By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com September 25, 2012 at 12:01PM
In his script for the film, the sword fight between Dread Pirate Roberts/Westley and Inigo Montoya at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity (the climb of which was a combination of mattes and the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland) is described by Goldman as "The second best sword-fighting sequence on film. The first comes later." In fact, Reiner says on his commentary that the earlier scene is technically better than the later duel between Count Rugen and Inigo, and it's easy to agree. Mandy Patinkin and Cary Elwes trained for six months, with the former telling EW last year: "I knew that my job was to become the world’s greatest swordfighter. I trained for about two months in New York and then we went to London and Cary and I trained every day that we weren’t shooting for four months. There were no stunt men involved in any of the sword fights, except for one flip in the air." To help the actors appear ambidextrous, two identical, but mirrored, sets were constructed, to make it appear that the pair were just as good with their other hand. Even, so, Patinkin says, "Mandy and I got so good at both left- and right-handed fencing that by the time we showed the sequence to Rob, we’d gotten too fast at it and the fight was over very quickly in a couple of minutes. Rob went, 'That’s it? You guys have to go back and add some more!' " Christopher Guest (who says that he made sound effects on set: "I was so into it, I was making the sound of the sword hitting the other sword. I was doing the 'chk-chk-chk' — because that’s what you do when you’re a kid. Rob said, 'Cut! You don’t need to do that. We’re going to put in the sound of the swords later.' I was like, 'Ah!' ") was injured in the thigh by a sword during the rehearsal of the final fight, but Patinkin maintains that the worst injury he suffered on set was bruising a rib by trying to stop himself from laughing during Billy Crystal's scenes as Miracle Max.
On its release in September 1987, the film wasn't a disaster -- eventually taking $30.8 million domestically ($60 million when adjusted for inflation -- nearly twice the budget, but still a tenth of the year's top-grossing movie, "Fatal Attraction," which had been released the week before). Still over the years (aided by endless home video releases and re-releases, and TV airings), the film's become the family favorite it was always destined to be, spawning "quote-a-long" screenings. The cast all report they're regularly approached by fans in the street, but the film's reach is even more surprising than that. Reiner related two particularly memorable encounters with fans of the film to EW. "I remember once Nora Ephron and Nick Pileggi said, 'There’s this restaurant in New York that (legendary mobster) John Gotti always comes to — you should come.' So we went, and sure enough, in walks John Gotti with, like, six wiseguys. We finish the meal and I walk outside and there’s a man standing in front of a huge limo who looks like Luca Brasi from 'The Godfather.' He looks at me and he goes, 'You killed my father. Prepare to die.’ 'The Princess Bride!' I love that movie!” I almost shit in my pants." Perhaps more inspiring was another tale of how the film helped to save lives. "Another time, a woman came up to me—she had to be 25 or 30 years old—and she says to me, 'The Princess Bride saved my life.' I go, 'What do you mean?' She says, 'I do extreme skiing, and they dropped me off at the top of a mountain with four other people and we skied down this mountain and we got caught in an avalanche. We got stuck. We couldn’t get out.' She showed me that her frostbite was still going away. And she said, 'I kept everybody alive and kept everybody going because I know 'The Princess Bride' by heart—every line from beginning to end. I started reciting it. I acted it out. I kept everybody’s spirits up until we got rescued.' "
So far, the specter of sequels and remakes have avoided "The Princess Bride," bar a video game a few years ago. But Goldman's talked about a sequel, "Buttercup's Baby," for years now, although said in 2007 that "I desperately want to write it, and I sit there and nothing happens and I get pissed at myself. I got lucky with 'The Princess Bride' the first time, and I'd love to get lucky again." That said, the writer did manage to get as a far as a first chapter, included in later editions of the novel. The plot in the story involves a villain with no skin on his face kidnapping Westley and Buttercup's daughter Waverly and throwing her off a cliff, with Fezzig, her babysitter, leaping off after her to protect her from the impact. We remain hopeful that Goldman might be sneakily working away on the rest, although he was briefly distracted a few years ago by teaming up with composer Adam Guettel (the Tony award-winning "The Light In The Piazza") to work on a Broadway musical version. An orchestral suite was performed at the Hollywood Bowl in 2006, and a workshop conducted at Lincoln Center in 2007, but the project collapsed alter that year when Goldman allegedly demanded 75% of the author's share, despite Guettel writing the music and the lyrics for the show. The pair fell out acrimoniously, and nothing came to pass. Appetites were whetted recently for more 'Bride,' though, when Jason Reitman included the film as part of his live-read series at the LACMA last December. The reading featured Paul Rudd as Westley, Mindy Kaling as Buttercup, Nick Kroll as Count Rugen, Patton Oswalt as Vizzini, 6' 6" actor Bill Fagerbakke as Fezzik, Goran Višnjic as Inigo Montoya, Kevin Pollak as Miracle Max and Collette Wolfe as his wife, while Cary Elwes returned to play Prince Humperdinck, Rob Reiner himself voiced the grandfather, and Fred Savage reprised his role as the grandson.