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Cary Elwes: As You Wish

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The British actor pens his fascinating memoir, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride, a tribute to one of Hollywood’s most beloved films ever; gushes about New Orleans; and supports Mercy Corps, in addition to the Louisiana SPCA’s Howling Success Patron Party & Gala.

CaryElwesEDITCary Elwes has proved that he is as adept with the mighty pen as he is with the powerful sword. The British actor’s forthcoming book, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of the Princess Bride, set for release Oct. 14 ($26, Simon and Schuster), is a treasure trove of fascinating behind-the-scenes accounts and personal reminiscences from the production of The Princess Bride — the romantic, witty and often hilarious movie that debuted in 1987 and has become a veritable cult classic. In his endearing memoir, Elwes provides an insightful first-time glance into the inner workings of the beloved fairytale, written by William Goldman, which has been deemed one of the most popular and successful films ever. The movie also holds spots on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Film Love Stories and Bravo’s compilation of the 100 Funniest Movies. It’s clear throughout As You Wish that the brilliant, affable and humble Elwes is just as smitten today with having portrayed Westley as he was when he was first cast for this role of a lifetime.

Elwes was a relative newcomer to film when famed director Rob Reiner and producer Andy Scheinman traveled to Berlin (where Elwes was working) to discuss his possible part in The Princess Bride. “What are the chances of that happening?” Elwes asks. “First of all they’re Jewish, and the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl had just happened and Andy was completely freaked out about it — as we all were. And I couldn’t believe it, because I had been such a huge fan of Rob’s. I had seen Spinal Tap and All in the Family as a kid, and here was Rob Reiner, a legend in my mind already, in my hotel room.” Elwes recalls chatting and having some laughs before Reiner had him read a scene. “I was nervous and ended up doing the scene, and, for some reason, Bill Cosby came up, and I wound up doing a Fat Albert impression and Rob seemed to like it. A few days later, I got a call from my agent saying, ‘They loved you, and they’re offering you the part.’ I was floored. It was a life-changing moment for me.”

As You Wish is thoughtfully and seamlessly compiled, and it includes recollections from the film’s other stars, including Robin Wright (Buttercup), Christopher Guest (Count Rugen) and Billy Crystal (Miracle Max), along with Reiner’s and Goldman’s input interspersed throughout its entirety. “I was so lucky to be able to work with such a powerful cast,” Elwes says. “I call it the tsunami of talent, and how I got caught up in it still causes me to scratch my head. We are like an extended family, and we share a great camaraderie. We had so much fun on this film. We’d spend evenings together in Rob’s hotel room where he’d cook us hotdogs and hamburgers on a Hibachi, and we’d hang out and listen to doo-wop. I thought why not bring us all together again, and log all our memories in one book and try to answer the questions we’ve been routinely asked over the years.”

And in a classic fairytale-with-a-twist rife with swashbuckling swordsmen, rodents of unusual size, wizards, a Fire Swamp, Lipizzaners, an actual giant and the like, curiosity continues to abound from fans. “It was crazy,” Elwes says. “I wanted to make sure everyone understood what hurdles Rob had to deal with, and how he had to put this whole circus act on film and make it work. Rob and I had both been fans of the book, and the film could have fallen into silliness in the wrong hands — but Rob was perfect and had the right touch, the right sensibility and he knew right where the jokes should be. As William Goldman described it at the table read, ‘It’s oddball!’ You’ve got a six-fingered man and a giant in the room, you know? It’s wonderfully silly, and it’s from the heart. Rob totally got it, and the result is this unbelievably beautiful thing that just keeps giving.”

The late André the Giant, who played Fezzik in the film, is honored in Elwes’ book. “André, God bless him, what an extraordinary human being,” Elwes says. “He was the most gentle and most thoughtful human being who was adored by everyone. He went to visit his folks back in France and he comes back with crates of cheese and stuff for everyone. Unbelievable! I just loved the guy.”

Although The Princess Bride was not quite an overnight success, it has continued to gain in popularity over the years, and, today, it is heralded as one of the most quoted films in the history of cinema. The rise of Elwes’ status as a matinee idol began to dawn on him after The Princess Bride was released on VHS, when he’d order his steak medium-rare in restaurants and waitresses would reply, “As you wish” (Westley’s famous response to Buttercup, interpreted to mean “I love you” in the movie). “There was a moment in my life when I realized, wait a minute, a film that’s been mostly dead is alive again!” Elwes says. “It became a phenomenon.” Elwes, a kind-hearted and eloquent man, uses the line “As you wish” in his personal life with his wife Lisa Marie and his young daughter, Dominique, to whom he dedicated his book. “Why not?” Elwes asks. “It’s a good one.”

In addition to his breakout role in The Princess Bride, Elwes has starred in popular movies such as Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Twister, Liar Liar and Saw, and his upcoming films include Sugar Mountain and The Greens are Gone. Currently on hiatus from filming while on a book tour, Elwes actively supports Mercy Corps in his spare time. “Unlike most non-profits that go to countries that have been affected by manmade or natural disasters and provide food and shelter, medical aid, clothes and general aid to that population that has been displaced or ravaged, Mercy Corps sticks around to help put that community back together. So if farms have been devastated in a storm, they help those farmers get back on their feet economically with micro-loans, or they get local artisans to open their stores and provide services and goods to the community. Mercy Corps is extraordinary, and I want to alert people to their amazing work.”

Elwes’ admirable charitable contributions extend locally as well; the animal lover is lending his support as an Honorary Celebrity Co-Chair for the Louisiana SPCA’s Howling Success Patron Party & Gala Nov. 15 at the Hyatt Regency, New Orleans — a fitting gesture considering his fondness for the Crescent City. “I love New Orleans,” Elwes says. “It’s definitely got its own culture, its own vibration. New Orleans is historically delightful, and, being an amateur historian, just walking the streets is positively magical for me! I visit all the old haunts when I come to town. I believe buildings that have stood up over 50 or 100 years have the right to continue to stay up because of their cultural value. New Orleans is like stepping back in time; it’s beautiful. It’s completely European, and it has that Haitian cross-culture and the like, and it’s just fabulous. Don’t get me started about the food — there is some fine cuisine in that town! New Orleans is all about having a good time; I’ll never get tired of the music, ever! The place is extraordinary, even if it is sometimes as hot as a fire swamp!” (laughs)

As You Wish, which was recently named as one of fall’s biggest books on Amazon.com, is bound to help create legions of new fans that will continue to savor one of the most iconic and heart-warming movies of all-time; even His Holiness Pope John Paul II was a fan. “When I met him, he smiled and said, ‘You’re the actor from The Princess and the Bride!’ I couldn’t believe it. The Pope had actually seen it! He said, ‘I love that film, I love it!’ Later I got to play him in a TV movie and learned that he was truly a renaissance man, a philosopher, a poet, a playwright — all these incredibly learned things — and it’s very touching to know that a saint is an admirer of the movie! You can’t beat that!” @Cary_Elwes, @mercycorps and @LASPCA