Shot Behind the Shot: The Princess Bride (1987)

(Above) The Man in Black reveals his ambidextrous swordsmanship in 1987’s The Princess Bride. (Pic on the left via Behind the Clapperboard)

Here’s Mandy Patinkin on preparing for the scene, from an Entertainment Weekly oral history:

I knew that my job was to become the world’s greatest swordfighter. 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 stunt men involved in any of the sword fights, except for one flip in the air.

A few more nuggets from that same oral history….

ROB REINER, director: I read the book when I was in my 20s, because I was a huge William Goldman fan. Then, after I had made a couple of pictures, Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing, I started thinking of The Princess Bride. I very naively thought I could make a movie, then I discovered that Francois Truffaut had tried and Norman Jewison had tried and Robert Redford had been involved — one after the other. No [studio] wanted to make a movie of The Princess Bride; nobody was interested in it. We kept tearing the budget down, I had to try to sell foreign rights and video rights, I had to cut my salary, I had to cut the cast’s salaries. It was crazy. I think we had, like, $16 million dollars, which even at the time wasn’t very much. In the script it said “the army of Florin” — I had seven people in the army of Florin.

WILLIAM GOLDMAN, writer of The Princess Bride novel (published in 1973) and screenplay: 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.”

Pic of the Day: The horror posters of Val Lewton

(Above) A collection of movie art from producer Val Lewton’s brief by prolific time running RKO’s B-movie horror unit. From 1942-1946, Lewton produced (and contributed uncredited script polishing) to nine genre shockers. Many of the films were scripted around preconceived exploitation titles such as I Walked With a Zombie and The Ghost Ship.

From the book Phantom Ladies: Hollywood Horror and the Home Front by Tim Snelson.

The lurid titles for the first six of the RKO horror films were audience-tested and mandated by (RKO head Charles) Koerner. RKO was the first studio to commit to George Gallup’s Audience Research Institute (ARI), signing a contract in March 1940 that would furnish sustained research regarding various audience groups’ preferences in story types, stars, and specific title choices. An initial survey for RKO revealed that a quarter of audiences bought tickets on the basis of the film’s title alone, thus explaining Koerner’s commitment to his audience-tested titles.

John Landis and Rick Baker on the set of Schlock (1973)

(Above) A monkey-masked John Landis guides the action on the set of his directorial debut Schlock (1973). Landis, who also wrote the script and played the simian lead, was only 21-years-old at the time the monster movie spoof was shot in 1971. Makeup effects master Rick Baker, seen standing to the left of Landis, was only 20. Baker had the budget for just one ape suit, part of which was constructed by gluing hair and a rubber chest piece onto a pair of long johns worn by Landis.

Here’s Baker’s recollection of Schlock, from Anthony Timpone’s book Men, Makeup & Monsters: Hollywood’s Masters of Illusion and FX.

“We shot in Agoura during a heat wave, like a hundred and twenty degrees. And John was sweating like mad – the hair was dripping wet and just kept falling off. We lost about half the hair on the first day! And it took a while to lay all that hair on there. So we started taking the suit off him between takes if we could, and fortunately it cooled down some. It was an experience.” – Rick Baker

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