Long time Malibu resident, Cary Elwes, is best known as “Westley” of the overwhelmingly popular cult film, “The Princess Bride” which I refer to as the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” for romantics. I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days with Cary. One day was spent completely torturing him for the sole purpose of a photo-shoot which encompassed a variety of misadventures, and the other day involved a very civil brunch followed by this conversation…
90265 Mag: Did I read online that one of your names is Ivan? And if so, where does that come from?
Cary Elwes: I was named after my great uncle. He competed in the 100-meter hurdles for Yugoslavia in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
CE: I’m kind of proud of him. He was one of the few athletes who refused to salute Hitler.
90265: So your folks are from Yugoslavia?
CE: My ancestors were Jewish Slavs dating back to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire from a place called Osijek.
90265: You were born in England though?
CE: Yes, in London.
90265: What was it like growing up there?
CE: I grew up in a fairly modest home. My mom was a single mom so she had to raise myself and my two brothers pretty much by herself.
90265: Did you always want to be an actor?
CE: As a kid I spent a lot of time in front of the TV. It became an education for me. We only had two channels in the UK at that time but they had a fairly good selection of comedy and drama.
90265: What shows do you remember?
CE: I watched a lot of classic British movies and a lot of sketch comedy. I remember being glued to one very abstract show called, “Do Not Adjust Your Set” that had a few of the Monty Python cast in it.
90265: Nobody does sketch comedy like the British. Didn’t I read somewhere that you just filmed a TV pilot?
90265: What’s it about?
CE: It’s a WWII drama about a group of individuals who discover that the government has been hiding the truth about alien contact.
90265: What made you want to do it?
CE: When I read it I was totally captivated. It reminded me of a classic action-thriller with this great sci-fi twist to it. It has an incredible cast. Definitely one of the more exciting projects I’ve worked on.
90265: Who is producing it?
CE: Gale Anne Hurd, the producer behind “The Walking Dead”. She’s a pioneer in the business and a real visionary. I’ve always wanted to work with her.
90265: How fun. The clothes must be great! That’s when tailoring was at it’s peak!
CE: Yeah. Not too shabby!
90265: I can’t wait. Tell me about the book you are writing.
CE: I was approached by Simon and Schuster to write a book about my experiences during the making of “The Princess Bride.”
90265: That’s exciting.
CE: It is. It was a joyful time for me so it has been a wonderful trip down memory lane.
90265: Do you still get recognized from that film?
CE: All the time. I call the movie ‘the gift that keeps on giving’. It has crossed over from generation to generation. It’s a testament to Bill Goldman and what an incredible writer he is.
90265: It’s a brilliant screenplay. I’ll never get over how clever and amazing the dialogue is. There are so many great one-liners… “Prepare to Die!” is the one I use on my son when I’m about to attack him in a tickle-wrestling match! I’m sure you must’ve heard your famous line a few times.
CE: You’ve no idea.
90265: What about the others?
CE: We all do. Although I’m sure Wally (Shawn) has it more than anyone as his was a one-liner.
90265: Did you have any idea while you were making it that it would be this successful?
CE: We thought it was great. The irony was that when it came time to release it the studio had no idea how to sell it. It really found its legs with a new format called VHS. People wanted their own copy. First they rented it. Then they bought it. Then they shared it with others and so on.
90265: The gift that keeps on giving.
90265: What was the craziest thing you ever saw a fan do?
CE: I once met a girl who had a tattoo on the back of her neck saying “As You Wish”. She wanted me to sign it.
90265: Did you?
CE: At first I was hesitant but her mom insisted.
90265: The thing that blows me away is not only did you have to learn how to fence but you had to learn with both hands! When you had that sword fight with Inigo Montoya and midway you switched hands, I thought, “Wow”!
CE: Thank you. Mandy (Patinkin) and I trained hard for that. We had the most amazing trainers though, which helped a lot. Bob Anderson, who was an Olympic fencer, and Peter Diamond who was one of the great swordsmen and stuntmen in the business. So we had two of the best working with us.
90265: Was that the first time you picked up a sword?
90265: Well, because of you my son picked it up briefly. He just walked around the yard decapitating my roses left and right.
CE: Oh, no.
90265: That’s okay, they all grew back. So now you live in Malibu?
90265: What was your first impression when you moved here?
CE: Well, I met my wife here not long afterwards, so…
90265: How long ago was that, if you don’t mind my asking?
CE: Twenty-four years ago.
CE: Thank you.
90265: So Malibu is a special place for you?
90265: What are some of your favorite haunts?
CE: For restaurants, we like Café Habana and Tra di Noi. My wife is an incredible mom. She tries to make every day an adventure for our little one which is always fun. We go on hikes, picnics or to playgrounds. Malibu is great for kids.
90265: What do you like to do in your spare time?
CE: I’m on the road a lot so I really try to spend much of it with my family when I’m home.
90265: How do you stay in shape?
CE: I like to hike and work out.
90265: What are you passionate about?
CE: My family. But other than that, my work.
90265: Have you ever been able to use your celebrity for something worthwhile?
CE: I work with this remarkable non-profit called Mercy Corps out of Portland.
90265: What do they do?
CE: They bring aid to people who have been displaced either due to man-made or natural disasters. I flew to Darfur to see their work first-hand not long after the war broke out there.
90265: How was that experience?
CE:It was life-changing to go out there and see this mass of humanity living in IDP camps and to see Mercy Corps staff providing not just health services and other vital supplies to them, but also creating sustainable development for the community.
90265: How do they do that?
CE: By providing livelihoods for the adults and education for their children. It was very moving.
90265: You have a history of artists in your family. Have you ever tried painting?
CE: I can only draw caricatures, which my daughter enjoys.
90265: How old is she?
90265: I bet she has informed your senses to a whole new spectrum of emotion.
CE: Completely. Her imagination is formidable.
90265: Well she’s lucky to have you as a dad.
CE: I’m the lucky one.
90265: So you draw caricatures for her? Do you do characters for her as well?
CE: Puppet shows, Barbie, dress up… You name it.
90265: So she keeps you on your game.
CE: Oh, yeah. She’s my toughest critic!
90265: What role would you like to be remembered for?
CE: Hopefully for being a good husband and father.
90265: What do you want to be when you grow up?
CE: Like Walt Disney said, “Why do we have to?”
90265: I agree. And on that note. We’re good to go!
CE: Thank you.