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"The Princess Bride" Brings Magic to the Academy

Everyone loves to find out more about the making of their favorite movies, and while audio commentaries on DVDs can be plenty of fun, wouldn't it be better to have the filmmakers talking you through the film in person?

That's exactly what a packed house at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater got to enjoy at the Academy's first live audio commentary for the family favorite "The Princess Bride" (1987), held on August 15, 2013. After an introduction by Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, the film's director, Rob Reiner, was welcomed to the stage by the evening's moderator, director Jason Reitman.

The son of director Ivan Reitman, Jason explained that Rob Reiner held a special place in his heart because he first noticed his name in the Directors Guild of America directory directly below two other names in alphabetical order: Rob's father, Carl Reiner, and Ivan Reitman. Inspired by the example, Jason realized that he too could become a director in his own right.

"If you came tonight to watch 'The Princess Bride' uninterrupted," Reitman quipped, "you should probably just leave now." Needless to say, everyone was already primed to hear a fast-paced conversation about the amazing anecdotes behind the making of the film, and that's exactly what they got.

The Princess BrideDid you ever notice the hat from Reiner's character Marty DiBergi in his directorial debut, "This Is Spinal Tap" (1984), hanging above young Fred Savage's bed? The revelation caused more than a few delighted laughs from the audience (many of whom were much younger than the movie they were watching!), and the surprises just kept coming.

For example, Cary Elwes' "graceful" stride during his first reunion with Buttercup was caused by an injured ankle after a dune buggy mishap; the intensive training for the memorable duel between Elwes and Mandy Pantinkin required training in fencing both left- and right-handed, resulting in the final scene shot for the production; and due to Andre the Giant's bad back, the crew had to come up with various visual sleights of hand for him to carry the actors onscreen.

The act of simply translating "The Princess Bride" to the big screen was quite a saga unto itself as the 1973 source novel by William Goldman, a dual Oscar winner for his screenplays for "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969) and "All the President's Men" (1976), had been bouncing around Hollywood for over a decade. Reiner was given the book by his father and felt it would be the perfect project after completing "Stand by Me" (1986), with independent financing managed by TV producer Norman Lear (for whom Reiner had acted on All in the Family).

The film was shot in England with a dream cast including Robin Wright in her film debut, and both Reiner and the actors were able to enjoy two weeks of rehearsal to manage the tricky balance of romance, adventure, and satire. As the film continues to find new fans every year, it's clear that the makers not only found the inconceivable recipe for a highly entertaining movie, but they also produced a classic story that will enchant plenty of generations to come.

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