If Tom Cruise's recent Mission: Impossible 6 injury or Chris Pratt's scary fall on the set of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 taught you anything, it's that practical sets can be wrought with danger. Back when The Princess Bride was filming, CGI wasn't a thing, and practical sets were a lot more common, which is how Mandy Patinkin and Cary Elwes ended up filming the famous sword fighting sequence, so director Rob Reiner could get close-ups of them fighting without the aid of a stunt double. Still, while the scene holds up 30 years later, it was damn hard to make, for a variety of reasons.
Rob Reiner's attention to detail and desire for a perfect sword fighting sequence definitely contributed to why the scene was so hard to get right. In a detailed profile over at Vanity Fair, the outlet says the director made both Mandy Patinkin and Cary Elwes learn the art of sword fighting so they could achieve the scene themselves. This is different than in older movies where stunt doubles took on the heavy lifting, leaving the actors to look pretty during close-ups. Regardless, making an actor learn a stunt double's craft often comes with issues.
First and foremost, the two actors initially rehearsed the duel for months before performing it in front of Rob Reiner and members of the crew. Unfortunately, they got so good that the duel was over more quickly than the director had hoped, and they were forced to go back to the drawing board. Not a huge deal, and big changes like this are often made to movies when scenes don't work. But it wasn't just changing the scene. The guys had to practice 8-10 hours a day. Mandy Patinkin and Cary Elwes had to learn to fight with both of their hands. Oh yeah, and at one point Cary Elwes actually broke his big left toe and continued fencing on it. The final scene took days and days to shoot, but Mandy Patinkin said he wouldn't have it any other way.
Every time Rob said those words, 'Cut. Print!', I was devastated, because that meant we weren't going to do that part of the sword fight again.
The end result is splendiferous, well-executed and also a whole lot of fun. There's a moment when Inigo swings from an old structure and, of course, the famed moment when the tide turns and Wesley also reveals he really can fight with both hands. If you'd like to revisit the famous scene, you can do so, below.
The Princess Bride is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary, and plenty of stories are coming out related to the now-beloved film's release. If you'd like to see it on the big screen again, the movie will be returning to theaters later this month, and you can relieve the epic fight scene that was apparently so troublesome to shoot. More information on when to catch the film can be found on Fathom Events.