Fred Savage (far left) and Peter Falk in 'The Princess Bride' (Photo: Everett Collection, Jason LaVeris/Getty)It wasn't an instant hit, but it found a dedicated and growing audience after it was released on September 25th in 1987. Tuesday marks the 25th anniversary of the release of "The Princess Bride," a Rob Reiner film that ushered in a new genre: the comedic fairy tale. And few attempts since have been able to replicate its success or its charm.
In honor of the cult classic's anniversary, I interviewed one of its actors, Fred Savage, who was just a boy when it was made. Savage played the young grandson opposite the late Peter Falk in the key opening scenes that set up the film's fairy tale world. It is the book they read that leads the audience to that unforgettable realm inhabited by the princess bride (Robin Wright), Westley (Cary Elwes) and the rest of the fantastical and hilarious characters who recited quotable lines such as, "As you wish."
Now 36, Savage is a father of two, a husband and a television director and producer. I spoke with him just after he wrapped shooting for the day on the CBS hit comedy "Two Broke Girls." Perhaps best known as Kevin Arnold on "The Wonder Years" -- Savage belongs to a rare club of child actors who have maintained success into adulthood. Another success story is one Savage has admittedly been modeling himself after: Ron Howard -- who Savage recently worked with. "He's always been very much a role model of mine ever since I was young," Savage said of Howard. "I shot a pilot for Imagine [Howard's production company] a few years ago, so I worked with him... We don't hang out nearly as much as I think we should!"
Savage went on to reminisce about his experience on "The Princess Bride," his excitement at meeting the late Andre the Giant, leaving the country for the very first time to shoot his scenes in London, his fond memories of the late Peter Falk, and how his own children react to seeing him in the film today. Fun fact: Since Savage's scenes were in "the real world," Savage has yet to meet a lot of his castmates who played fairy tale characters -- including Robin Wright!
(Photo: Everett Collection)Meriah Doty: As a kid, did you ever feel like you were missing out on experiencing the fairy tale world inhabited by Robin Wright and Cary Elwes in "The Princess Bride"? Since your scenes took place outside of that fairy tale world, how aware were you of that aspect of the film before it was finished and released?
Fred Savage: They had shot all that before I came [to London]. There still were a lot of sets up. I remember I saw one of the shrieking eels... I saw the big [man-made] water [area] where they shot all the sailing. I saw the boats and the beautiful matte paintings behind [them]. So I got to take in a little bit of what was still standing up. I just thought it was so cool.
MD: Were any of the cast members from the fairytale world still lingering around?
FS: I did meet Andre the Giant. He was the one cast member who stopped by. I have photos of me sitting on his lap when I was a little kid. Yeah, awesome... I was a huge fan. He's a giant man and I loved the WWF [World Wrestling Federation] when I was a kid. I thought it was so cool.
MD: When you finally saw the film for the first time, what was your reaction?
FS: I just thought it was incredible. I thought it was amazing. I had no idea all that was going to happen. I had no idea. We weren't prepared for it.
MD: Any memories from filming in London that stand out to you?
FS: Oh my god, I was a little kid. I'd never been out of the country before. Everything was a memory from the little slippers they gave us on TWA when we were flying international to watching two movies on the plane. We went to go see Buckingham Palace and all the great tourist stuff. I had a great time, me and my mom, taking London by storm.
MD: Do fans approach you more with comments about your portrayal of Kevin Arnold in "The Wonder Years" or do more approach you about "The Princess Bride" (and what do they say)?
FS: People do talk to me about the "Princess Bride" a lot. It's pretty incredible how the movie has endured and started to mean so much. It's kind of a movie -- much like the book [depicted] in the movie -- it's kind of handed down from generation to generation. It's really cool to see how parents show it to their kids and grandparents watch it with their grand kids. It's pretty incredible the life that this movie has taken on.
Savage, right, and his wife (Photo: Getty Images)MD: Have your kids seen it?
FS: My kids have seen it. My kids are young. Some of it is still a little scary for them but my daughter loves the princess. My son loves the sword fighting. They watch it. It's on to the next generation in my house for sure.
MD: And how do they react to your scenes?
FS: [Lauging] I think they just want to fast forward and get to the good stuff.
MD: What has stuck with you after all these years from the experience of making such an iconic movie?
FS: The biggest take away from that was Peter [Falk]. I was really young. I just remember even as a kid he just really took a lot of great pains to make me feel really comfortable and at home. He would talk to me between takes and between setups. I just really left there feeling really close to him. I think it comes through, you get that warmth, I think that comes through in the film. I just remember maintaining a friendship with him long after that. Our paths crossed years later when 'The Wonder Years' was on ABC and so were his "Columbo" movies, so I would see him at ABC things, and he was always just so warm and [gave] a big hug and [was] asking about my family. I really didn't know very much about Peter Falk when I was a kid. I just thought he was this really nice guy. As I got older I got to learn what he was and what an amazing actor and his career. The fact that someone like that took such care to make sure that a young kid that he didn't know and probably wouldn't have seen again was comfortable and did well on the film. I just have so much respect for him for that and will always have a really really warm spot in my heart for him.
MD: Aside from Andre the Giant, did you never meet Robin Wright, Cary Elwes and the rest of the cast?
FS: Nope. I still haven't. I met Cary. I've never met Robin. I remember years ago I saw Mandy Patinkin -- who I'd never met [up until that point]. And you have this instant bond. I know him and he knows me and we're forever connected by this great thing. We'd never met before but we like gave each other a big hug and embraced. You're part of this thing together. I mean, my part was very disjointed from the rest and so as a result I haven't met a lot of the people, but over the years as you run into them you have this instant bond -- it's really funny.
MD: Do you have any aspirations to do work on the big screen?
FS: We'll see where everything takes me. I'm really enjoying the work I'm doing and we'll see what happens next, but I'm really enjoying things now and I'm anxious for what's to come.
"The Princess Bride" Blu-ray: 25th Anniversary Edition is available next Tuesday (Oct. 2).
Watch Robin Wright discuss 'The Princess Bride':
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