The full subtitle for the book, The Princess Bride, from which the screenplay for the movie was drawn, is a long one: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, the ‘Good Parts’ Version Abridged by William Goldman. Goldman loved this story and longed to share it with his children, but he found Morgenstern’s original version, a satire of the excesses of European royalty, too long and boring to hold their interest. So he took it upon himself to write what he called the “good parts version.” If this sets you off on a search to find out whatever you can about the original Morgenstern version, as it did me, you will not get very far until you discover the whole thing about the Morgenstern book is a joke — part of the fun. Actually, Morgenstern and the “original version” are fictional and used strictly as a very clever literary device to help Goldman get into his story.
Somehow that device unlocked the story for him, or, in his own words, “When that idea hit, everything changed. Tennessee Williams says there are three or four days when you are writing a play that the piece opens itself to you, and the good parts of the play are all from those days. Well, The Princess Bride opened itself to me. I never had a writing experience like it. I went back and wrote the chapter about Bill Goldman being at the Beverly Hills Hotel and it all just came out. I never felt as strongly connected emotionally to any writing of mine in my life. It was totally new and satisfying and it came as such a contrast to the world I had been doing in the films that I wanted to be a novelist again.”
So Goldman wrote the book and the screenplay, and, by the way, the films he is referring to here, for which he wrote the screenplays, are not too shabby either, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), and All the President’s Men (1976). But even with these hugely successful films, his heart and his soul are in The Princess Bride. So much so that the director, Rob Reiner, with whom he is friends, invited him to join the cast and crew for the first few days of shooting. Usually screenwriters are not very welcome on movie sets because of the issue of too many cooks in the kitchen; however, because of their relationship, Rob wanted him there. He almost regretted it though, because Goldman’s presence caused him to have to do two scenes over.
As told by Cary Elwes [Westley] in As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, one of those incidents occurred when Mr. Goldman had been taking a break outside the studio, and returned just in time to see Buttercup’s dress catch fire in the Fire Swamp. “Oh my God! Her dress is on fire!” he shouted. “SHE’S ON FIRE!”
“Cut!” cried Rob, calmly turning toward Goldman and saying, “Bill, it’s supposed to catch on fire, remember?”
The other time was when they were shooting Westley carrying Buttercup through the Fire Swamp while telling her how he had become the Dread Pirate Roberts.
“Cut!” cried Rob again. “What’s that noise?”
“I don’t know,” said the sound guy, “But it stopped now.”
So they resumed filming and there was that strange sound again. “Cut! What the heck is that?” They rolled the sound back and there it was — some kind of strange incantation or chanting. So they started searching all over the set, and Rob was the one who found Bill standing behind a giant toadstool rocking back and forth with his fingers crossed up to his mouth and mumbling under his breath.
“Bill, what are you doing?” Rob asked.
“Oh, I’m er … I was just praying. Why?”
“You can’t talk on the set, Bill. The microphones pick up everything.”
So there you have something very special. The author of the book and screenwriter of the film praying on the set and interrupting the filming. We don’t know what he was praying, but we can assume it was motivated by his passion for this story, and his desire to have them get it right. Who would have thought there was prayer over the making of this movie? Who would have thought God would care? Someone who believed that God cares about everything — that there isn’t anything that escapes His notice — that God can use anything and everything for His purposes and His glory. Even The Princess Bride.
You know what I’m thinking? I’m thinking that I should be praying about a lot more things than I am currently praying about.