guest (who, I also learned, has been married to Jamie Lee Curtis since 1984!) to Wallace Shawn thinking he was wholly unqualified to play Vizzini, but my favorite stories were the ones that actually impacted the film’s scenes.

For instance, I’ll never be able to journey through the Fire Swamp again without thinking about how weird it would have looked for Westley (Elwes) to simply step into the quicksand or about how ungodly hot those R.O.U.S. (Rodents of Unusual Size) costumes must have been for the men inside them. I will always think about the fact that Elwes had just broken his toe when I watch him (as the Man in Black) berate Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) for giving up on Westley, and that he was literally knocked unconscious by Rugen’s sword. And “the Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times” is even better now that I know what all went into preparing both Elwes and Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya) and the set for such a duel.

The one thing that really did surprise me though was how poorly the film was marketed. For me, The Princess Bride has always been THE PRINCESS BRIDE, so I had no idea that it had been sort of dismissed when it first came out. I was particularly struck by the fact that Fox seemed to be really excited about the film at first, but then as soon as The Hollywood Reporter said it would be tough to market, they seemed to back off.

I was also shocked that Rob Reiner, the director, wasn’t consulted at all regarding the promotional posters and trailers. Though I’m not well versed in how the entertainment industry works, but am fairly confident that directors typically don’t worry about those kinds things, if the marketing department at Fox didn’t quite know how to proceed, reaching out to Reiner seems like a natural, if unorthodox, thing to try. It may not have made that much of a difference, but still, why not use the “tools” at your disposal?! Luckily, the story has a happy ending as The Princess Bride is now regarded as a classic and its anniversaries (this year is its 30th!) are often marked by big celebrations – I just think it’s a shame that it took the movie a few years to feel the very much deserved love! But maybe that’s just me. What did you guys think? What stories struck you as the most interesting or funny? Let me know in the comments below!

Now, when is comes to our next read, I have a few different ideas: Becky Chambers’s A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was mentioned as an option shortly after we kicked off the book club, and the sequel is dropping soon, so it might be fun to finally dive into this series. Then, there’s Dave Eggers’s The Circle, which was also floated as a possibility and is coming out as a movie in a few weeks. Lastly, I recently read about Adam Christopher’s Ray Electromatic series and thought the idea of a robot noir could be fun – or at least it would be something very different from our previous choices!

I want to read all of these books, so I’m pretty agnostic about which one we go with. If you have particularly strong feelings, please let me know and, as always, feel free to make your own recommendations too!

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Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. I had so much fun reading this! I’ve never read a memoir from a film set before, but this one was just fun, light reading. I was constantly telling my husband the things I was learning (he loves the movie, too–in fact, I think he introduced me to it). I also liked that this was easy to pick up/put down.

    I want to watch the movie again now. 🙂 I’ve just started reading the actual book for the first time.

    I guess I wasn’t too surprised that the movie didn’t do well at first, because I’ve always had it in my mind that it’s a “cult classic.” I never saw it til I was a teenager. I guess I can understand that the marketing people didn’t know what to do with such a mix of genres, but what a shame!

    I don’t have strong opinions for next time, but sometime when we do a nonfiction selection, I want to suggest one of Carrie Fisher’s memoirs.

    Reply
    • Yay, I’m so glad! I’ve never read a memoir like this before either – then again, I’m not sure if I’ve ever really read a memoir – and it definitely made me miss my tech theater days. I just loved building the sets, helping with the costumes, and seeing everything come together! *fingers crossed* I can convince C to move to LA so I can get involved in that sort of thing again 🙂

      I totally grabbed the original book too. I always looked at it whenever I was straightening the shelves at B&N, but never actually purchased or read it. Once I finally finish “Morning Star,” that’s what I’m picking up next!

      As for future non-fiction reads, I’m definitely down with one of Carrie Fisher’s books. I think I’m most interested in “Wishful Drinking,” but we can discuss that more next time around!

      Reply
      • I really don’t know much about film /theater /etc. so this was really interesting to me to learn so much about how movies are made. I’m kind of in awe of all the people that contribute to these things.

      • Agreed. I think it’s really interesting that more and more films these days are including frames near the end of the credits that say how many tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of jobs were supported. That, and the fact that the credits typically roll for over 10 minutes, really lets you know how massive these undertakings can be!

  2. I loved the book. It felt like Cary Elwes was talking to me telling the stories — what a fun read.

    Though I know that movies are not filmed in sequence, I was surprised at that they started filming with the fire swamp scenes. What would Rob Reiner have done if the leading lady had caught fire the first day? “No pressure” on Cary…

    Also, though I enjoy the brief scene with the wizard and his wife and it is important to the story, I finally understand why this never seemed to me to fit with the rest of the movie. The development of the ensemble creates such an important synergy for the end product.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the movie again soon! Good suggestion to read the book too.

    As to the next read, most of these books are ones I probably would not have picked up on my own so I am loving being challenged to stretch my interests. I good with what you suggest and look forward to diving in… Thanks!

    Reply
    • I really loved the tone of the book too. There were moments when it felt a little repetitive, but then I thought, “Well, it’s almost like he’s having a conversation with me and who doesn’t repeat themselves in those kinds of situations?!”

      Unlike you, I had totally forgotten that movies are not filmed sequentially! (I first learned about it watching the extras for the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, when they talked about how the hanging scene at the end was filmed first.) Remembering that made me appreciate the work of the actors even more, since – in this case – they make you feel like these two lovers have just been reunited, but it’s only the first day on set!

      As for the scene with Miracle Max and Valerie, I don’t think it ever stood apart from the rest of the movie for me, but I am curious to go back now and see it with a new perspective. I’ll let you know if anything changes!

      Reply

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