Professor Firstdraft’s GOODTIME SCRIPTORIUM

Dispatches from the far reaches of the WGF.

SCREENPLAY 101: THE PRINCESS BRIDE

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“And what is starting now is one of the two greatest swordfights in modern movies (the other one happens later on) and right from the beginning it looks different — none of that swords crossing ‘en garde’ garbage…”

This preamble to the classic duel between “The Man in Black” and the Spaniard Inigo Montoya is but one of many amusing notes in William Goldman’s November 1979 draft of THE PRINCESS BRIDE (#84 of the WGA’s 101 Best). The fact that the above was restated nearly verbatim by director Rob Reiner during a live-commentary screening of the film at the Academy last August speaks to the quality of the 1987 film’s source material.

Goldman’s screenplay was based on his own novel (published in 1973), so it’s not surprising that it reads like one. What’s truly remarkable is how closely the banter that charms us onscreen resembles that found in his 1979 script adaptation. Some of the most memorable dialogue arises as “The Man in Black” (our hero Westley) faces off against the trio of Inigo (sword), Fezzik (strength), and Vizzini (brains). While it was extremely tough to choose one of these contests to feature here, the “battle of wits” wherein two glasses of wine, some poison, and a hot-headed Sicilian mastermind stand between Westley and his one true love wins this round… 
 
PrincessBride_44

PrincessBride45

PrincessBride_46 PrincessBride_47 To its benefit (and ours), the scene plays out nearly word-for-word in the film. Remember – never get involved in a land war in Asia. 

Here’s the deal: Throughout 2014, we’re posting pages from every script on the WGA’s list of the 101 Greatest Screenplays, as chosen by Guild membership, because we have every one in our library. Sure, we have other scripts that didn’t make it onto the list, either because they didn’t make the cut or because they were produced after the list was generated (presumably SHARKNADO, which we totally have a copy of, is only in the latter category).