The Princess Bride is the very definition of a cult classic. Lauded for its simple heroism, disarming humour and good-spirited adventurousness, the film has attracted a loyal following. Plus, its infinitely quotable screenplay regularly features in lists of the most memorable movie lines.
Join us now as we celebrate this iconic comedy fairy tale adventure with some facts. It’s inconceivable that you know them already!
30. Cary Elwes was knocked out for real and hospitalised
Cary Elwes’ role as the dashing Westley includes lots of fighting, climbing, horse-riding and fencing, so it’s not too surprising that Cary Elwes got hurt during filming. However, it was a seemingly far less dangerous scene that resulted in injury: the moment when Christopher Guest’s Count Rugen knocks Westley out with the butt of his sword. No rubber swords were nearby, so Elwes asked Guest to simply hit him with the real thing.
However, Guest struck Elwes so hard that the young actor was knocked out. When we see Westley slump to the ground in the finished film, that’s Elwes genuinely losing consciousness, which ended up being the only take they had to use. Shooting was then abandoned for the day as Elwes was rushed to hospital, but he quickly recovered.
29. Cary Elwes and Robin Wright deliberately flubbed lines so they could keep kissing
The idea of actors falling for each other while working on a movie together is nothing new, especially not when the two actors in question are playing romantic leads. It’s not surprising that the intense chemistry between Westley and Buttercup seen on screen wasn’t purely acting. In fact, it was an accepted fact among The Princess Bride’s cast and crew that Cary Elwes and Robin Wright could hardly resist each other.
In fact, the two were so obsessed with each other that they even came up with a clever way to extend the amount of time they got to spend together. Filming their final scene, in which the two characters kiss on horseback, the two actors deliberately flubbed their lines and requested additional takes so they could keep kissing. Just another day at the office!
28. Inigo Montoya’s iconic line is still constantly quoted at Mandy Patinkin
Even in as highly quotable a film as The Princess Bride, one line stands above the rest: “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die!” Mandy Patinkin has claimed that he hardly goes a day without someone quoting the line at him. The actor has said he enjoys the recognition and knowing the impact the performance has made on people, but it has resulted in some odd moments.
On one alarming occasion, Patinkin found himself outside of a New York restaurant with seven other men, all of which recognised him for his work on The Princess Bride. The men in question were the notorious mob boss John Gotti, the famous mob boss, and his entourage. According to Patinkin, one of the huge bodyguards looked at him, said “you killed my father, prepare to die!” and walked off laughing. Yikes.
27. Billy Crystal nearly caused Rob Reiner to vomit with laughter
Some of the biggest laughs in The Princess Bride from Billy Crystal, who makes a brief but unforgettable appearance as Miracle Max. Crystal spent two full ten-hour days filming his scenes, and didn’t repeat a single joke that entire time. When filming his scenes, Billy Crystal was so on form that director Rob Reiner even had to leave the set, as he laughed so hard that he came close to vomiting!
Reiner wasn’t the only member of the cast and crew that Crystal put out of commission though, since Mandy Patinkin was even inadvertently injured by Crystal. Patinkin has said the only injury he sustained during the action-packed shoot was a bruised rib, which was caused not by any of his fencing scenes, but by stifling his laughter while working with Crystal.
26. The Dread Pirate Roberts is a real historical figure
In The Princess Bride, Westley poses as The Dread Pirate Roberts. You might be surprised to know that this figure was actually based on a real-life pirate, Bartholomew Roberts. Widely regarded as one of the most successful pirates of all time, Roberts’ career saw him take over 400 prizes including ships, equipment and (of course) treasure, and he was known for dressing in outrageously fine clothes whenever he did battle.
Roberts was buried at sea with much of his treasure after being killed by British admiralty in 1722. Similar to The Dread Pirate Roberts of The Princess Bride, it was theorised that the name Bartholomew Roberts may actually have been passed from pirate to pirate, in order to utilise the fearsome legacy of the original.
25. One of the Rodents Of Unusual Size was mistakenly arrested for drink driving
The monstrous Rodents Of Unusual Size (or ROUSes), who Wesley and Buttercup had to face off in the fire swamp, were actually played by actors in suits. Danny Blackner, who plays one of the giant rats, was caught speeding on the way to set after setting off late one day. The actor explained that he was running late for work, and that his job was to dress up as a giant rat for a movie, but that only made his situation worse.
The policeman obviously didn’t believe his outlandish story, and worse, he believed that the actor was probably drunk! The police officer went on to arrest him for suspected drunk driving, and it took taking him back to the station to realise that he was totally sober and his story was true.
24. Mel Smith could never bring himself to watch the film
British comedian Mel Smith cameos in The Princess Bride as The Albino, who assists Count Rugen in the Pit of Despair. Unfortunately for Smith, he wasn’t able to enjoy the same fun-filled shooting atmosphere that everybody else on-set did, since he was pretty much constantly in agony, as he suffered an allergic reaction to the solution used to clean his white contact lenses.
Given that Smith had to wear these lenses for extended periods of time every day, he ended up spending most of his time working on the film in considerable pain. The actor never really forgot the discomfort he experienced while filming, and for this reason it is reported Smith never watched the film before he sadly passed away in 2013.
23. William Goldman wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger to play Fezzik
While writing The Princess Bride in the early 70s, author William Goldman had a clear picture in his head of the giant Fezzik, envisaging future Terminator and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who at the time was still a successful bodybuilder and comparatively unknown as an actor. Once the film went into production, however, Schwarzenegger was a major action star commanding a big salary that The Princess Bride’s budget couldn’t stretch to.
This cleared the way for wrestler André the Giant to play Fezzik instead. André was ultimately a much better choice, as at 7’4″ he was genuinely gigantic. Schwarzenegger’s height has always been a controversial subject: it was once claimed the muscleman stood 6’2″, but some say it’s more like 5’10”.
22. André the Giant kept Robin Wright warm on-set with his massive hands
Movie sets can get pretty cold, whether they’re on location in a remote mountainous region or inside of a cavernous warehouse. Thankfully, André the Giant came up with an ingenious solution to keep his co-star Robin Wright from catching a chill between takes, as his famously enormous hands were the perfect size to fit around Wright’s head, creating a cocoon of warmth.
When the giant placed his hand on the top of Wright’s head, his fingers cupped the entire back of her neck, essentially functioning like a scarf. Wright is one of many cast and crew members from the film with fond memories of André, remarking that his kind and upbeat manner was invaluable to morale on set.
21. Over 500 actresses auditioned to play Buttercup
The Princess Bride has a pretty large ensemble cast, which is typical for a sprawling fantasy epic. Also like many other fantasy films, there is only one female character: the title character herself, Princess Buttercup. Naturally, there was no shortage of young actresses who wanted to play the role, and reportedly more than 500 women had tried out for the part.
Amongst those who auditioned were some seriously big names: such as Courtney Cox, Meg Ryan, Uma Thurman, and Whoopi Goldberg. In the end it was agreed that the best choice for the part was Robin Wright, then a soap opera actress who had never made a movie before.
20. Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits provided the film’s score
The music for The Princess Bride is immediately memorable, but (unless you pay close attention to the credits) it might surprise you to learn the musician and composer responsible. The score was by Mark Knopfler, the British lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of one of the best-loved stadium rock bands of the 80s, Dire Straits.
The guitar virtuoso had one curious condition for agreeing to score the movie, telling director Reiner to include a reference to one of his previous films: This Is Spinal Tap. For this reason, the hat that Reiner’s character Marti DiBergi wears in This Is Spinal Tap is hanging on the bedroom wall of the grandson being read the story.
19. Wallace Shawn was terrified shooting by the cliffs
Wallace Shawn’s character Vizzini is fiendishly clever and highly manipulative, but he’s also not the bravest in his band of adventurers. In some ways, this made Wallace Shawn the perfect actor to play him, since Shawn also spent a considerable amount of time terrified during production. Specifically, Shawn was afraid of heights, and so he found any of the scenes shot on top of the cliffs completely terrifying.
Shawn found the climbing he had to do almost impossible, and spent most of his time in between takes freaking out. Thankfully, André the Giant was there to allay Shawn’s fears, which he did by gently and repeatedly patting his head. While patting Shawn’s head, André would apparently repeat “I’ll take care of you”, in order to make him feel safe.
18. Another Rodent of Unusual Size actor had to be bailed out of jail
We’ve already discussed how one actor working as a Rodent of Unusual Size on The Princess Bride got in trouble with the police, but it turns out that a similar thing happened more than once during production. As surprising as it sounds, another actor playing the same part also got in trouble with the police, and had to be bailed out of jail using the movie’s own budget, in order to allow him to keep working.
The story goes that one of the actors went home after work one day, and got into a huge fight with his wife. The conflict allegedly escalated so much that the man burned down the kennel that they both shared, and was promptly arrested afterwards. Obviously Reiner and the production found out about the incident, and had to drive to the jail the next day in order to bail him out.
17. Andre the Giant riding a horse was one of the hardest scenes to shoot
The Princess Bride is a high fantasy story with a lot of action, so it’s no surprise that shooting it required a lot of stunts. Surprisingly though, the most dangerous thing that had to be filmed for the production was not a stunt at all. In fact, the most difficult to orchestrate piece of action was not a chase scene or a fight scene, or even a tumble.
Instead, it was the final escape from the castle that caused the most problems, since André the Giant had to ride a horse. In order to get the shot, André had to be lowered onto the horse using a crane and pulley system, in order to avoid injuring both André’s and the horse’s back.
16. No stuntmen were involved in Inigo and Westley’s cliffside fight
The Princess Bride is famous for its spectacular fencing battle scene. Neither Cary Elwes or Mandy Patinkin had any background in sword fighting, and had to undergo many weeks of intensive training to prepare for the demanding scene. Many of the crew involved in teaching them believed that the sword fights would have to be shot very strategically, in order to allow for stuntmen to swap in for the difficult manouvers.
However, Elwes and Patinkin proved everybody wrong, training relentlessly and soon mastering their choreography. The result was that the difficult and fast-paced cliffside fight between the two characters was done entirely by the actors themselves. The only moment performed by a stuntman is when the masked Westley does a loop-the-loop before swinging off a bar.
15. André the Giant took a week off filming to drive to France for snacks
When you’re an actor, the budget of a movie can influence your on-set experience in a number of different ways. It can affect how nice your sleeping arrangements are, how rushed and chaotic your on-set days are and, most importantly, it can affect the quality of the food. André the Giant, who was famous for enjoying his food and drink (and lots of it), was far from satisfied with the catering on The Princess Bride.
André was so upset with the lack of good food on-set, that he informed the director that he would be pausing filming for a whole week. During that week, André drove to France by himself, in order to pick up an enormous amount of food for himself and his cast mates to snack on through the rest of production.
14. Mandy Patinkin accidentally stabbed Christopher Guest
One of the most pivotal moments in the whole of The Princess Bride is the confrontation between Inigo and Count Rugen. Mandy Patinkin and Christopher Guest had to train extensively for the fight, learning real fencing techniques in order to allow for a margin of improvising. However, after learning all the blocking and steps, Guest told the man in charge of his training that he would be abandoning a lot of the steps he had learned.
Guest argued, “I think he’s going to try to kill me. So all that stuff that I learned, I’m basically throwing out. I’m basically now going to defend myself.” With that outlook, many expected Guest to accidentally injure Patinkin, but things actually played out the opposite way around. Patinkin actually stabbed Guest in the thigh accidentally during their final rehearsal, and of course apologised profusely.
13. Inigo Montoya is Mandy Patinkin’s favourite role of all time
Mandy Patinkin’s performance as Inigo Montoya is perhaps the most passionate and dramatic of the film. The character has become a major fan favourite, and – perhaps unsurprisingly – Patinkin says it is his personal favourite of any role he has ever played. The actor’s connection to Montoya stems partly from the fact that his own father had passed away from cancer before he began shooting the film.
Patinkin motivated himself to give 100% of his effort by imagining that by defeating the Count, he would also defeat the disease that killed his own father. Patinkin remarked of the scene in which he kills Rugen, “for a moment, [my father] was alive. And my fairy tale came true.”
12. The film was originally going to end completely differently
The Princess Bride ends simply, but beautifully. After finishing the story, Peter Falk’s Grandfather stands up to leave – but Fred Savage’s grandson asks him to return and read it again the next day. The grandfather replies “as you wish,” in a clear reference to Westley (who uses those words in lieu of ‘I love you’). It’s the perfect final wink to the audience, but the movie originally had a much more fantastical finale, which would have totally broken the reality of the framing device.
Originally, the grandson would have looked out of the window to see Inigo, Fezzik, Westley and Buttercup sitting outside on white horses, waving and smiling before riding off into the sunset. Reiner has said he is glad he abandoned the idea, but it would have made for a much more whimsical ending.
11. The author of The Princess Bride ruined Robin Wright’s first take
Esteemed screenwriter William Goldman adapted the screenplay of The Princess Bride from his own novel, so one might assume he knew the story inside and out. Unfortunately, when Goldman visited the set they were shooting the scene in the Fire Swamp when Buttercup’s dress catches on fire, a moment that he had apparently entirely forgotten about. As soon as he saw the flames, Goldman cried out in alarm.
This ruined the take and forcing the crew to reset the dangerous fire stunt. Even worse, it was Wright’s first day on set, her first scene and even her first take. Considering it was also her first-ever starring role, she was probably already very nervous. Thankfully, Goldman had the stunt explained to him and calmed down.
10. Andre the Giant couldn’t lift anything during shooting
Fezzik is most known for his ability to lift, carry or crush anything in his path, so it makes perfect sense that André the Giant was cast in the role. However, by the time André was cast in The Princess Bride, he had already spent several years in the professional wrestling circuit. This, combined with ailments associated with gigantism, had taken its toll on him physically.
André got back surgery just before the shoot and was constantly in agony on the set. This meant he couldn’t stand any pressure on his back, and couldn’t lift or carry anything, despite his own considerable strength. To accommodate this, Robin Wright was lowered into his arms on wires, and Cary Elwes jumped on the back of a stunt double instead.
9. The sword fight took a full week to film
The cliffside battle between Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin is referred to in both the book and the movie as the “Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times.” To achieve this, the actors worked with fencing coach Bob Anderson and stunt choreographer Peter Diamond to get it just right. However, their efforts did not satisfy director Rob Reiner, who felt the scene as they had rehearsed it was far too short.
At short notice, Diamond and Anderson returned to the drawing board, added extra footwork, and came up with a three-minute-long scene that took the best part of a week to film. Extra dialogue was also added to the scene to increase the back-and-forth interplay between Westley and Inigo.
8. A remake was scrapped before it was ever even announced
Whenever a nostalgic property remains popular for decades after its release, it’s only a matter of time before someone suggests a reboot. However, when rumours spread of a possible The Princess Bride reboot abounded around 2010, the fan backlash was powerful enough to cancel the project before it even had a chance to get off the ground.
The rumours vanished seemingly instantly, and the project was never even officially announced, leading many to believe that the reboot had never existed in the first place. Others believed that the fan outrage was just enough to scare any producer away from backing the project since it had such vocal detractors. Who knows?
7. André the Giant learned all his lines phonetically
Despite André the Gaint being a fairly prolific actor, as well as having a separate career as a professional wrestler, he made a point throughout his life to avoid parts with lots of dialogue. Born and raised in France, André had doubts about his ability to quickly pick up lines in English, as well as being insecure about his thick French accent.
However, Rob Reiner was so desperate to cast André the Giant that he went the extra mile to make him comfortable, by recording all of André’s lines vocally onto a tape recorder. André would walk around the set listening to his lines over and over, until he could learn them phonetically and could repeat them perfectly. Not a bad strategy!
6. The movie was stuck in development hell for ten years
The Princess Bride film was released in 1987, but plans had been in the works to adapt it for many years prior to that. According to inside Hollywood sources, the project spent more than a decade in development hell, with the film being passed from producer to producer. As a consequence of The Princess Bride being passed around so much, nobody wanted to take the step of starting production on it.
The strange reasoning was that if the movie was a hit, the producers who had previously worked on the project would take the credit, downplaying the contribution of those who actually got the film through production. It may seem petty, but exactly this kind of dispute meant that progress on the movie stagnated indefinitely.
5. Goldman bought the rights to the movie back himself
With producers hesitant to make progress on The Princess Bride adaptation out of what seemed very much like spite, it’s no surprise that author William Goldman felt like he had to take drastic action. In a move rarely seen, Goldman put up a good chunk of his own money, in order to buy back the rights to his own work. After taking the rights back from 20th Century Fox, Goldman held steadfastly on to the property, turning down most offers for adaptation.
It was only after Rob Reiner approached Goldman that the writer agreed to let him adapt The Princess Bride. Reiner took the reins on the project fresh from the success of his hugely acclaimed Stephen King adaptation Stand by Me.
4. Cary Elwes broke his toe messing around on set
As well as getting hurt when Christopher Guest thumped him on the head, Cary Elwes also got injured later on in production, as a result of taking up André the Giant’s offer to drive his vehicle. To reduce the strain on his painful back, the towering wrestler was given a large all-terrain vehicle (basically a large motorised tricycle).
During some downtime, André suggested Elwes have a go at driving it, but as soon as Elwes took it for a spin, he crashed into a rock and broke his toe on impact. Worse yet, this happened before Elwes had to shoot his pivotal fencing scene with Mandy Patinkin, so the actor tried to keep his injury secret so as not to disrupt filming.
3. Danny DeVito was almost Vizzini
Vizzini is described in The Princess Bride as a short, squat and balding figure – with a propensity towards wit and fast-talking. If the image of Danny DeVito happened to pop into your head while reading the above line of description, then don’t worry, you’re not the only one. DeVito was in fact the first choice to play the role, but for reasons that are not clear this didn’t come to pass.
Unfortunately when Wallace Shawn learned DeVito had been first choice for his role, he became massively insecure, paranoid that he would be fired at a moment’s notice, especially if he did not master the accent. The actor didn’t calm down until author William Goldman took Shawn aside to tell him he was perfect for the role.
2. The torture machine was originally designed for a James Bond film
The torture machine, otherwise ominously referred to as just The Machine, is a huge part of Count Rugen’s plot in The Princess Bride. It was a huge and unwieldy prop, and probably would have needed a considerable chunk of the props budget to get made in the first place. Fortunately, The Princess Bride team were able to simply retrofit a torture device from Never Say Never Again, the James Bond film.
The huge set piece had to be altered in order to make it more accurate to the book, and so the original huge spikes and bones were replaced with cogs. The recognisable suction cups were also added, which had to be secured with tape in order to keep them in place during shooting.
1. Count Rugen’s death was toned down for the movie
Count Rugen isn’t the king who kidnaps Buttercup and forces her to become a princess, but many would argue that he is still the central villain of the film. After all, it is Rugen who is responsible for the death of Inigo’s father, and Rugen who maintains the terrifying torture machine. Considering Rugen is such a ghastly character, who has placed himself on the wrong side of many of The Princess Bride’s heroes, it makes sense that he would meet a grisly end.
However, although we do see Inigo defeat Rugen before escaping the castle, Rugen’s death is actually relatively tame. Had his fate been more like his book counterpart’s, Rugen would have had his heart cut out, before dying of fright at the sight of it. Naturally, this was considered a bit too gory for a PG movie.