Last night, most of the cast of Rob Reiner’s classic The Princess Bride reunited (online, naturally) to read the movie aloud together. “Except the dead people,” Reiner added. “None of the dead people will be here.”
That might sound like a gloomy way to begin a nice evening’s entertainment, but the obvious love and enthusiasm with which every member of the cast, original or otherwise, brought to this event made it anything but. The table-reading and reunion, which served as a fundraiser in support of Wisconsin Democrats, was a messy, technically clumsy, non-stop source of delight, with the cast giving it all they had, their giddiness coming through even when they were off camera. (Someone—Robin Wright maybe?—kept actually sighing contentedly; it was what you might call a whole mood.)
You’ll find a video of the performance at the bottom of this post. Due to some of the aforementioned technical snafus, it took them a while to get started, so we’ve cued it to just a few moments before Jason Reitman, who reads stage directions, kicked things off. But if you don’t have 3+ hours to spare, here are some of the highlights.
1. Mandy Patinkin’s six-fingered sword, and really just Mandy Patinkin in general
Patinkin, not for the first time in 2020, proved a real balm. Throughout the evening, he brought a truly magical level of commitment and enthusiasm to his performance. Never was that more true, with one possible exception (further down this list), than when he first brought his own personal six-fingered sword. He was not the only member of the cast to trot out a prop from the set—again, see further down this list—but just look at him!
Perhaps a screenshot doesn’t do it justice, but all the same, the man’s eyes one-hundred-percent sparkled with reverence when he pulled that sword into the frame for the first time. No one involved did anything remotely close to phoning it in, but Patinkin was the evening’s MVP. The sword helped with that, but it was mostly just him.
An icon, truly.
2. Josh Gad’s surprisingly moving Andre the Giant tribute
You could be forgiven for, upon learning that Gad was going to be stepping into Andre the Giant’s shoes for the evening, expecting a Fezzik with a lot less chill and a great deal more in the way of wacky hijinks. You would have been wrong, and likely delighted to be so.
Gad turned in a performance best described as.... reverent, somehow? It was an impression in the gentlest, sweetest sense of the word, something remarked on repeatedly by the rest of the cast and host/moderator Patton Oswalt. 10s across the board.
3. Mandy Patinkin dunking on Ted Cruz
Patinkin would really like it if Cruz would keep Inigo Montoya’s name out of his mouth. Correction: Patinkin would still really like it if Cruz would keep Inigo Montoya’s name out of his mouth.
It was a great speech.
4. The set Billy Crystal constructed for himself
In the Q&A following the reading, Crystal informed Oswalt that both his hat and one of the trinkets behind him came from the set of the film. But what’s the rest of that stuff? Does Crystal have a room in his mansion somewhere that’s just all Miracle Maxed out? What’s that dog? What’s on the tiny little stool? Why didn’t he warn Carol Kane that he was going to go so all-in on this? Kane was still magical, but come on, Billy Crystal put in some hours on this.
5. The possibility of a Princess Bride musical lives on
The reading of William Goldman’s excellent screenplay was obviously the main event, but Oswalt’s lively Q&A was no less entertaining, and his exchange with Reiner and superproducer Norman Lear sits high among its highlights. Reiner and Lear’s affectionate connection comes through loud and clear, as does the pair’s obviously sincere interest in a musical version of the film. (No remakes or sequels though; the cast as a whole seems to agree on that.)
“It lends itself to it,” Reiner said of the possibility of a musical adaptation, naming “As you wish” and“Inconceivable!” as two obvious starting points for songs. Lear added, “It’ll take seven or eight years, [so] I’ll only be 106.” Seems doable!
6. Christopher Guest’s startling revelation
Oswalt asked Guest on behalf of a fan precisely which of Count Rugen’s fingers was fake. “There was no fake finger,” Guest deadpanned. “That’s how I got the part. I had known, Rob, but I never took my hand out of my pocket. Then this film came along and it was time to take out my hand.”
Just perfection. In all seriousness, Guest then explained that the glove/contraption was designed in such a way that he could actually move all six fingers, which, if you’re anything like us, should make you want to rewatch all the Rugen scenes immediately to clock the puppetry. Very cool.
7. Robin Wright finding her light like a pro
Early in the proceedings, Wright repositioned herself so that her face was often framed perfectly by a warm beam of sunlight cascading through her window. That might sound like no big deal, but reader, she glowed. (She was also very good of course, but come on, look at that light!)
8. Mandy Patinkin chastising Billy Crystal for underselling his contributions to the film
“It was the best three days,” Crystal said of his experience shooting the film, “working with people you love.” He then recounted how he and Kane would have to eat meals in full makeup because the transformation was so elaborate, saying they were just “these two little garden gnomes walking to lunch.”
But Patinkin could not allow Crystal to underplay his turn in the film, interrupting Crystal’s recounting to add that Reiner was forced to leave the set because he was unable to stop laughing during takes. “I got my only injury in the whole movie when I bruised a rib holding in my laughter,” Patinkin said, adding, “You’re being so modest. It was 10 hours a day, all day, [improvising] 13th century jokes and almost never the same joke twice.”
Patinkin and Elwes also recounted those lunches of Crystal and Kane’s, saying they’d often stay in character the whole time. Honestly, just find that segment in the Q&A and watch the whole thing; we simply cannot do it justice.
9. Cary Elwes: “Carol, what kind of a person is President Trump?”
10. Wait, Fred Savage isn’t dead, right?
11. Again, basically everything involving Mandy Patinkin
If they start handing out awards for Zoom performances, just ship them all to Patinkin.
This is obviously an incomplete list. Give yourself a nice gift on this Monday and give it all a watch.
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