Mindhole Blowers: 20 Facts About The Princess Bride That Might Leave You Craving a Nice Mutton, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich
film / tv / lists / guides / news / love / celeb / video / think pieces / staff / podcasts / web culture / politics / dc / snl / netflix / marvel / cbr

For Its 28th Anniversary, 20 Facts Even Diehard Fans Don't Know About 'The Princess Bride'

By Cindy Davis | Seriously Random Lists | September 25, 2015 | Comments ()

Bill Goldman wrote The Princess Bride (novel) in 1973; in 1974, it was decided to make a film even though the studio didn’t know exactly how to do it. 20th Century Fox bought the book rights, but Goldman owned the screenplay (which he had also written). At some point, the studio head got fired and the film idea just sat around for years, through several studio heads coming and going. Goldman bought back the book rights. He mentioned that Norman Jewison (Moonstruck, The Thomas Crowne Affair, Other People’s Money) wanted to direct, but was unable to obtain financing.

After his screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Goldman wanted to try writing non-fiction; he wrote The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway, during which time he met and became friends with Carl Reiner (Rob’s father) who had starred in the play, Something Different. Carl later gave his son a copy of The Princess Bride, Rob re-read it (he had first read it when he was 25 and said it was his favorite book up to that point in his life) and felt like Goldman was challenging him to make the film.

For the opening scene, Goldman originally wanted Jimmy Stewart in the Peter Falk role, but was happy with Falk. If Jewison had made the film, he planned the opening scene with an immigrant carrying a sick child up the stairs of a tenement building.


Producer Norman Lear (“All in the Family”, “Maude,” “The Jeffersons,” “The Facts of Life,” “Square Pegs,” “Who’s the Boss”) financed the film, giving Reiner a $16 million dollar budget. Lear basically got Reiner’s directorial career started, having financed This is Spinal Tap as well.

When he wrote the book, Goldman envisioned André the Giant in the role of Fezzik. Though they did audition other people (football players—“too small,” one giant—“too skinny”), they spent weeks tracking down André, who was wrestling around the world. Finally, while Rob Reiner and producer Andy Scheinman were in Europe scouting locations for the Cliffs of Insanity, they returned to their London hotel and got a message that André would be in Paris the next day. They immediately left their hotel and went to France. Of meeting André in a bar, Reiner said, he was “just as described in the book, a land mass.” The director had to record Fezzik’s entire dialogue on tape, as André could not read—he had to memorize by rote.

According to Goldman (and differing from André’s Wikipedia), Andre´s size (a result of Acromegaly) was fairly normal until he reached the age of 17; the author asserted that from 17 to 25, André’s size doubled. As a result of his condition, André died at the age of 46 from congestive heart failure. Goldman said André knew he would die young but that he never let it get him down; he was the most popular figure Goldman had been around in 35 years.

The director believes “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die” is the most-quoted line from any of his movies (the other contenders being, “I’ll have what she’s having,” and “You can’t handle the truth!”). One night when he was eating dinner with friends at a restaurant frequented by John Gotti; Reiner locked eyes with the mobster. After dinner, Reiner went outside where “one of Gotti’s wise guys, a big goon” stood in front of a limousine. The goon looked at Reiner and recited the line, saying “I love that movie.”

The boat sequence was shot in a tank at the studio, a miniature made it look like a boat on the high seas. Reiner, in hip waders, was walking around in the tank (looking for an angle), which on one side has an 8 foot pit where a person can make a dive. He stepped into the pit and weighed down with the boots and equipment, he started sinking—thought for a moment he might drown—until someone dragged him out.

Reiner said he loved breaking away to the grandfather and boy; many people had told him he couldn’t do it because the audience would get lost. The director felt that the story being told was “made up of the interesting parts of the story,” so he thought it worked. The audience could stay involved in the story while tracking the relationship between the grandfather and the boy.

The shots of the Cliffs of Insanity are a mix of matte paintings and the actual location: the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland.


Reiner thinks this film is “the only time in movies where the principal actors are in every single shot where swordplay is involved.” While old movies with Errol Flynn used stunt doubles and experts during swordplay, Mandy Patinkin and Cary Elwes did all their own fencing, both left and right-handed. Stuntmen were used only for the flips. Patinkin studied eight months, Elwes, five or six, with every spare moment on set spent with their trainers. All the swordplay was shot at the end of filming; it took ten days to shoot the entire sequence from the moment Patinkin pulls up Elwes from the rope. As described in the script by Goldman, “What you’re about to see (between Westley and Montoya) is the second best sword-fighting sequence on film. The first comes later.” Reiner, however, felt the first sequence was technically the best, with the second (between Patinkin and Christopher Guest) being the more emotional scene.

It was thought the match between Fezzik and the man in black would be a cinch, since André was a wrestler—but André had a bad back and couldn’t hold up Cary Elwes. Ramps had to be built to hold Elwes; the scene is a mixture of shots with a stunt man’s back and actual shots of André with Cary held up by ramps.

Reiner spoke of how Christopher Guest disappears so well into a role that he didn’t even remember Guest being in the film. When he saw the actor at the premiere party, Reiner’s first thought was of how nice it was of his friend to come out and support him, having forgotten that Guest played a part (Count Rugen aka the Six-fingered Man).

Both Goldman and Reiner remembered how nervous actor Wallace Shawn (Vizzini) was. Goldman spoke of sitting at the (casting) read with Reiner and five or six other people. Shawn opened the door, looked in and saw all the people and said, “Oh, oh my,” then walked out. Then, he came back in. Reiner said Shawn was so worried about his performance he thought he would be fired. Both director and writer loved the actor in the role, with Reiner saying the goblet scene was one of his favorites.


Westley’s mustache was Cary Elwes’ idea, he thought it would give the character swashbuckling flair.

Reiner said that Superman gave them license (by setting the precedent) for Buttercup not recognizing the masked Westley (or his voice). Just as the mere removal of glasses could fool Lois Lane, we can accept a thinly disguised Cary is completely somebody else.

During part of filming, Elwes had a broken ankle (received when a dune buggy he was riding in flipped over); Reiner marveled that the actor could still look elegant and suave while walking so gingerly.

The fire swamp scenes were the first shot, the swamp was built on a sound stage. Bill Goldman was on set for a few days and had an odd superstitious habit of putting his thumbs in his mouth. Goldman said he’s not good on sets and related the story of how, even though he wrote the scene in both the book and the script, when he saw Buttercup’s dress catch fire, he shrieked, “Her dress is on fire!” effectively ruining the scene.

The ROUSs (Rodents of Unusual Size) were little people in costume. The grunts and groans they made during the fight scene were all sounds made by Rob Reiner, looped, put through harmonizers and with effects added. The first time someone forgot to hit the record button; Reiner was so upset because he’d almost lost his voice and had to record it again.


During the scene between Westley and the Six-fingered Man, Cary Elwes told Christopher Guest to go on and hit him; Guest clocked him on the head so hard that Elwes had to go to the hospital.

Because of budgetary concerns, instead of the book’s Zoo of Death, the Pit of Despair was created. The Zoo of Death had featured Fezzik and Inigo trying to find Westley; on each floor something attacks them. Goldman felt it was right to cut that from the film.

Reiner said the Albino (Mel Smith) clearing his throat and speaking normally is a throwback to an old joke that’s been done over many times. The first time Reiner heard it was from his father and involved a train conductor twice announcing the next stop unintelligibly, clearing his throat and then announcing (clearly), “Next stop, Schenectady!”

Goldman related that the scene with the clergyman who performs Buttercup and Westley’s ceremony was inspired by a real life memory of attending a wedding as a kid—there was a famous Chicago rabbi (whose name he couldn’t remember) who said, “a dweam within a dweam,” giving Goldman the giggles.

Filming at Haddon Hall, a fireman was required to be on set because of all the torches. Reiner noted that the fireman looked exactly like Captain Kangaroo and that every time Rob and Chris (Sarandon) walked by him, they hummed the show’s theme song.

Musician, composer, guitarist and former lead singer of Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler would only agree to score the film if Rob Reiner’s Spinal Tap hat was in evidence on film (note the room photo, towards top of this post). The one song not written by Knopfler (Willy DeVille’s Storybook Love) earned the film’s only Academy Award nomination.

Billy Crystal (Miracle Max) came up with many of his own lines, including “Why don’t you give me a nice paper cut to pour lemon juice on it,” and the “mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich.”


Cindy Davis would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley.

'Heroes Reborn': Real Time Review | 'Pawn Sacrifice' Review: A Silver Lining to the Cold War

Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • PugzNotDrugz

    According to Cary, it was his big toe that was broken rather than his ankle. If anyone is interested in buying his book, As You Wish, you may want to consider the audiobook because Cary himself reads it and does great impressions of some of the others, like Andre. And a couple of other people (including Carol Kane, Rob Reiner and Robin Wright) also speak.
    You also see how memories can change with time. For example I think in the audio commentary to the movie Rob does say that Cary's foot or ankle is broken, which is probably the source of the confusion. Similarly, they sometimes contradict each other on locations of certain shots or small details which is totally normal considering the number of people involved and the amount of time that has passed.

  • Uriah_Creep

    I love your Disqus handle.

  • PugzNotDrugz


  • Laura

    If I had to pick only one movie, this would be it.

  • Dave Dorris

    No, the next most quoted line HAS to be "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

    Well, I know it's the one I find most useful, anyway.

  • RobynRobotron

    If you get the chance to see Cary Elwes at a book signing, don't pass it up. He is hilarious. When he tells stories from the movie, he does everyone else's voices and he's a very good mimic. He also is still just as dreamy in real life. I had thought he wasn't aging well, but I was so wrong.

  • alacrify

    Ultimate statement: If you can't say "As you wish" in conversation and know why you did - well, then you'll be sorry later.

  • manting

    Andrei the Giant once drank 100 beers in one sitting. 100. ONE HUNDRED BEERS. It looked something like this.


  • Andre once drank 119 beers in 6 hours. He fell asleep(passed out) in the hotel lobby and nobody could wake him up or move him. So a couple of other wrestlers threw the covers from two gran pianos over him and paid the staff to leave him be until he woke up.

    This is a picture taken with Wilt Chamberlain and Andre. The man in the middle is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

  • Bert_McGurt



    The Cary Elwes stories from TPB are at the bottom and they are AMAZING (especially the elevator one) but they are all Andre stories so they are well worth it.

  • manting

    thats from the set of Conan the destroyer but I dont know what Andrei was doing there. He isnt in the movie.

  • Are you telling me, A Few Good Men (released in 1992) RIPPED OFF The Princess Bride (released in 1987), for its most infamous line? I CANT HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!!

  • Matt C.


  • Also note that I reviewed Elwes' book for CBR back in January or February. And yes that's my only review so far this year. I've been busy, OK?

    Link: http://cannonballread.com/2015...

  • Mrs. Julien

    The Cannonball Read has be CRAZY this year with all kinds of people doing double and triple cannonballs.

  • AbbySaurus

    28 years? Surely it hasn't been that long! Second time today Pajiba has made me feel old. Fine, I get it.
    Count Rugen running away down the hall

    and the clergyman performing the marriage ceremony are my favorite parts.

    Princess Bride is a twwue classic.

  • NVVN

    Haven't seen it. I feel guilty.


  • BWeaves

    The movie doesn't age because there are NO pop culture references in it. All the pop culture references came FROM it. It's a true fairy tale for grown-ups.

  • alacrify

    Read it first - it's a fast, magical read, and then you can watch the movie and truly enjoy the eels, and the fact that for once they actually got all the characters spot on.

  • PDamian

    My old paperback copy of the book has the BEST line: "What if the most beautiful princess in the world married the most handsome prince ... and he turned out to be a son of a bitch?"

  • alacrify

    Are we talking about the same book? Nobody marries anybody in the book I had, or the movie.

  • PDamian

    We are indeed. I got the line wrong, but here it is. This is the 1984 edition.



  • alacrify

    Wow that's one I missed. That's actually the one I read back in the olden days. Advertising was strange in the 70's and 80's (but the artwork has gone downhill since IMO).
    Thank you and I bow before your better library. Since my sister went my legacy books collection got weaker.

  • PDamian

    That's the nicest thing that's been said to me all year. "I bow before your better library." Thanks, and I'm totally stealing that.

  • alacrify

    You're welcome.Let's take trades.

  • Me neither. I feel OK though ;)

  • THEasscrackbandit
  • Don't argue, just skip straight to the shunning,

  • THEasscrackbandit
  • AbbySaurus


    Go immediately and watch it. It's the sweetest movie ever.

  • NVVN

    I know! People have been telling me that for about twenty-four years and I still haven't gotten around to it.

  • loo shag brolley

    It's the only movie I've ever watched, and then immediately watched again, without ever moving off the couch.

  • jja


  • THEasscrackbandit
  • Testing 1 2 3...

  • AbbySaurus

    You've tested the mic, now you have to sing us a song.

  • AbbySaurus
blog comments powered by Disqus