Vizzini's advice on not getting involved in a land war in Asia is derived from principles stated by Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery (Viscount Alamein) in a speech in the House of Lords on 30 May 1962: "Rule 1, on page 1 of the book of war is: 'Do not march on Moscow.' ... Rule 2 is: 'Do not go fighting with your land armies in China.'"
In a 2012 interview in New York Magazine, Mandy Patinkin said that his most famous line from The Princess Bride (1987) ("Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.") gets quoted back to him by at least two or three strangers every day of his life. Patinkin told the interviewer that he loves hearing the line and he also loves the general fact that he got to be in the movie, stating, "I'm frankly thrilled about it. I can't believe that I got to be in The Wizard of Oz, you know what I mean?"
When asked what his favorite thing about making this film was, André the Giant replied, without skipping a beat, "Nobody looks at me." He felt treated as an equal, without people staring at him because of his grand height.
Writer William Goldman was on set during one of the flame burst scenes in the forest when Robin Wright's dress caught fire. Although Goldman knew this was intentional, he was so caught up in the moment that he shouted, "Her dress is on fire!", thus ruining the take.
When Count Rugen hits Westley over the head, Cary Elwes told Christopher Guest to go ahead and hit him for real. Guest hit him hard enough to shut down production for a day while Elwes went to the hospital.
Mandy Patinkin claims that the only injury he sustained during the entire filming of this movie was a bruised rib due to stifling his laughter in his scenes with Billy Crystal. His attempt at holding back his laughter is obvious from his facial expression during his line, "This is noble sir."
Rob Reiner and Andrew Scheinman recorded all of André the Giant's scenes on tape, with Rob doing Andre's lines. During rehearsals Andre would walk around with headphones with that tape playing all the time. It worked great, and they didn't even have to loop his lines.
Robin Wright and Cary Elwes were smitten with each other during filming, naturally helping their chemistry in the movie. Elwes said that he "couldn't concentrate on much of anything after that first encounter with Robin."
According to author William Goldman, when he was first trying to get the movie made in the 1970s, a then-unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to play Fezzik, and he was strongly being considered because Goldman could never get his first choice, André the Giant, to read for the role. By the time the movie was made about twelve years later, Schwarzenegger was such a big star they could not afford him. Andre was cast after all, and the two big men had gone on to become friends.
Despite his character Fezzik's almost-superhuman strength, André the Giant's back problems at the time prevented him from actually lifting anything heavy. Robin Wright had to be attached to wires in the scene where Buttercup jumps from the castle window into Fezzik's arms because he couldn't support her himself.
The giant rodents were created with diminutive actors inside rat suits. On the day Westley was supposed to wrestle the main actor, Danny Blackner, he was nowhere to be found. Finally, Blackner arrived on set with a long story about being pulled over for speeding the night prior on his way home from the bar, and subsequently being put in jail for a few hours for drinking (after the police officer didn't believe his story about having to work as an actor/stuntman playing a rat).
Most of the movie was filmed on location in England. The castle used for the film was Haddon Hall, a fortified country house (not a castle as such) that dates to before 1087 (when it was listed in the Domesday Book). The tapestries in Haddon Hall interiors are original, dating to the late medieval and renaissance periods.
There really was a "Dread Pirate Roberts" (Bartholomew Roberts, also known as Black Bart) who operated in the Caribbean in the early 18th century. He is reckoned by many to have been the most successful pirate of all time.
Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin performed all of their own sword-fighting after many hours of training. According to Rob Reiner, the only stunt performed by Patinkin's stunt double was one flip during the "Chatty Duelists" scene.
There were no "shrieking eels" in the original novel. Instead, once Buttercup jumps overboard to escape her captors, Vizzini warns her of sharks in the water, and fills a cup with his own blood and throws it in the water to attract them.
Andre the Giant needed an ATV to get him to shooting locations, and he was always trying to get Cary Elwes to drive it. Elwes eventually relented, but on his first time driving it, he hit a patch of rocks as he was shifting gears, which caused his foot to slip from the clutch and eventually become wedged between the pedal and a rock. His left big toe was bent straight down and was broken, which he tried to conceal from director Rob Reiner. Eventually he had to confess, and they worked shooting around his swollen toe and limp. You can notice it in the scene right before Buttercup pushes him down the hill; he sits down with his leg extended, because he wasn't able to put weight on the foot. In the next scene when he and Buttercup head into the Fire Swamp, he has a strange hop in his step.
In order to create the Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times, Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin trained for months with Peter Diamond and Bob Anderson, who between them had been in the Olympics; worked on Bond, Lord of the Rings, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and Star Wars films; and coached Errol Flynn and Burt Lancaster. Every spare moment on set was spent practicing. Eventually, when they showed Rob Reiner the swordfight for the movie, he was underwhelmed and requested that it be at least three minutes long rather than the current one minute. They added steps to the set, watched more swashbuckling movies for inspiration, re-choreographed the scene, and ended up with a three minute and 10 second fight which took the better part of a week to film from all angles.
The fencing masters that Inigo and Westley talk about studying are all real fencing masters from the 14th to 16th centuries (although the styles of fighting they are using have little to do with what those masters actually taught).
Mel Smith (The Albino) has confessed to never having watched his performance in this film due to the painful experience involved in filming the role. His character required him to wear coloured contact lenses and, unknown to Smith and the costume department at the time, he was actually allergic to the lens solution used. This meant that Smith was in constant pain and discomfort throughout filming; hence, he is reluctant to relive the memory.
Billy Crystal used his Saturday Night Live (1975) makeup artist, Peter Montagna, to create Miracle Max. Billy brought him photos of his grandmother and Casey Stengel to help develop the look, and also brought in an uncle who had similar bone structure.
Cary Elwes (Westley) and Robin Wright (Princess Buttercup) were so reluctant to end their time with the film that during their final shared scene (the horseback kiss), one or other of them would keep requesting another take for all sorts of made up reasons.
André the Giant called almost everybody on set (be they director, producers, co-stars or crew) "boss", a technique he employed to defer to people he liked and go some way towards counteracting the way he would tower over them.
The video baseball game the Grandson in playing during the first scene is "Hardball" produced by Accolade, Inc., in 1985. It was widely available in the mid-1980s for the Commodore 64 computer system. It was a one or two-player game. The sound was not from the actual game, but later added.
At the time of filming the movie, Robin Wright was a regular on the soap opera Santa Barbara (1984). In exchange for allowing her time off to film the movie, they required her to extend her contract by a year.
The fights were choreographed by the legendary Bob Anderson (who also choreographed Star Wars). Anderson was taught to fence by the great Akos Moldovanyi, the last man in Europe to preside a sabre duel.
While never stated in the movie, according to the screenplay the grandson and grandfather live in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois. This explains the Walter Payton Chicago Bears #34 jersey worn by the grandson, the Chicago Cubs pennant and William Perry poster on the wall and the Chicago White Sox cap hanging in the room.
Before filming, Wallace Shawn (Vizzini) had come to understand that he was second choice for the part after Danny DeVito (although there is some confusion about whether DeVito was ever seriously pursued). He became convinced that he was wrong for the role and in danger of being fired at any moment. He was extremely nervous throughout filming and co-star Cary Elwes (Westley) noted that he was visibly sweating during the 'battle of wits' scene.
Inspired by, and written directly for his two daughters, writer William Goldman already had a special affection for his story. However, it spent many years in "development hell" during which it gained a reputation for being un-filmable, with at least two studio heads losing their jobs (for unrelated reasons) mere days after stating they wished to make the film. By this stage Goldman was so disillusioned and protective of his book that he took the almost unheard of step of buying back the rights to his own story when it came available after a studio 'desk clearing' (putting up every optioned story for sale so as to start again with a clean slate).
Florin and Guilder are made up kingdoms but they reference a single historical coin called both florin and guilder. This is a subtle joke implying that the two kingdoms are interchangeable. Also it implies that the film is set after the year 1252 when the coin was introduced.
When Inigo says, "Do not budge, keep your 'ho there'," to the brute from the Brute Squad, he is actually insulting the man with a cross-language pun. "Joder," (pronounced similarly to "ho there") is a Spanish obscenity.
Buttercup says that her lover's eyes are like the "sea after a storm", which is a reference to a painting of the same name by Irish painter Francis Darby in 1824. This could be a hint that the film is set after 1824.
The film obviously is a fantasy, but gives hints about its time period. While Guilder and Florin are made up kingdoms, they are clearly references to Italian city-states ("Florence"), which lost their independence first to Spain and then to Austria starting in 1559. Since Florence would not have its own king after this date, the film would take place before 1559.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
During the filming of some scenes, the weather became markedly cold for Robin Wright. André the Giant helped her by placing one of his hands over her head; his hands were so large that one would entirely cover the top of her head, keeping her warm.
Mandy Patinkin revealed that acting out Inigo's quest to avenge his father's murder brought back memories of losing his own father to cancer in 1972. He said that when filming the scene when Inigo kills "The Six-Fingered Man" he felt like he had just "killed" the cancer that killed his father.
Count Rugen wounds Inigo five times before and during the period of the film: the two cheek scars he inflicted on Inigo when he was a child, sword thrusts to one forearm and the opposite shoulder, and the knife wound in the stomach. When Inigo finally gets the upper hand in their duel, he returns exactly those wounds and no more: first the forearm and shoulder, then the cheek slashes, and then finally he kills Rugen with a thrust to the stomach.
Buttercup is continually referred to throughout the film (and in the film's title itself) as "The Princess," even though she is not yet married to Humperdinck. However, the grandfather states that Buttercup was born on a small farm, and Humperdinck states in his speech to the people that she was once a commoner. The reason for the discrepancy is that in the novel, the law of the land did indeed allow Humperdinck to choose his bride, but that bride was required to be a princess. Humperdinck overcame the obstacle by making Buttercup princess of a nonexistent country, making her eligible to marry him.
Count Rugen's death in the original novel was more graphic. After telling the "son of a bitch" he wants his father back, Inigo proceeds to cut Rugen's heart out, even describing what he's doing to Rugen, claiming that the count had figuratively done the same to him when he murdered his father years before (Inigo even tells Fezzik earlier on, "That is the sound of ultimate suffering. My heart made that sound when Rugen slaughtered my father. The Man in Black makes it now.") However, before Inigo finishes cutting out the Count's heart, Rugen dies of fright.