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Park Place screens 'Princess Bride'

WANT TO GO?

"The Princess Bride"

WHEN: 4 p.m. Sunday, 4 and 7 p.m. Monday

WHERE: Park Place Cinemas, 600 Washington St. E.

COST: $5

INFO: 304-345-6540 or www.ourshowtimes.comCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In early March, Oscar-nominated actor Chris Sarandon, a Beckley native, will be in Charleston in the flesh for his fifth stint hosting the finals of the state Poetry Out Loud competition. On Sunday and Monday, he'll be here in the celluloid when Park Place Cinemas shows "The Princess Bride" as part of its Flashback Film Series.

The actor was delighted to hear of the screening. "How great!" he exclaimed in a recent telephone interview. "I hope everyone has a wonderful time watching it on the big screen. I'm envious."

Sarandon played the villainous Prince Humperdinck in the 1987 cult classic. When he auditioned for the role, he was already familiar with its source material, the eponymous novel by Oscar-winning writer William Goldman ("Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "All the President's Men").

"I was a huge fan of the book when it came out," he said. "I read it and just flipped over it. I thought it was one of the most interesting stories -- funny, but dark -- I'd read in a long time. I heard they were making a movie of it and thought, 'I've got to be a part of this.'"

Sarandon noted he got the book from a friend who was working with Robert Redford at the time. Though Rob Reiner ultimately went on to make the movie, Redford first held the rights to it.

For those unfamiliar, "The Princess Bride" is a fairytale adventure about Buttercup (Robin Wright), a fair maiden who loses the love of her life, Westley (Cary Elwes), and becomes betrothed to Prince Humperdinck, who has murderous plans for her. Westley returns, in disguise, to save her, and in his quest encounters the thief Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) and his henchmen, swordsman Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) and giant Fezzik (Andre the Giant), who later become Westley's accomplices.

There's sword fighting, chases, magic, revenge, torture and, of course, true love. It's all framed in the narrative device of a grandfather (Peter Falk) reading the book to his sickly grandson (Fred Savage).

"Rob [Reiner] managed to find the right tone for the movie," Sarandon said. "There are so many wonderful conventions that are turned slightly on their ear and done with great humor and great affection. The genres are never made fun of, but the movie has fun with them."

"The Princess Bride" was only a modest success upon its release, in part, Sarandon said, because the studio was unsure of how to market it. It gained new life, though, when released on home video the following year. In the years since, it has attracted legions of fans -- fans who love to share their favorite lines with the film's actors if they happen upon them.

"I still constantly get people walking up to me on the street saying, 'Mawidge,'" Sarandon said, referring to a line spoken by Peter Cook at Humperdinck and Buttercup's wedding. "People will come up to me and say -- and these are bankers and hedge fund people -- that they have friendships based on the fact they have knowledge of quotes from 'The Princess Bride.'"

When asked if any lines were more popular than others, Sarandon laughed and replied, "All of them!

"Lots of people are smitten with Vizzini and his convoluted logic. Lots of people remember the Inigo Montoya line ("Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya..."). That's a big favorite. There are any number of them. Cary says he constantly has people coming up to him, saying, 'As you wish.'"

Listening to Sarandon talk, it's clear the cast had just as much fun making the film as fans have watching it. He describes the set as a fun one, full of "interesting, funny people." In addition to the aforementioned stars, the cast also included Christopher Guest, Billy Crystal and Carol Kane.

"There was no strum und drang, no stories of personality clashes on the set," Sarandon said. "We had a good time. We laughed a lot."

Guest played Count Tyrone Rugen, Humperdinck's right-hand man. He and Sarandon spent a lot of time together on set learning to ride horses for their roles. It was a challenge for the inexperienced riders, especially for Guest, whose horse "was a real SOB."

"We had scenes where we had to ride in and out a lot," Sarandon explained. "We worked very hard at it. We rode as much as possible when we were not shooting.

"Unfortunately, most of it was not in the movie."

On the plus side, "it gave me a love of riding that I've had since then," he said.

Sarandon also spoke of working with the late Andre the Giant, who he called "a really remarkable fellow" with a strong sense of self and wonderful sense of humor. He found it a privilege to get to know the 7-foot-4 inch, 475-pound actor/wrestler.

"He was seen by most people as a freak or a fairytale figure," Sarandon said. "That's the reason he loved being on the movie so much: we treated him like an actor in the company. We were all in the same circus, basically. We didn't treat him any differently."

His daughters, on the other hand, didn't enjoy their meeting with him.

"My kids, who were 4 and 2 years old at the time, kept bugging me and bugging me to meet Andre," Sarandon recalled. "When they finally saw him, they completely freaked out, literally screaming at the top of their lungs in fear. I had to remove them from the scene."

Sarandon said he and his cast mates knew they were working on something special when they filmed "The Princess Bride," but they had no idea the kind of life it would take on. He attributed that, in part, to the wide generational appeal of the film.

"One of the great things is it has different sensibilities to different generations," he said. "People watch it when they're younger, and then start understanding the humor and allusions as they get older. It becomes richer as you get older, but it's also the kind of movie you can watch with your kids. It becomes a shared experience."

Reach Amy Robinson at flipside@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4881.

Remaining Flashback Film Series movies

Feb. 26, 27: "To Kill a Mockinbird"

March 4, 5: "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"

March 11, 12: " 2001: A Space Odyssey"

March 18, 19: "The Breakfast Club"

March 25, 26: "A Nightmare on Elm Street" (original)

April 1,2: "West Side Story"

April 8, 9: "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"

April 15, 16: "Alien" 


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