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3:51 pm
Fri October 5, 2012

Mandy Patinkin: 25 Years After 'The Princess Bride,' He's Not Tired Of That Line

Originally published on Fri October 5, 2012 10:07 pm

Twenty-five years ago, The Princess Bride performed only so-so at the box office. But as you know if you have ever had it quoted to you — and who hasn't? — it's come to be one of the most beloved films of the 1980s. On Friday's All Things Considered, Mandy Patinkin, now starring in Showtime's Homeland but back then the Spanish swordsman Inigo Montoya, talks to Melissa Block about the film and what it's like to be part of such a beloved piece of popular culture.

For his part, Patinkin doesn't get bored with hearing his old dialogue again. "I never do," he says. "I have a smile as big as, as big as can be from one end of the room to the other." And that's true even though not only does he hear the scenes over and over again, but yes, people do come up and quote him back to himself — especially that one line. The one. You know the one.

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Block reasonably wonders: Why that line? What is it about that line?

"First of all," he says, "it's the brilliance of William Goldman's genius and the gift he gave all of us with this extraordinary book and then movie, and I just got to be the mailman who delivered it. So I take really no credit for it. It was Rob [Reiner]'s gorgeous direction. And I'll never forget, Rob said to me, 'What I really want the actors to do in this movie is, as though they're holding their card, their poker cards in their hand, but they're just hiding one card.' And the one card was the twinkle in their eye. The one card was the fun they knew was underneath everything they were saying. And I never forgot that image — that there was always a little secret, and that secret was the fun."

Patinkin says that the fun continued even through a scene that was technically about hauling around a dead body. Okay, a mostly dead body. Specifically, it was a scene in which Inigo and Fezzik, played by Andre the Giant, take Westley (Cary Elwes) to Miracle Max (Billy Crystal), a very old man who has ways of bringing people back to life.

"Those were the three greatest days of my life," Patinkin remembers. "For three days, I stood off camera while Billy Crystal had cataract contact lenses in so he couldn't see. I was camera left, the camera was between Rob Reiner and myself and we were facing Billy. My job was to keep feeding Billy his off-camera — my off-camera lines so he could keep doing it. He improvised 13th century period jokes, three days straight, 10 hours a day, never the same thing, never the same line twice. Rob got so hysterical on almost every take, he'd have to leave the room because he couldn't keep quiet from laughing and it would end up on the soundtrack." The other consequence? "I bruised the muscles on the side of my rib because I was so tight trying not to laugh."

Despite the laughter, the story of Inigo and his father struck a nerve with Patinkin, whose own father had died a few years before filming. "I would walk through the maze of the gardens while I was just trying to relax or while they were lighting the scene, and I was talking to my father, who had died not that many years before we made the film, and I always had it in my mind that if I could get the six fingered man, if Inigo could get the six fingered man, then my father, Mandy's father, would come back and be with me."

Many years later, he heard some of Inigo's last words in the film again — "I have been in the revenge business so long, now that's over, I do not know what to do with the rest of my life" — and he heard them quite differently. "As a young man," Patinkin says, "I think I was in a bit of the revenge business for too many years of my life. And, you know, somewhere in the past 10 years, I stopped being so angry and started being a little more grateful, literally for the sunrise and the sunsets and my kids and my family and the gifts I've been given. And then I saw that movie, the end of that movie. I didn't see the whole thing, I just caught the end of it, and I heard that line. And as a young man I remember saying it, I went back and looked at my script to see what notes I'd put in, and I really didn't have any notes for that line. I just said it, and I didn't realize what I was saying. And then I heard it as a grown up or whatever you want to call me, and it-it meant everything to me today."

Very often, guests tell more great stories than we have time to include on the radio, and into that category fell a lovely remembrance that Patinkin offered of Andre the Giant, who played Fezzik, and who died in 1993. He describes their first meeting, and how the next day, Andre seemed to be a different person: "I thought he must've had padding and make-up on and everything, because he looked normal to me the second day. And I realized nothing had changed. I realized our brains change things. My brain made him normal in size. It was just fascinating to me how my brain normalized his size within 24 hours."

He remembers Andre, too, as the man who liked the fact that nobody stared at him when he was on the set but still posed for all the photos anyone wanted on the last day of filming. "The movie was over, the final shot was made, and we stayed around for two, three, four, five hours while every person, every grown-up and their family came by, waited in line like children at Disney Land to stand with Andre and have their photograph taken. And he took his photograph with every single person that asked. And it was a lesson of a lifetime for me."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. At the time, it was...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE PRINCESS BRIDE")

WALLACE SHAWN: (as Vizzini) ...absolutely, totally and in all other ways inconceivable.

BLOCK: ...that the movie would become the gigantic hit that it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE PRINCESS BRIDE")

SHAWN: (as Vizzini) Inconceivable.

BLOCK: "The Princess Bride" came out 25 years ago. Even though it was just a middling performer at the box office, it became a classic on video, and multitudes of fans have lines from the movie at the tip of their tongues.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE PRINCESS BRIDE")

SHAWN: (as Vizzini) Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.

BILLY CRYSTAL: (as Miracle Max) ...except for a nice MLT, mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, when the mutton is nice and lean.

CARY ELWES: (as Westley) As you wish.

PETER COOK: (as The Impressive Clergyman) Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togethaw today.

BLOCK: Directed by Rob Reiner with a screenplay by William Goldman, who wrote the novel it's based on, "The Princess Bride" is a wildly funny, edgy take on a fairy tale, starring a very young Robin Wright as radiant Buttercup, Cary Elwes as her true love, a dastardly Christopher Guest as the six-fingered man, and as a trio of outlaws: Wallace Shawn as the sputtering Sicilian Vizzini.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE PRINCESS BRIDE")

SHAWN: (as Vizzini) Do you want me to send you back to where you were? Unemployed in Greenland.

BLOCK: Andre the Giant as the gentle hulk Fezzik.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE PRINCESS BRIDE")

ANDRE THE GIANT: (as Fezzik) It's not my fault being the biggest and the strongest. I don't even exercise.

BLOCK: And the scene-stealing Mandy Patinkin as the sword-slashing Spaniard Inigo Montoya.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE PRINCESS BRIDE")

MANDY PATINKIN: (as Inigo Montoya) You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

BLOCK: And 25 years later, Mandy Patinkin joins me to talk about "The Princess Bride." Mandy, welcome to the program.

PATINKIN: Thank you. It's good to be here.

BLOCK: Do you ever get tired of listening to those scenes?

PATINKIN: I never do. I ever smile as big as...

(LAUGHTER)

PATINKIN: ...as biggest can be from one end of the room to the other.

BLOCK: I can hear it all the way from New York. Your most famous lines in this film have become legend. Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE PRINCESS BRIDE")

PATINKIN: (as Inigo Montoya) Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. My name is Inigo Montoya. My name is Inigo Montoya. Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: Mandy Patinkin, do people come up to you all the time and try to read those lines back to you?

PATINKIN: All the time...

BLOCK: All the time.

PATINKIN: ...every day when somebody comes up to talk to me about the film or asks me could I just say that line.

BLOCK: What is it about that line? I have to tell you I was watching the movie last night. I haven't seen it for many, many years. My daughter was seeing it for the first time. She's 10. And instantly, she was saying: My name is Inigo Montoya. Prepare to die.

PATINKIN: Well, I don't know what it is. First of all, it's the brilliance of William Goldman and the gift that he gave all of us with this extraordinary book and then movie, and I just got to be the mailman who delivered it. So I take really no credit for it. It was Rob's gorgeous direction. And I'll never forget, Rob said to me, what I really want the actors to do in this movie is as though they're holding their cards, their poker cards in their hand, but they're just hiding one card. And that one card was the twinkle in their eye. The one card was the fun that they knew was underneath everything they were saying. And I never forgot that image that there was always a little secret, and that secret was the fun.

BLOCK: I have to ask you about the scene with Billy Crystal playing Miracle Max. He's trying to revive Westley who has been tortured by the cruel Prince Humperdinck.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE PRINCESS BRIDE")

CRYSTAL: (as Miracle Max) Well, it just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Please open his mouth. Now, mostly dead is slightly alive. Now, all dead, well, with all dead, there's usually only one thing that you can do.

PATINKIN: (as Inigo Montoya) What's that?

CRYSTAL: (as Miracle Max) Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: Mandy Patinkin, you're laughing still.

PATINKIN: Oh, God. That was - those were the three greatest days of my life. For three days, I stood off camera while Billy Crystal had cataract contact lenses in so he couldn't see. I was camera left. The camera was between Rob Reiner and myself, and we were facing Billy. My job was to keep feeding Billy his off-camera - my off-camera lines so he could keep doing it. He improvised 13th-century period jokes...

(LAUGHTER)

PATINKIN: ...three days straight, 10 hours a day, never the same thing...

(LAUGHTER)

PATINKIN: ...never the same line twice. Rob got so hysterical on almost every take, he'd have to leave the room because he couldn't keep quiet from laughing, and it would end up on the soundtrack. And the only injury I received after all that fighting was I bruised a rib from holding in my laughter in the scene with Billy.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: I didn't know that was possible.

PATINKIN: I bruised the muscles on the side of my rib because I was so tight trying not to laugh.

BLOCK: I'm talking with Mandy Patinkin who played Inigo Montoya in "The Princess Bride," which is now out in a 25th anniversary edition. Tell me about the final fight scene in the movie when you're dueling with Count Rugen, played by Christopher Guest, the six-fingered man, you can finally avenge your father's death.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE PRINCESS BRIDE")

PATINKIN: (as Inigo Montoya) Offer me everything I ask for.

: (as Count Tyrone Rugen) Anything you want.

PATINKIN: (as Inigo Montoya) I want my father back.

BLOCK: What was going through your mind as you were shooting that?

PATINKIN: I remember I was on the lawn, that we were in this extraordinary castle where we were shooting, and there were gardens outside. And I would walk through the maze of the gardens while I was just trying to relax, while they were lighting the scene, and I was talking to my father, who had died not that many years before we made the film, and I always had it in my mind that if I could get the six-fingered man, if Inigo could get the six-fingered man, then my father, Mandy's father, would come back and be with me.

And so I just kept talking to my dad as I was walking around the garden, you know, help me find this guy, help me get him, help me bring you back. And the irony was just a few years ago, actually, I was in a gym getting ready to do a concert. And I was on the exercise machine going over my lyrics, and the movie was on the TV on the exercise machine. But I didn't have the sound on, and I needed to do my homework to practice for the concert that night. I finished exercising, stretching.

I went up to my hotel room to have dinner, and my wife was there, and she had the movie on. And it was right at the end of the film, and Inigo says the words that I said 25 years ago when I was a young man, but I didn't hear them in the way that I heard them 25 years later as the man I am today. And those are the most important words to me from the film, and those words are: I have been in the revenge business so long. Now that it's over, I do not know what to do with the rest of my life.

BLOCK: Wow. And hearing those as an older man, you heard them in a totally different way?

PATINKIN: As a young man, I think I was in a bit of the revenge business for too many years of my life. And, you know, somewhere in the past 10 years, I stopped being so angry and started being a little more grateful and literally for the sunrise and the sunsets and my kids and my family and the gifts I've been given. And then I saw that movie, the end of that movie. I didn't see the whole thing, I just caught the end of it, and I heard that line. And as a young man, I remember saying it. I went back and looked at my script to see what notes I'd put in, and I really didn't have many notes for that line. I just said it, and I didn't realize what I was saying. And then I heard it as a grown-up or whatever you want to call me, and it meant everything to me today.

BLOCK: Well, Mandy Patinkin, it's been a delight to talk to you. Thank you so much.

PATINKIN: Same here. Thank you.

BLOCK: That's actor Mandy Patinkin talking about his role as Inigo Montoya in "The Princess Bride" 25 years later. Oh. And there's one last thing he'd like to say.

PATINKIN: Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. But remember, before you do, you are listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED on NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.