30 Inconceivably Good Facts About The Princess Bride
Making $30 million at the box office – a modest profit from a budget of $16 million – 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.
Directed by Rob Reiner, the impresario behind This Is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally… and many other 80s classics, the film sees Cary Elwes’ Westley fall for Robin Wright’s titular Princess Bride.
Hello. These are facts about the iconic fantasy comedy. Please enjoy – and prepare to die.
30. Cary Elwes was knocked out for real and hospitalised
Acting is hardly the most dangerous profession in the world, but it is possible to get in a fair amount of scrapes while shooting a movie.
Not only that, but the odds of someone getting hurt go way up when shooting a fantasy film like The Princess Bride, which includes lots of climbing, horseriding and sword-fighting.
While shooting the fight between Westley and Count Rugen, the filmmakers were apparently unable to find any rubber swords.
To get around the issue, Cary Elwes instructed Christopher Guest – playing the villainous Count Rugen – to hit him over the head with the real thing.
However, Guest struck Elwes so hard that the young actor was hospitalised and production had to pause for a day.
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!
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 such a thing happened on the set of The Princess Bride, since the two actors were playing a young princess and a swashbuckling hero, the two most romantic archetypes in existence.
Obviously, the result of all these factors was that intense chemistry between Westley and Buttercup seen on screen wasn’t purely acting.
In fact, it was an accepted fact that the rest of the cast were aware of, that Elwes and 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 – which, despite the obvious difficulties of preparing to die on a daily basis, he apparently loves!
While it’s easy to imagine that Patinkin would be used to nostalgic fans referencing the line after bumping into him at a grocery store, Patinkin has had to deal with far more unusual fan encounters.
Most shockingly, he once found himself outside of a New York restaurant with seven other men, all of which recognised him for his work on The Princess Bride.
That in itself is not that crazy, but the seven men were actually 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
The Princess Bride might technically be a love story, which the kid in the framing device sarcastically refers to as “a kissing book”, but that’s not all the story offers.
The Princess Bride is also full of high octane action and fun set-pieces but, most of all, it’s also incredibly funny.
Most of the comedy comes from Billy Crystal, who plays the magical 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, Carey Elwes’ character is also known as The Dread Pirate Roberts, having gained the title when he befriended the previous pirate who held the position.
You might be surprised to know that The Dread Pirate Roberts was actually based on a real-life, and hugely infamous, pirate.
Bartholomew Roberts is widely regarded as one of the most successful pirates of all time, having taken 400 prizes including ships, equipment and treasure over the course of his career.
He was known for dressing in outrageously fine clothes whenever he did battle, and he was buried at sea with much of his treasure after being killed by British admiralty in 1722.
Similar to The Dread Pirate Roberts, 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.
With that said, there is no evidence that Bartholomew Roberts was secretly in love with a princess, or that he started life as a humble farmhand.
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.
Either way, the poor guy did end up late for work, and maybe had to explain to the other officers at the station why he was dressed up as a terrifying monster rat.
24. Mel Smith could never bring himself to watch the film
In The Princess Bride, Mel Smith plays an albino character, who is simply known as The Albino for the run of the film.
Unfortunately for Smith, he wasn’t able to enjoy the same fun-filled shooting atmosphere that everybody else on-set did, since Smith was pretty much constantly in agony.
After Smith was cast, it was soon discovered that he was allergic 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.
Despite Smith deciding to power through on-set and delivering an engaging and sympathetic performance, he never really forgot the discomfort he experienced while filming.
As a result, Smith has never sat down to watch the movie, not wanting to be reminded of how he felt while making it.
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 what Fezzick would look like.
When Goldman thought about it, he envisaged future Terminator and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as the golden-hearted heavyweight, who was ultimately played by André the Giant.
At the time that Goldman was writing, it actually wasn’t inconceivable that he would be able to cast Schwarzenegger in the movie adaptation of the book.
That’s because, at the time Goldman was writing, Schwarzenegger was only really known for starring in a low-budget production of Hercules.
Of course, by the time production had started on the movie adaptation, Schwarzenegger had cemented his household name status.
Therefore, Goldman had to let go of the idea of casting Schwarzenegger in The Princess Bride, and chose André the Giant instead.
22. André the Giant kept Robin Wright warm on-set with his big 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.
André’s 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.
There are several stories of André the Giant being crucial to the upbeat on-set attitude, despite struggling with his own pain throughout the production.
Many cast members on The Princess Bride have discussed how wonderful he was to work with, and how he made the spirit of the film what it was.
21. Over 500 people 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 princess.
Though Buttercup does spend much of the movie’s runtime being kidnapped or trying to reunite with her one true love, she is hardly a damsel in distress.
Buttercup also has a fiery temper, very high standards and determination when it comes to defeating her foes, which might explain why so many actresses wanted to play her.
Director Rob Reiner held auditions to find his perfect Buttercup, and didn’t stop until over 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 Whoopie Goldberg.
In the end it was Robin Wright, an actress right at the beginning of her career, who was selected to play the part.
20. Mark Knopfler, lead singer of Dire Straits, provided the film’s score
The music for The Princess Bride is immediately memorable, and part of the reason why the film has become such a family classic.
With that said, it’s difficult to guess who is responsible for the music, since it is so different to the kind of music the creator in question makes on a daily basis.
The creator of The Princess Bride score was actually Mark Knopfler, lead singer and guitarist of The Dire Straits.
Needless to say, The Princess Bride represented a serious departure from his usual work, even if he really enjoyed working on the film.
Knopfler did have one condition for agreeing to score the movie though, which is that he wanted director Reiner to include a reference to one of his previous films: This Is Spinal Tap.
The hat that Reiner wore while shooting This Is Spinal Tap is hanging on the wall of the grandson’s bedroom, and it’s all down to Knopfler.
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.
All of that drama, just so the fire swamp scene wouldn’t be short of one giant rat when Buttercup and Westley battled their way through.
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.
From all of the sword fighting to Buttercup having to throw herself down a hill after Westley, finishing the movie involved quite a few risky shots.
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
When casting characters as obsessed with sword fighting as Inigo and Westley, most people would probably attempt to find actors with some background in stage combat.
However, neither Cary Elwes or Mandy Patinkin had any background in sword fighting or fighting in general, and yet they still wowed the casting director enough to be a part of The Princess Bride.
Their lack of experience when it came to stage combat meant that both actors had a huge learning curve to overcome.
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.
With that said, 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, without a stuntman in sight.
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.
The craft table is essentially a never-ending table of snacks that it is there for actors to dip into, and is often provided in addition to meals.
The quality of this food can vary wildly, and one actor was not impressed by the craft offerings of The Princess Bride in particular.
André the Giant 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 castmates 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.
In this final fight, Inigo is finally able to get the revenge he craves, and the evil King’s right-hand man is defeated.
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.
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, saying: “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 plays Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, a master swordsman sworn to avenge the death of his father at the hands of Count Tyrone Rugen.
Montoya’s storyline is the most passionate and dramatic of the film, since he is driven to see his quest through to the very end and achieve the revenge he has always craved.
Patinkin has always maintained that out of all the characters he has ever got to play, his role in The Princess Bride is the favourite that he has ever played.
Patinkin’s connection to Montoya stems partly from the fact that Patinkin’s 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, and that his father would possibly even come back to life.
Speaking of the moment when he stabbed Count Rugen as Inigo, Patinkin said: “for a moment, he was alive. And my fairy tale came true.”
12. The film was originally going to end completely differently
There’s no denying it: the ending of The Princess Bride is a classic movie moment, which most kids will definitely remember.
Buttercup and Westley escape the castle and share a passionate kiss, Inigo and Fezzik safely make their escape, and the grandson begs his grandfather to come back and read more of the story.
Not only that, but when the grandson asks for more of the story tomorrow, the grandfather replies “as you wish” in a clear reference to Westley.
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
As is the case with many movie adaptations of already famous books, the author responsible for the source material was invited to sit in and watch while the movie was shot.
Goldman was delighted at the prospect, and showed up on the first day of shooting to watch his characters come to life.
Unfortunately for Goldman, the first scene he saw was the one where Buttercup’s dress catches on fire, a moment that he had apparently entirely forgotten about.
As soon as he saw the flames, he screamed: “her dress is on fire!” ruining 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, and the rest of production went far more smoothly.
10. Andre the Giant couldn’t lift anything during shooting
André the Giant plays Fezzick in The Princess Bride, a large man with a kind heart and an immense amount of strength.
Given that Fezzick is most known for his ability to lift, carry or crush anything in his path, 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.
To alleviate the constant pain from his wrestling career, André got back surgery just before the shoot and was constantly in agony on the set of The Princess Bride.
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 swordfight between Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin is referred to in both the book and the movie as the “Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times”.
In order to live up to such high expectations, both actors trained for months with an Olympic fencing winner, as well as the choreographer of the fights seen in James Bond, Lord of the Rings and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Every spare moment on set was spent refining and rehearsing the choreography, but when the team finally showed director Rob Reiner, he was underwhelmed.
Reiner requested that three extra minutes be added to the fight scene, with more sword flourishing, fancy footwork and banter between the two characters being added as well.
Peter Diamond and Bob Anderson, the two choreographers responsible for the fight scene, spent several days watching old swashbuckling pirate movies, in order to give the fight the correct vibe.
They then 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.
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.
Remakes of popular films seem almost inevitable at this point, even when the fanbase who loved the original don’t seem too keen on the idea.
The Princess Bride is a super unusual case, as rumours of a reboot abounded around 2010, but the fan backlash was powerful enough to cancel the project forever.
As soon as rumours began to swirl about a remake starring George Clooney, Antonio Banderas and Kirsten Dunst, fans made it clear that they would not be watching.
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.
Instead, he opted to appear in films that did not require him to speak, such as when he played Bigfoot in an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man.
The reason why André shied away from dialogue is that he didn’t speak fluent English, on account of growing up in France.
André was insecure about his inability 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.
Despite everyone agreeing that adapting The Princess Bride was a no-brainer, cast members were never even approached to be in the film, and a director was never attached.
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, fresh off the success of This Is Spinal Tap, that Goldman agreed to let Reiner take a stab at adapting The Princess Bride.
As for what caused Goldman’s frustration to boil over and pushed him to buy back the rights, The Princess Bride had been one day away from being greenlit.
The day before the wheels were to be set in motion, the producer responsible for the green-light was fired, and the new producer’s first act was to cancel all the projects that his predecessor had accepted.
4. Cary Elwes broke his toe messing around on set
Several injuries occurred during the shooting of The Princess Bride, though none of them the fault of the several stage combat teachers and choreographers.
Patinkin injured Christopher Guest by accidentally getting too excited during a rehearsal, and because Guest admitted to basically throwing out the fighting rule book.
Not only that, but Elwes also injured himself by bruising his ribs, as a result of trying not to visibly laugh during his scenes with Billy Crystal.
Elwes also got injured later on in production, as a result of taking up André the Giant’s offer to drive his vehicle.
André the Giant needed a large ATV to drive him from place to place on set, in order to reduce the strain placed on his painful back.
André begged Elwes to drive it, but as soon as Elwes took it for a spin, he crashed into a rock and broke his toe on impact. Ouch.
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.
It is almost impossible to establish the factual details from the rumour, it has long been known that Reiner wanted DeVito to play the part of Vizzini.
It is unclear if DeVito turned the part down outright, dropped out later due to scheduling conflicts, or was never even offered the part in the first place – but Shawn Wallace was informed when he was cast that he was not Reiner’s first choice.
This knowledge ruined Shawn’s time on set, as he was constantly paranoid that he would be fired at a moment’s notice, especially if he did not master the accent.
In fact, it took author William Goldman taking Shawn aside to tell him that he looked exactly the way Goldman had envisioned the character, for Shawn to calm down.
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.
Count Rugen is responsible for the monstrous machine, which traps Westley in its suction cups for a good portion of the film.
The Machine is 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. Yikes.