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'Why does it need to be remade?' Cary Elwes talks The Princess Bride, Mel Brooks and more
They say that everything old is new again, and no one lives and dies by this statement like a Hollywood studio. Nostalgia is a powerful and profitable drug; it’s practically the crack cocaine of the entertainment industry, and there’s an onslaught of films and shows banking on just how addicted so many of us are. But one positive byproduct of the current throwback culture is how many of our former faves from the '80s and '90s are experiencing a career renaissance and being introduced to new, younger audiences while simultaneously pulling on the sentimental heartstrings of the generation before them. And few faves from the previous generation have deserved a resurgence like Cary Elwes.
That’s not to say Cary Elwes has gone anywhere, because he really hasn’t. He’s been working steadily since the late '80s, ever since he portrayed the living embodiment of the man some wanted to be and others wanted to be with as Westley in 1987’s The Princess Bride. Elwes encapsulated that very era-specific heartthrob — he was pretty, yet ruggedly handsome, masculine without being toxically so, and undoubtedly responsible for countless teen sexual awakenings alongside Keanu and River and Christian and (at the time) Johnny.
Unlike so many of his peers, Elwes landed an iconic, career-defining role early on. The Princess Bride won critical praise but was only a modest success at the box office. However, its legacy had legs, and the film has gone on to occupy a special place in pop culture adjacent to such classic films like E.T., Star Wars, and certain John Hughes flicks.
In this first part of our two-part interview, SYFY WIRE FANGRRLS spoke with Elwes about the time he hung up on Mel Brooks, and whether there should ever be a remake of The Princess Bride.
You've managed to share the screen with some actual legends. What was it like when you got cast in a Mel Brooks movie? Did you realize, "Oh my God, I am funny." Did you feel validated?
Well, a little bit, just a bit. But I thought, "If I go wrong, he'll steer me," because he and Rob [Reiner] come from that comedic world, where it's tonal as well as behavioral, you know? I was nervous, of course, because I grew up watching his movies. I think we had them at home on tape. We had Sony Magic. They were giant, they were like books. They were the size of big hardcover books. And we had all of Mel Brooks, man, we played them nonstop, nonstop. So by the time he called me to ask me to play Robin — first of all, I didn't believe it was him calling me at home. So I hung up on him. And he called back in a panic, saying, "It's really me. It's really me." I thought it was someone playing a prank because he didn't have an assistant introduce him or anything, which he normally does. He just called me directly.
Who would you say are some of your biggest inspirations, whether they're actors or writers — what made you decide, "I'm going to be an actor?"
William Goldman was a big one growing up, believe it or not. My stepfather had a library of his work, so I read a lot of Goldman growing up. And Raymond Chandler. But screenwriters, I mean, I love screenwriters. I collect screenplays.
Well, if it's the perfect movie, then why does it need to be remade?”
A lot of people — myself definitely being one of them — obviously know you best because of The Princess Bride, which I am not exaggerating when I say is possibly the most perfect movie ever made. What's it like to play such an iconic role? And I feel like there's only maybe a handful of actors who have played one of those roles that really forever, that's who they are. Like Mark Hamill is always going to be Luke Skywalker. You're always going to be—
I know. We met in a supermarket, Mark and I, and we kind of figured that one out together. He's a lovely man. I'm lucky. I'd rather be Westley forever than some cyborg or something.
Why the cyborg shade? What did a cyborg ever do to you?
No, no offense. Please make sure that that is clear.
Because I know reboots and remakes are such a big thing, do you think that 1) anyone could ever remake The Princess Bride, and 2) should they ever remake The Princess Bride?
Well, if it's the perfect movie, then why does it need to be remade?
Listen, that's what I said. But I was wondering what you think.
I think the same thing you think.
Well, of course. You were in it. You might be a little bit biased.
There are only a handful of perfect movies. It'd be a shame to ruin one of them.
I know you've joked that your gravestone is going to say something about The Princess Bride on it.
It'll say "as you wish" on the front, and then Billy Crystal said I should put "mostly dead" on the back.