By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com September 25, 2012 at 12:01PM
The bargain bins of the world are littered with attempts to make films for the whole family. Making something that will please young kids, grandparents, and everyone in between (a four-quadrant hit, as studio types call it) is a tough nut to crack. But one of the most enduring family favorites of the last few decades is one that, against the odds, managed to thrill audiences, make them laugh, and make them swoon: Rob Reiner's "The Princess Bride."
Based on the novel by screenwriter William Goldman ("Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid," "All the President's Men"), it's a fairy tale (allegedly a rediscovered classic by one S. Morgenstern), which involves the long-thwarted love between Princess Buttercup and her childhood sweetheart Westley, taking in Cliffs of Insanity, Rodents of Unusual Size and one Spaniard's search for the man who killed his father.
The film took fourteen years to make it to the big screen, and the effort was worth it, as the film remains a total delight, genuinely romantic, quietly moving, exciting and consistently hilarious. The film was released in theaters on September 25, 1987 -- twenty-five years ago today -- and to mark the occasion, we've collected up five facts you may not be aware of about Reiner and Goldman's family classic. Read on below.
William Goldman wrote the novel "The Princess Bride" in the early 1970s after asking his daughters what they'd like him to write a story about, with one replying "a princess," the other "a bride." Published in 1973, it was a success, and swiftly came to the attention of Hollywood, with Goldman writing a screenplay that would, over the next fourteen years or so, gain a reputation as being one of the best unproduced scripts. The film kept failing to get the green light for various reasons, but not for lack of trying, with several big name directors attempting an adaptation at various points. Norman Jewison tried to make it for years, intending to make the framing device revolve around an immigrant family. Robert Redford wanted to both make his directorial debut on the film (before "Ordinary People") and play the lead role of Westley. "Excalibur" director John Boorman was another who sniffed around it, while most remarkably, French New Wave legend François Truffaut considered making the film at one stage (what we wouldn't give for that version...). But in the end, it fell to sitcom star-turned-fledgling filmmaker Rob Reiner, who'd recently broken through to film directing with "This Is Spinal Tap," "The Sure Thing" and "Stand By Me." And the project fell firmly within the family -- Reiner had been given the book originally by his father Carl, while producer Norman Lear had been behind Reiner's breakout show "All In the Family" and, as he had with all of Reiner's films until that point, personally financed the project.
With a relatively meager $15 million budget, the cast ended up being a curious mix of Reiner's pals (Christopher Guest, Billy Crystal), British comics local to the film's shoot (Peter Cook, Mel Smith), those that Goldman had always had in mind (Andre The Giant, although there were back up possibilities -- several NFL players, and reportedly even Liam Neeson, also auditioned for the role), and relative unknowns. Casting the Errol Flynn-ish Cary Elwes as Westley was a relatively easy pick, but Buttercup, described in the script as "the most beautiful woman in the world," was a trickier one. Goldman considered Carrie Fisher early on, while Meg Ryan, Uma Thurman, Sean Young (an early favorite of Reiner's), Suzy Amis, Courtney Cox, Alexandra Paul and even Whoopi Goldberg all pursued the part. In the end, it was soap veteran Robin Wright who won the role. Meanwhile, Wallace Shawn was nervous on set, knowing that he was far from the first choice to play the cunning Vizzini -- Danny DeVito had originally been sought by Reiner, but had turned the role down. And as for his enormous pal Fezzig, Arnold Schwarzenegger had been considered in an earlier iteration on the project, but had told Goldman that Andre The Giant was a better choice.