The Princess Bride Q&A Panel
Awesome Con 2019
April 27, 2019
Awesome Con 2019 featured a number of reunion panels that would make any Gen Xer squee with joy but having Cary Elwes and Chris Sarandon come together to talk The Princess Bride was simply delightful!
Elwes and Sarandon were as humble and as likable as you would imagine them to be during The Princess Bride Q&A Panel. After coming out on stage, and taking in the crowd, Elwes said, “this is bonkers.” And he’s not wrong. The room was chock-a-block with fans, evident when the co-stars of the 32-year-old movie earned raucous applause. The dedicated fan base was excited to see them and celebrate them and this beloved movie.
Cary asked for the group dressed as Robin Hood: Men in Tights to stand up. A group of cosplayers sitting close to the stage were dressed in the tights and feathered cap along with a Maid Marian and a baby girl dressed as Broomhilde. (Side note: we have a photo of them up on Instagram and Twitter. See the bottom for our deets!)
Early on, Chris told the audience he went to college in DC for his Master’s Degree and sold paperback books in college. If fans asking questions said where they were from the DC area, Chris confirmed if he sold books there. Like Alexandria and Silver Spring. It was an endearing way to connect with the audience and became a cute spiel.
The Lasting Popularity
The first fan question asked if they knew, when they were making the movie, if they knew that it would become a big hit? Chris answered, “I think we knew that the script was wonderful, the cast was extraordinary, that we had one of the best directors in the world. I don’t think we thought that is was going to be like this.” Cary reminded us that the movie wasn’t a box office hit; it was released the same weekend as Fatal Attraction.
It became a blockbuster, well, because of Blockbuster Video. Cary credits the fans with making it a hit. It became a cult classic on VHS. Cary asked how many of us owned the movie on VHS and most of the people in the room raised their hand. Chris followed it up by asking how many have watched it with their kids? And just as many people raised their hand. Chris said the movie has become such a part of the popular cultural and being quoted all the time.
I was able to ask a question about the possibility of a sequel because the movie was so loved and such a cultural icon. Cary said he was “old enough to play the grandfather, but that’s very kind of you.” He added that they lost their writer late last year, William Goldman. He was the only who could possibly do that and he tried to write a sequel called Buttercup’s Baby but couldn’t make it work. The movie stands alone, on its own. It was difficult to follow up in any meaningful way. Chris said a sequel is a victim of the movie’s own success.
The next fan question for them was really funny. It was what was influential for you as a kid, but in a bad way, like what were you subjected to and it haunts you to this day. Chris said when he was 8 or 9, the original The Thing came out. He and his friends snuck in to see it. Big mistake; that creature haunted him for years
“Came after me at night for years. scared the hell out of me.”
Cary said, “I saw The Exorcist at 13, which I should not have seen.”
“I’m Not Left-Handed Either”
The duo was asked to describe the filming of the fight scenes. Chris points to Cary and says he had no fight scenes. The fencing choreography was led by Peter Diamond and Bob Anderson, who came up with all the light saber scenes for the first three Star Wars. They started training a week before filming and were constantly training in between shoots and at the end of the day they’d have to do another 2 hours. They made them learn each others parts. The logic behind it was that if they knew what the other guy was doing, the less likely they’d get hurt. They were proud of the quality of the fight choreography and the fact that no one was injured fencing was a feat in itself. The only real injury was Mandy Patinkin bruising a rib from laughing during the Miracle Max scene.
Next, Cary and Chris were asked what were some of their favorite memories from being on set? Cary said he was intimidated about meeting the cast because he was a relative unknown. He was thrilled to be a part of it because everyone was just wonderful to work with. He said it was a love fest on the set.
“I can’t remember a day without laughter; everyday it was something crazy.”
Cary offered a brief story on movie stills. The actors have to approve the stills that get released. He and Chris Guest were reviewing the stills and Chris is so naturally funny that for him to laugh at something, it’s really funny. So Chris lets out a little hmmph smile looking at the photos and Cary knows this has to be good. He looks over and Chris says his horse has buck teeth.
Next up was a request for any antidotes about Andre the Giant from filming the movie. Cary said he has but Chris’s story is funnier. Chris said he was telling his very young daughters, 2 and 3 years old respectively, about the movie he was filming that it was about a princess. No response. Daddy was going to play a prince. Nothing. But when he said there was a giant in the movie, THAT got their attention. They had a million questions. Chris brought his kids to the set to meet Andre. They screamed in terror when he stood up. Chris was mortified but Andre took it in stride.
“Boss, don’t worry. They either run to me or they run from me.”
Cary and Chris echoed similar sentiments. Andre the Giant was such a gentle creature, so sweet, and lived his life with dignity and grace despite his circumstances. Cary said of Andre, “He would give you the shirt off his back. It’d be enough for 10 people, but he’d give it to you.”
Cary’s anecdote was that Andre let out a fart in the middle of a scene early on in filming, deciding the gas was not be contained any longer. Cary said of it, “It was something akin to a tornado. The decibel level cannot be appreciated. So loud that the sandman lifted his headphones off his head [imitating a headphone being pulled off his ear] The whole set was shaking. When it was over and he had a look on his face like he’d let go of something he’d been holding onto like he’d been holding on forever [looking so serene and rocking back and forth]. As we were all getting over the tinnitus, Rob broke the silence asking in a voice strikingly similar to Rob’s deadpan delivery, ‘Hey, Andre you okay?’ Swear to God. And Andre, without missing a beat [imitating in a deep accented voice], ‘I am now boss.'”
Men in Tights .. on Broadway?
The next fan question was for Cary, if he would like to see Robin Hood: Men In Tights became a Broadway musical? He answered that Mel [Brooks] is already thinking about that. Mel’s going through his entire library and wants to put them all onstage. He’s looking more at the TV adaptation like Catch-22 that’s coming out next month with George Clooney. He wants to do live TV productions of his movies like the recent trend has been with a live audience. Cary said he wouldn’t be in them because he can’t sing and he did a fabulous Mel Brooks impression, saying of Mel, “we’ll work around that.”
As You Wish
A lady asked a question of Cary, if he could say, “as you wish.” Cary jumped off stage and ran up the aisle to the microphone she was standing at, looked deeply into her eyes and said, “as you wish.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek and headed back to the stage to raucous applause.
See the video below.
Rodents of Unusual Size?
A kid, about 10, asked how Cary didn’t get crushed by the ROUS during filming? Cary explained that there were little people sewn into the costumes. The costumes were made of foam and rubber and lots of fur. The set was pretty hot. Cary felt lucky compared to the ROUS characters. He said he made sure that after each take someone would come and cut them out of the suits. He told a story of how the ‘main’ character of the ROUS’s, the one he has to stab went missing one night. He’d gone out drinking and got arrested. When he arrived on the set, about 12 hours late, the cast asked him to tell them the tale. He put on a cockney type accent, imitating the dwarf. “I was trying to convince the policeman I was doing a movie and the policeman said what part are you playing and he says I’m playing a rat! The policeman went, yep right to the back of the van!” The hardest day of his life was to go from prison to being stabbed by me in a rat suit.
See the video below.
The Dread Pirate Roberts
Kristen, our moderator, pointed to the next fan for their question and said, “Oh my God, I’m dying, if anyone can’t see …” The boy introduces himself as Darren, he’s maybe 8 or 9, and he’s dressed head to toe as the Dread Pirate Roberts, mustache included. Cary was just ticked by him and invited him up to the stage, introducing him to the audience and telling us, “this is Darren, everyone. Let me tell you, I’m nervous.”
Darren’s question was if there were any stunt men for the sword fight between Inigo and Westley atop the Cliffs of Insanity? Cary said that there was a gymnast that they hired for the part on the bar. He fumbled for the word and a fan called out the word bar and Cary thanked him, saying “I told you I was nervous.” He said the gymnast did the loop on that bar and that was it. Everything else was him and Mandy. Cary asked about the costume and who made it. Darren said some of it was bought and some of it was made by his Dad. Yay Dad!!! Cary asked Darren if he wanted to ask Chris a question and Darren said, “no.” Cary asked him to shake Chris’s hand so as not to feel bad. Cary said of Darren, “This guy is really smooth. If there was a sequel of The Princes Bride, I vote this guy.”
See the video below.
Next up they were asked about their favorite scene in the movie? Chris: “My favorite scene would have to be something I was in, of course.
“First of all when you think about it, it’s such a brilliant line that leads up to it and the tag is just perfect.” Cary said, “My favorite, believe it or not, is Andre saying , ‘Anybody want a peanut?’ I don’t know why, it’s so silly but it just got me. Apparently it wasn’t in the script, it was written on the day. How about that?” Cary added that he was talking to Bill Goldman before he died and said he has to get them to write a “peanut song” in the Broadway musical adaptation. [Side note: I looked at Playbill.com and there’s an article from March 2019 saying that Disney Theatricals is planning a production of The Princess Bride for Broadway. I will definitely be checking that out. I might start writing lyrics to help along the “peanut song.”]
Favorite Movie Lines
The next question was what were their favorite iconic movie lines? Cary kinda stammered saying, “I think I just said mine?” Chris added, “And I mine.” She clarified from any movie. Ah. Cary said, “‘I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Network.’” Chris said, “Play it again Sam.”
Hardest Part of Filming
They were asked what was the hardest part about filming. Cary said it was containing his nerves, working with actors he’s watched and admired, like Chris. He had to meditate in his dressing room to calm himself. He didn’t want to blow it like he did on stage with Darren a few moments ago. Chris said his was when he was introduced to his horse. “His name was Fury. [audience laughter] Couldn’t have named him Bruce, couldn’t have named him Cutie Pie?”
“He was a huge black stallion and I had never ridden a horse before in my life.”
The horse turned out to be very gentle. Chris Guest’s horse was no where near as big and was completely unmanageable. They mentioned again that Chris Guest’s horse had buck teeth. Such gold.
The following question asked Cary what it was like being on Psych? He said it was silly. Lots of laughs. He wasn’t prepared for Dule Hill’s character scream. When he heard it for the first time on the set, he blew that take. There were so many outtakes and they were encouraged to improvise. Chris said he was also a guest on the show.
They were asked to describe the audition process for The Princess Bride. Cary said he didn’t think Chris had to audition for the movie and Chris corrected him that he did. Cary was floored. Chris told the tale that he was headed to Bill Goldman’s apartment for the interview and he’d heard on the radio on the way over that the Knicks, he’s a big Knicks fan, had drafted a guy that he thought was a big mistake. He walked into the room and they asked how are you and he was livid … The NY Knicks just drafted Kenny Walker. And Bill Goldman said, “‘Can you believe this?’ and he and I sat down and talked about Kenny Walker for like 15 minutes. We were just rattling away and finally Rob [Reiner] goes, ‘Excuse me but do you think maybe we could read?’ We did and Rob laughed. The next day I found out I was hired.”
Cary thought there was no way Chris wasn’t going to get the part. He thought that Rob had Chris in mind for the role and just wanted to hear the actors read the lines.
For Cary’s audition, he was making a movie in Berlin, right after the Chernobyl accident. “The production manager called a meeting and in a curt German accent said, ‘I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that there has been a reactor that has exploded in Russia and wind is blowing the radioactive material in this direction. The good news is that the wind has changed this morning.’” He was quite excited to get off that set. Rob came to visit him to do the audition, saying “You know I’m serious. I’m a Jew in Berlin.” He made Cary read the Dread Pirate Roberts speech from the swamp. He read it. Cary thought he blew it. A week later he said he got the call that changed his life.
See the video below.
Jog His Memory
The next question asked of Cary was how scary was it for him to have his memory jogged by Andre the Giant? Cary came up with that moment because there was no physical behavior between them in the scene. Cary recalls saying, “anytime you can see Andre’s hand on top of somebody’s head and get the size of it would be a good thing.” Cary came up with all the floppy body language behavior in the scene and suggested that Andre move his head for him. Rob thought it was great. Andre was very gentle despite his 450 pound size. A real gentle giant and very delicate. He was in a lot of pain and had terrible back issues from being beaten in the ring for years. He showed up to work with a smile on his face everyday. Rob had recorded all his dialogue on a tape and Andre was walking around with a walkman and headphones. Tiny pieces of foam on his giant head and he was learning all the dialogue listening to Rob.
Next, Cary was asked if the training from The Princess Bride help with the fencing scenes in Robin Hood: Men in Tights. He replied, “Yes, very much so. I think once you learn any kind of craft like that and you have to repeat it in any other project it’s definitely helpful to have had some training beforehand.” As he’d previously mentioned, he was trained by two of the best fencing choreographers in the business from Star Wars for The Princess Bride. He did say that the swords were considerably heavier for Men in Tights. Giant, heavy, steel things. Cary had said to Roger Rees who played the Sheriff of Rottingham, “Boy I hope I don’t hit you with this. He said I hope you don’t either. And unfortunately I did.” He thought he’d killed Roger Rees but just left him with a large lump on his head. They had to train hard to make it look easy because the swords were so heavy.
“By the end of the movie our right arms were much bigger than our left ones.”
The last fan question was if there were there any moments that filming was made impossible because of laughter. Chris’s response was, “As soon as Peter Cook [the minister marrying Prince Humperdink and Buttercup] opened his mouth. Gone. Completely gone.” Cary was replaced in the Miracle Max scene with a rubber dummy because he was laughing too much. He ruined every take. Rob had to be moved off the set during that scene too because Billy launched into two hours of medieval yiddish stand-up basically involving vikings and sheep, you get the idea. There are kids present so he didn’t want to go into more detail.
I love the humility and the respect these two actors have for this movie. Cary mentioned that the call for the role of Westley was the call that changed his life. They have such affection for the cast, the crew, the story, and the fans of the movie. As if I couldn’t love The Princess Bride anymore than I already do, this panel and their interaction gave me depth and insight into this beloved movie.
Here is the video referenced above; it covers several of the question and answers including the “As I wish,” Darren the 10 year old Dread Pirate Roberts, and the ROUS being locked up! Enjoy!!!
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