15 Inconceivable Facts About The Princess Bride

MGM
MGM

It's no wonder The Princess Bride is such a beloved film: It's action-packed but still lighthearted, sweet but not saccharine, silly but still smart—and, of course, endlessly quotable. Fortunately, in 2012, the movie's leading man, Cary Elwes, was inspired to write a behind-the-scenes book about the making of the movie in honor of its 25th anniversary, for which he interviewed nearly all of the key cast and crew (sadly, André the Giant, who played Fezzik, passed away in 1993).

Pulling from the impressively detailed text of As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride and various interviews Elwes and others have given over the years, we rounded up a series of fun facts and anecdotes sure to delight any fan of the film.

1. IT WAS WRITTEN FOR THE AUTHOR'S DAUGHTERS.

William Goldman, who wrote the novel The Princess Bride in 1973 and penned the screenplay, told Entertainment Weekly that, "I had two little daughters, I think they were 7 and 4 at the time, and I said, 'I’ll write you a story. What do you want it to be about?' One of them said 'a princess' and the other one said 'a bride.' I said, 'That’ll be the title.'"

2. BOTH THE DIRECTOR AND THE LEADING MAN ALREADY KNEW AND LOVED THE STORY BEFORE FILMING EVEN BEGAN.

Cary Elwes's stepfather had given him Goldman's book in 1975, when the future actor was just 13 years old. Rob Reiner, who directed the movie, first read the book in his 20s when Goldman gave it to his father. It quickly became Reiner's favorite book of all time, and he had long wanted to turn it into a movie—but he had no idea that many before him had tried and failed.

3. FOR A LONG TIME, NO ONE WAS ABLE TO MAKE THE MOVIE.

At one point or another, Robert Redford, Norman Jewison, John Boorman, and François Truffaut all tried to get the book made into a movie, but due to a series of unrelated incidents—"green-lighters" getting fired, production houses closing—it languished for years. (In one of these proto-Princess Brides, a then-unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger was supposed to play Fezzik.) 

After several false starts, Goldman bought back the rights to the book. The movie only got made because Reiner had built up so much good will with movies like This is Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing that the studio, 20th Century Foxoffered to make any project of his choice.

4. MANDY PATINKIN FELT A PERSONAL CONNECTION TO THE CHARACTER OF INIGO MONTOYA.

Andre the Giant, Mandy Patinkin and Wallace Shawn in The Princess Bride (1987).
MGM

"The moment I read the script, I loved the part of Inigo Montoya," Patinkin told Entertainment Weekly. "That character just spoke to me profoundly. I had lost my own father—he died at 53 years old from pancreatic cancer in 1972. I didn’t think about it consciously, but I think that there was a part of me that thought, If I get that man in black, my father will come back. I talked to my dad all the time during filming, and it was very healing for me."

5. ANDRÉ THE GIANT COULD REALLY, REALLY DRINK.

Three bottles of cognac and 12 bottles of wine reportedly made him just a little tipsy. When the cast would go out for dinner, André—who, according to Robin Wright, ordered four appetizers and five entrees—would drink out of a 40-ounce beer pitcher filled with a mix of liquors, a concoction he called "The American."

6. ANDRÉ HAD AN UNCONVENTIONAL METHOD FOR LEARNING HIS LINES.

Reiner and Goldman met André, then a famous wrestler, at a bar in Paris. "I brought him up to the hotel room to audition him. He read this three-page scene, and I couldn’t understand one word he said," Reiner recalled. "I go, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do? He’s perfect physically for the part, but I can’t understand him!’ So I recorded his entire part on tape, exactly how I wanted him to do it, and he studied the tape. He got pretty good!"

7. WILLIAM GOLDMAN WAS INCREDIBLY NERVOUS ON THE SET.

Of all the projects he’d written and worked on—which included the Academy Award-winning Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid—Goldman loved The Princess Bride best of all. This manifested itself as extreme nervousness about the project. Reiner invited Goldman to be on set for the duration of the filming—which Goldman did not want to do, saying, “I don’t like being on set. If you’re a screenwriter, it’s boring”—but on the first day, he proved to be a slight nuisance. The first couple takes were plagued by a barely-audible chanting, which turned out to be Goldman praying things would go well. And when Wright's character's dress caught on fire, he panicked, yelling, "Oh my god! Her dress is on fire!"—even though Goldman himself had written that into the script.

8. WALLACE SHAWN WAS BRILLIANT, BUT ALWAYS ON EDGE.

Wallace Shawn and Robin Wright in The Princess Bride (1987)
MGM

Shawn, who played Vizzini the Sicilian, really is, like his character, a man of "dizzying intellect." He has a history degree from Harvard and studied philosophy and economics at Oxford. In fact, on a day off from filming The Princess Bride, Shawn went to Oxford to give a guest lecture on British and American literature. But Shawn was inconsolably nervous for the entirety of filming.

After learning from his agent that Reiner had originally wanted Danny DeVito for the part, Shawn was wracked with insecurity, perpetually convinced that he was going to be fired after every bad take. "Danny is inimitable," Shawn said. "Each scene we did, I pictured how he would have done it and I knew I could never possibly have done it the way he could have done it."

9. THE DUEL BETWEEN WESTLEY AND INIGO WAS EXCRUCIATINGLY RESEARCHED AND REHEARSED.

Goldman spent months researching 17th-century swordfighting manuals to craft Westley and Inigo's duel; all the references the characters make to specific moves and styles are completely accurate. Then Elwes and Patinkin, neither of whom had much (if any) fencing experience, spent more months training to perfect it—right- and left-handed.

"I knew that my job was to become the world’s greatest sword fighter," Patinkin recalled in Elwes's book. "I trained for about two months in New York and then we went to London and Cary and I trained every day that we weren’t shooting for four months. There were no stuntmen involved in any of the sword fights, except for one flip in the air.” Even after months of pre-shooting training, the fencing instructors came to set and, when there were a few free minutes, would pull Elwes and Patinkin aside to work on the choreography for the scene, which was intentionally one of the last to be shot.

10. IT WAS ELWES'S IDEA TO DIVE HEADFIRST INTO THE "QUICKSAND."

That particular Fire Swamp stunt was accomplished by having a trap door underneath a layer of sand, below which there was foam padding for the actors to fall onto. Originally, the direction called for Westley to jump in feet-first after Buttercup, but Elwes argued this wasn't particularly heroic. Switching up the direction was a risky move—if the trap door wasn't opened at exactly the right instant, Elwes risked banging his head—or even breaking his neck. After the stunt double successfully executed the dive, Elwes himself tried it, and nailed it perfectly on the first take.

11. MIRACLE MAX REALLY WAS THAT FUNNY—AND YOU'RE NOT EVEN SEEING HIS BEST STUFF.

Billy Crystal brought two photos for his makeup artist, Peter Montagna, to draw inspiration from when creating Miracle Max: Crystal’s grandmother and Casey Stengel. As for the acting, Elwes wrote in his book, "For three days straight and 10 hours a day, Billy improvised 13th-century period jokes, never saying the same thing or the same line twice." Unfortunately for viewers, many of the improvised jokes were not fit for a family-friendly film. Only the cast and crew knows how funny his more crude Miracle Max takes were, but judging from the fact that Patinkin bruised a rib trying to stifle his laughter, as he recounts in the book, they were probably pretty good.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND CAROL KANE, WHO PLAYED HIS WIFE, INVENTED AN ENTIRE BACKSTORY.

Carol Kane and Billy Crystal in The Princess Bride (1987)
MGM

"Billy came over to my apartment in Los Angeles and we took the book and underlined things and made up a little more backstory for ourselves," Kane said. "We added our own twists and turns and stuff that would amuse us, because there’s supposed to be a long history—who knows how many hundreds of years Max and Valerie have been together?" How has that pair not gotten a spin-off film yet? 

13. ELWES FILMED MANY OF HIS SCENES WITH A BROKEN TOE.

Six weeks into production, André convinced Elwes to go for a spin on the ATV that was used to transport the larger man to and from filming locations because he didn’t fit in the van. Almost immediately, the vehicle hit a rocky patch and Elwes got his foot stuck between two mechanisms in the vehicle, breaking his big toe. The young actor tried to hide the injury from his director, but, of course, Reiner quickly found out. He didn't find a new Westley, as Elwes feared he might, but they did have to work some movie magic to allow Elwes to limp around in many of the scenes undetected.

14. ONE PARTICULAR ON-SCREEN INJURY WASN'T FAKED.

As soon as Westley recognizes Count Rugen as the six-fingered man, the script calls for the Count to knock our hero unconscious with the butt of his sword. In filming, Christopher Guest, who played Rugen, was naturally reluctant to really hit Elwes for fear of hurting him. Unfortunately, this reticence was reading on screen and take after take failed to look convincing. Finally, Elwes suggested Guest just go for it, at least tapping him on the head to get the reaction timing right. The tap came a little too hard, however, and Elwes was knocked legitimately unconscious; he later awoke in the hospital emergency room. It's that take, with Elwes actually passing out, that appears in the film.

15. ONE OF THE FINAL SCENES NEVER MADE IT INTO THE FINAL FILM.

In an alternate ending that was eventually cut, Fred Savage—who plays the initially reluctant audience to Peter Falk's reading of The Princess Bride—goes to his window after his grandfather has left and sees Fezzik, Inigo, Westley, and Buttercup all on their white horses.

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

10 Fascinating Facts About Normal People

Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal in Hulu's Normal People.
Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal in Hulu's Normal People.
Hulu

In one breathless season, Normal People, author Sally Rooney's novel-to-Hulu hit series, sparked a streaming surge. The 12-part drama follows the love story of Irish teenagers Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal), who begin a secret tryst that evolves into a hot and heavy four-year love affair full of fits and starts.

What on its surface could have been another cheesy teen romance quickly garnered critical acclaim for its authentic depiction of first-love chemistry and the “wrenching process of breaking down the person you were in order to become the person you’re going to be,” according to The New York Times. How did Normal People depict young love so accurately? Here are some facts about the steamy series.

1. Normal People was a best-selling book before it was a hit TV show.

Author Sally Rooney published Normal People, her second novel, in 2018 and it quickly became a U.S. bestseller—selling almost 64,000 copies in hardcover in its first four months of release, according to Vox. It even beat out former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Becoming to be named Book of the Year at the British Book Awards and was long-listed for the 2018 Man Booker Prize.

2. Actor Paul Mescal is more like his Normal People character Connell Waldron than you might think.

Paul Mescal, the 24-year-old Irish actor who plays Normal People’s handsome lothario Connell Waldron, may be a TV newcomer, but he was a shoo-in for the leading man role. Like Connell, Mescal grew up playing Gaelic football and attended Trinity College in Dublin. Plus, he told GQ that Connell’s identity crisis felt all too familiar, saying, “how he perceives himself in the world and versus what he actually wants to do is also something that I definitely related to.”

3. A tip-off from a friend helped Daisy Edgar-Jones land the role of Marianne on Normal People .

Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal in Hulu's 'Normal People'
Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal in Hulu's Normal People.
Hulu

Had Daisy Edgar-Jones not heard her friend auditioning for Marianne in her kitchen one day, she might never have sent in her own tape and scored the part. "I was in my bedroom and I was listening in," Edgar-Jones told Metro about how she learned of the project. "I was like, 'Oh, that sounds good.'" Normal People co-director Lenny Abrahamson was apparently so impressed by Edgar-Jones that the production flew her from England to Ireland for a chemistry reading with Mescal, who had already been cast. Needless to say, their chemistry was fog-your-glasses real.

4. Normal People employed an intimacy coordinator to make the sex scenes authentic.

There’s a reason Normal People’s 41 minutes of sex scenes felt so real: The series employed an intimacy coordinator. Ita O’Brien is something of a pioneer in the field of amping up the realism of on-the-set intercourse. In addition to Normal People, she has worked on shows like The Great, Sex Education, Gangs of London, and I May Destroy You to make spicy sequences as authentic as possible.

5. The COVID-19 pandemic has been blamed on Normal People’s sex scenes.

Archbishop Michael Cox of the breakaway Tridentine wing of the Catholic Church told the Irish Sun that Normal People's full-frontal nudity was blasphemous and suggested that it somehow could be the cause of ... the current coronavirus pandemic?

“I’m not surprised we have COVID-19 with this sort of stuff on TV," Cox said. "Do I think that these outrages are responsible for the coronavirus? I think people should read the Bible and find out."

6. Connell’s signature silver chain on Normal People has its own Instagram account.

Paul Mescal in 'Normal People'
Normal People star Paul Mescal's silver chain has its own devoted fan base.
Hulu

If you want to understand the depths of fans’ passion for Normal People, look no further than Instagram account @connellschain. More than one thinkpiece has been penned about what author Rooney described in her book as “an unadorned silver neck chain” Connell wears throughout the story. Costume designer Lorna Marie Mugan had Connell wear it throughout filming and it caused such a stir that an observant viewer created a thirst account around the necklace which now has more than 186,000 followers.

7. Normal People has been lauded for making nudity an equality issue.

Unlike most depictions of TV nudity that tend to only showcase women's bodies, Normal People took the bold step of make sure that the skin exposure was equally split between Edgar-Jones and Mescal—a move that has been seen as a win for women in film. Mescal was fully onboard with directors Abrahamson and Hettie McDonald’s choice. “I was very keen that male nudity was more present, if not at least equal, because it makes no sense for it not to be the case," Mescal told Digital Spy. "If you're portraying nudity, why would it be any different if you're going to do it properly?"

Edgar-Jones wholeheartedly agreed with the direction as well, saying, “I wanted it to feel that it was equal, and also that the nudity wasn't sexualized—which I don't think it is. I think it's more often in a nonsexual capacity that they are nude."

8. The Normal People series takes some creative license with the book.

Like many adaptations for television, the Normal People series didn’t follow Rooney’s book entirely. Marianne's brother Alan is even more aggressive toward her in the novel. For instance, in the scene when she's home from college, he pours dishwater over her head, but in the book he grabs her by the arm and spits on her. The endings are also different. Spoiler alert: In the book Marianne doesn’t find out about Connell’s New York City MFA program until the very end, leaving their parting more nebulous than their television sweet goodbye.

9. There’s a Normal People/Fleabag crossover sequel.

Thanks to RTE Does Comic Relief, a fundraising effort in support of pandemic victims, TV viewers were given a comedy sketch starring Edgar-Jones and Mescal as their Normal People characters going to confession with Fleabag’s "Hot Priest" Andrew Scott. Dubbed “Normal People Confessions," the skit shows a forlorn Connell pouring out his soul to Scott's all-too-understanding priest before a knock on the door brings Marianne into the confessional with her own divulgence. The one-night-only event saw 1.4 million people tune in and raised more than $5 million for the cause.

10. A second season of Normal People could happen—one day. Or it could not.

Given the popularity of Normal People's first season, it's only natural that people are already asking about the possibility of a season 2. While it was originally written as a limited series and no second season has been confirmed, many of the show's key participants have been vocal about being game to revisit the world of Normal People. In a recent interview with Deadline, Abrahamson said:

"We’ve talked about the possibility of how interesting it would be to check back in with them, but apart from just general musings and over a drink, no, there have been no concrete discussions about what it would be like. As Sally says, the book stops where it stops because it feels right. But, I have a sneaking thing in the back of my head that if everybody was willing, and if the stars aligned, I’d love to revisit them in five years and find out what happened, where they are. Is somebody a father or a mother? What relationships are they in that then get disrupted by their meeting again? But it would be really strange to pick that up eight weeks later with him traveling to New York, I think. There needs to be time ... You’d do it for real, you’d do it á la Before Sunset.”