The standing ovation before the show even began assured the packed Bing Theater audience that we were in store for a good time with The Princess Bride. In Jason Reitman’s third installment of the Film Independent at LACMA Live Read series, the classic tale of ambidextrous sword-fighters, kidnapped princesses and inconceivable villains was revisited with a cast of returning Live Read participants, new faces and some nostalgic surprises. The holiday season tends to bring about memories of childhood and it did for many when the original Westley, Cary Elwes, walked out to sit for the role of Humperdink, Fred Savage came back on to reprise his original boyhood role as the Grandson and the Grandfather turned out to be the man who presented us with the story back in 1987, director Rob Reiner. These surprise cast members weren’t the only ones who walked on stage with fond memories of the film:
• the Live Read’s Westley, Paul Rudd, channeled the character perfectly, to the notable approval of Cary Elwes
• Patton Oswalt’s every word carried the perfect blend of eye-rolling braggadocio and hilarity that the original Wallace Shawn created in Fezzini
• Goran Vijnic’s growly promises of revenge and charming sense of helplessness would have made Mandy Patinkin proud.
• Kevin Pollack as Miracle Max (originated by funnyman Billy Crystal) made everyone wish that the Miracle Max character wasn’t so secondary
The cast was rounded out by Bill Fagerbaake as Fezzik (originated by Andre the Giant), Nick Kroll as Count Rugen (originated by Christopher Guest), Collette Wolfe as Valerie (originated by Carol Kane), and Mindy Kaling as Buttercup (originated by Robin Wright). Mindy Kaling’s on/off accent didn’t detract from her defiant Buttercup and it was a lovely sign of the diversity that Film Independent and our partners seek to promote that the blonde princess was this time played by a woman of Indian background. Jason Reitman’s motivation to make the Live Reads a place to play around with casting is paying off in more ways than one.
The Live Reads have proven to be a spectacular success amongst diverse audiences—everyone from Michael Govan (director of LACMA) to Kaling’s “The Office” co-star/co-writer BJ Novak to film students and screenwriters sat with wide eyes watching a familiar story unfold on stage in a whole new way. This time around spoons clanged out a sword fight (courtesy of Patton Oswalt), mock passionate kisses between Rudd and Kaling made us giggle and an absorbed and adventure-hungry Fred Savage listened to his Grandfather’s story. Well… maybe it was just new enough.