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Commentary Excerpt:
Rob Reiner on MGM's new Princess Bride: SE

MGM sent over something I think you might find interesting. It's a transcript of the first few minutes' worth of director Rob Reiner's audio commentary on the new Princess Bride: Special Edition DVD, which streets on September 4th. This is the beginning of the commentary, and my understanding is that additional excerpts will appear on other DVDs sites in the Net that continue the text transcript. Keep in mind that some of what he's referring to is picture specific, so it won't make a lot of sense. We also cleaned up a little of the stammering (which was transcribed exactly - go figure!) so it reads easier. Anyway, thanks to MGM for sending it over... and enjoy!

The Princess Bride: Special Edition Rob Reiner: This is Rob Reiner and welcome to my comments on The Princess Bride. Act Three Communications, that's Norman Lear's company. Norman Lear who basically owned the rights to The Princess Bride, and put his own money up so that we could make this film. A week before I went to London to start shooting, we didn't know if we had the financing. And we finally were able to get it and it was put together

Now, this little boy, Fred Savage, eventually became the boy who was in The Wonder Years. And the whole film was shot in England in, at Shepperton Studios, and even this scene was shot at Shepperton.

And there's a little thing... I don't think you can see it in this shot, but I'll point it out when we get to it. Mark Knopfler, who did the music for the film - a great, brilliant musician from Dire Straits - basically said he would only do the music if I had the hat that I wore in Spinal Tap somewhere in evidence.

And so, like I say, you can't see it in this shot, but there will be a shot in this, in these sequences with Peter Falk, who plays the grandfather, where you'll see the hat that I wore. Let's see, maybe the camera's gonna move around here. Nope. Not yet. Uh... at any rate, I read this book when I was about 25 years old, The Princess Bride, 'cause I had been a huge fan of William Goldman's. My father gave me the book because Bill Goldman had given it to him. They had become friends when Bill Goldman wrote a book about Broadway called The Season, which looked at a particular season on Broadway and all the plays that had opened.

My dad had a play that opened called Something Different. And Bill Goldman devoted a chapter in his book to that play. And they became friends. And he gave this to my dad, back I think when it first came out in the early '70s, and said, what do you think about making a movie out of this? And my dad said, well, he wasn't really a, you know, he didn't really, hadn't read it. But he gave me the book and said, you know, do you want to read it?

I read it and at the time it was the favorite book of my life that I'd ever read at that point and probably to this point. And so then, years later, when I was thinking about making movies, I went back and reread it, and it again spoke like to me. It was like as if Bill, Bill Goldman had been in my head, and had written something that was inside my head. So I went to him and met with him and he said, this is, this is the favorite book I've ever written in my life. I want it on my tombstone. Uh, what are you gonna do with it? And I was shaking in my boots thinking, you know, he was gonna, you know, really criticize it.

There's Robin Wright, by the way, the most beautiful, you know, [laughs] she's incredibly beautiful and we had to find the most beautiful girl in all the land and I think we found it with her, who can, not only was beautiful, but acted and did a wonderful British accent and was the perfect embodiment of The Princess Bride.

At any rate, Bill Goldman was totally, you know, challenging me as to whether or not I could pull this off. And when I told him that I basically wanted to honor his book and be as faithful as possible, he agreed to let me do it. At that time, I had only made Spinal Tap. That was the only picture I had made and I actually had finished The Sure Thing, but it hadn't come out yet. And he saw those two pictures and then he agreed to let me, to let me do it.

So I got a chance to work with my favorite writer and he entrusted his, his favorite book to me. And I was very grateful that he did that. You still can't see that hat, so I'll have to maybe find a shot where it comes out. At any rate, this was all shot on a country farm in Derbyshire, which is in the northern part of England. And we were up there for about five weeks.

And then of course, there's Cary Elwes who, again, we have the perfect match here with Cary and Robin Wright. Cary's very reminiscent of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. We needed somebody who had that swashbuckling image and Cary was perfect for this part. In casting him, it was interesting - we met him just after there was Chernobyl. [laughs] And there was, we had to go to Germany to meet him there, and there was talk about being fall out in that area. And there was concern about people's, you know, becoming radio active but we risked being permanently contaminated just so we could meet with Cary Elwes. And it was, I think it was the smart thing to do, because I don't think anybody else could've played this part.

This was shot at Hadden Hall, which was in Bakewell, which was up in Derbyshire, which was an abandoned castle that was built in 1086. It was built by William the Conqueror for his illegitimate son. And those, if you look up this parapet that Humperdinck is now standing on, we built it actually for the film. We added some extra structural architectural elements, and when, if you look right up above there, that was all added to the existing Hadden Hall. And this was a national monument and people would come and look at this and look through their guides. And they'd find all kinds of things that were added to it. And they were confused because it didn't look like anything that was in their guides. And when there was a wedding, I think it was either Fergie's wedding or somebody had a wedding here, they asked that all these things that we had added be kept there because it made, [laughs] it made the castle look better. So basically, Hollywood added a little touch to this castle and we added a portcullis that wasn't there which you'll see later as well.

And this was all at Hadden Hall here, where we shot this. And here we're gonna be introduced to, to Fezzik and Inigo Montoya and Vizzini. There's Wally Shawn who's Vizzini. We, needless to say, he's not Sicilian, but in the vernacular of this film, it actually worked. And there of course is Andre the Giant, as Fezzik, and again, it wasn't like there was a lot of options in casting this part. It's not like you could throw a stick and find fifty giants. When Bill Goldman wrote the book, he had always envisioned Andre the Giant playing Fezzik.

And so, it took us again weeks to track down Andre, 'cause he was traveling around the world as a wrestler. And finally, we were able to pin him down and we were accorded a meeting in Paris, and Andy Scheinman and I had just been at a location scout to find the Cliffs of Insanity, and we were in Ireland, and as we came back to our hotel room in London, we walked in, there was a message saying Andre would be in Paris the next day at 2:00.

We went right back out the hotel, right to the airport, and we went to Paris. We stayed there overnight, and then the next day, we met Andre. We walked into the bar and it was like it's described in the book, there was a land mass sitting on a barstool, and it was Andre the Giant, and he was, you know, like I say, the only person who could've played this part. And I actually recorded his whole dialogue on a tape, 'cause he, you know, didn't read and he had to memorize it that way. And he memorized his whole part that way.

And then of course, Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya, who's absolutely brilliant in this film. And the most quoted line ever, you know, is "My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die." So that, everybody still quotes that. Kids are still running around with swords saying, "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die."

Is it okay that I tell these stories, is that okay? Okay, 'cause here's a great story about that, that line. Which is I once went to a restaurant in New York that Nick Pileggi and Nora Ephron took me, and John Gotti would come there every Thursday night. And we, at sort of, at 8:00, he walks in, there was a group of wise guys with him, and I was sitting there and we kind of recognized each other. I didn't talk to him, but after the meal was over, I went outside and there was a huge limousine parked outside and there was a man standing in front of it that looked like Lucca Brazzi from The Godfather. Big plug of a guy, looks me right in the eye and said, "You killed my father, prepare to die." And I almost, I almost, you know, went in my pants right there. But he said, "I love that picture, The Princess Bride." So you know that when, when one of Gotti's wise guys is quoting your lines, you know you've penetrated the culture.

This sequence was shot in a tank on a sound stage at Shepperton Studios. This, that's a little miniature back there. And so it looks, it's a forced perspective to make it look like you're out on the high seas, but it's actually inside a tank, and this was all shot in a tank.

And matter of fact, I remember a moment where I was actually out in the tank, which was about three feet of water, and I was in with hip weighters. And there's a pit, an eight foot pit. It's a small area where you can dive into if you have to make a dive where Robin Wright just did that. And I was looking for an angle. And I walked around the boat and I stepped into that hole, and my pants filled up with water, the hip weighters filled up with water. And I just started sinking to the bottom.

And there was nobody there [laughs], I couldn't get back up. And finally, I was splashing around and somebody found me and they dragged me out. So I almost drowned in the making of this movie, even inside of a controlled tank. And then this, of course, the shrieking eel we had, a nice effect.

And this is one of the things I like about the, the movie and the book is the, the idea that we break away. And now, people have said, you can't break away from the film like this. People will lose the thread of the story. They won't be able to get reinvolved. And I said, no, I think it's just gonna make it, people get more involved. The whole idea of the book and the movie was that, The Princess Bride was only gonna be the good parts version, that we were gonna skip past all the boring parts and so occasionally they would interrupt and we'd move forward to another exciting part. But what I love about this is you, it gets this boy who basically is not really interested in reading, to be interested and care and excited about reading 'cause his grandfather shares this book with him. And makes it fun for him. So it never disturbed the flow of the picture. I mean, people stayed involved and they tracked the relationship between the Grandfather and the Grandson, and then they stayed involved in the story of The Princess Bride. And it was, even though we kept reminding the people that it was just a book, it was just a story, the audience still stayed involved in what was gonna happen with Westley and Buttercup...


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