The date in the title will tell you how far behind I am in my blog posts. Originally, Elwes was supposed to be at Town Hall on Wednesday, December 3rd at 7:30, but the date conflicted with something else, and so my money was refunded, the venue was moved to the UW Bookstore , the date was moved to a Tuesday, the appearance was now free, and it began at 7. I spent the week buying copies of As You Wish for my brother and sister, and then decided to get one for me, as well.
Learning from the Scalzi signing, I brought my DSLR to take photos this time. Arriving around 6:30, I found a group of musicians playing songs for the people upstairs, where chairs had been arranged in rows. Other people stood. I found a seat near the back.
The musicians ended on time, but Elwes was not yet in the building (though there was a boy dressed up as the Dread Pirate Roberts). In the meantime, the organizers held a raffle. Prizes included an audiobook version of As You Wish (with members of the cast reminiscing about their experiences) and three pairs of tickets to SIFF’s The Princess Bride Quote-Along. More time passed. Then, the announcement came that he was in the building. A short wait later, and the man himself was introduced to the cheering and whooping crowd.
By that point, the boy dressed up as Roberts was in the front row. Elwes noticed him, saying, “It’s uncanny. It’s like looking into a mirror.” He picked the boy up so that all could see.
Then, Elwes sat down with Nicole Brodeur, who was the moderator for the evening (and different from the person in charge of the raffle). He explained that the idea for the book had come out of the 25th anniversary celebration with the cast and crew, but that he couldn’t remember much of what had happened during the film when he agreed to write about it, so he wrote to Norman Lear (one of the executive producers of the film). The legendary Lear sent Elwes all the production notes, telling him that once he looked at them, he would remember everything. “And of course he was right, because he’s a genius,” Elwes said.
Brodeur then asked him about the first scene he shot with Andre the Giant (Elwes did impressions of Andre the Giant, William Goldman, and Rob Reiner while telling these stories). It’s the scene when Westley is given the pill that will revive him from being mostly dead. Fezzick asks Inigo how long he thinks it’ll take, and then Westley says (and Elwes checked with the audience for accuracy), “I’ll beat you both apart! I’ll take you both together!” At that point, Fezzick says, “I guess not very long,” except that Andre never got to that line. Instead, he let out a giant fart. Or, if you prefer, a fart by a giant. Elwes looked at the crew, and the first person he saw was the sound guy. The fart lasted 15 seconds and felt like a mini-earthquake. When it ended, Reiner asked, “Andre, you okay?” to which Andre grinned and said, “I am now, boss.”
Another story he told is when they shot the scene with Billy Crystal as Miracle Max. Reiner told Elwes to hold in his breath because they could see his chest rising and falling on the monitor. He then went over to Crystal and whispered something in his ear. Elwes later found out that what he said was, “Go for it.”
“For the next three hours, Billy did what I can only describe as medieval Yiddish humor,” Elwes said. Reiner was laughing so hard that he was barred from the set, having to direct through a monitor set up in a separate location. The next to be banished was Elwes. The close-ups of him in that scene were done elsewhere, while in the long shots, a dummy stood in for him. “Mandy Patinkin says he only suffered one injury on the set, and that was a bruised rib from trying not to laugh during that scene,” Elwes said, adding that he didn’t know a rib could be bruised.
Others stories from the set included the one about the stuntman who played the ROUS that Westley fights in the Fire Swamp getting arrested the day before they were to finish shooting in that location, Wallace Shawn being convinced by his agent that Danny Devito was the first choice for the role of the Sicilian (“If you’re an agent, NEVER tell your client that someone else was a first-choice.”), and of drinking with Andre after the New York premiere. In the latter story, Elwes noticed that a guy kept following them from bar-to-bar. When he pointed the man out to Andre, Andre saw him and laughed. As it turns out, Andre once fell on a guy after a night of drinking, so the NYPD sent a cop to follow him every time he went out to the bars.
“They said it was for my own safety,” Andre said.
At some point during the evening, Brodeur asked him what his favorite line in the movie is.
“It’s a bit obscure,” he said, “but I’ve always been fond of ‘Anybody want a peanut?'”
After that, the floor was open to questions from the audience. The first question came from someone who asked whether Elwes could still do the fencing scene from the movie. “Of course,” he said, but then said he imagines some people think he fences all the time, which isn’t the case (he said this while pretending to fence while making toast). He’d have to get into practice again. Another person asked what it was like kissing Robin Wright. Since they became very good friends during the film, he said it felt strange, and they often got into fits of giggling during the kissing scenes.
The last question was from little Westley (I think his name was Cody), who asked if that was real fire in the Fire Swamp scene. So that people could hear better, Elwes picked him up so that he could speak into the microphone. “Yes it was,” Elwes said, “so do not try this at home.”
There was a short break, then people were lined up (based on what row of seats they sat in) to get their book(s) autographed. People who tried to cut in line from a row farther back or from standing room were rebuffed by the awesome staff. A plea was also made after a few signatures that taking photos of Elwes was okay, but “please do not take video.” I noticed that no one posed for photos with Elwes, which was a smart decision, as it would’ve lengthened the amount of time needed to wait in line. In fact, this was the quickest line movement I’d ever seen at a signing. Despite being roughly nine rows back, I waited a half hour or less for him to sign my three copies. A few people also went around with sticky notes ahead of time to write down to whom the signatures should be addressed. The sticky notes were then placed on the signing page.
Elwes asked everyone’s name as he signed their books and shook their hands. When I got up there, I planned to tell him, “My brother’s favorite line from the movie is the same as yours.” Instead, I said something like, “My brother’s favorite line also yours the same.”
“My brother’s favorite line from the movie is the same as yours.”
He then asked, “Are all three yours?”
“Yes. My brother, my sister, and me,” I said, pointing to each book in turn. He nodded and as he finished the last book, said, “There you are,” and slid it to me across the table.
I checked the books before I left. Between the recipient’s name and Elwes’s signature, he had written, “As you wish!” Which, of course, was totally conceivable.
Special thanks to Jana Monji for alerting me when Cary Elwes added Seattle to his book tour schedule. You can read her interview with him about the book on RogerEbert.com.