Director Jason Reitman traveled across Los Angeles from the premiere of his new film Young Adult Thursday night to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to host the third of his Live Read series. Each show features a different cast of actors playing roles popularized in the featured movies: for his first event, he chose The Breakfast Club, with Jennifer Garner, Aaron Paul, and more in the leads. His second, the Billy Wilder classic The Apartment, starred Natalie Portman and Steve Carell. For The Princess Bride, Reitman brought together his largest cast yet – and the whole evening was pretty damn magical.
Paul Rudd read the part of Westley, and Mindy Kaling (Kelly from “The Office”) played Buttercup. Rudd was fantastic, his natural charm a perfect fit with Westley’s droll humor and witty retorts. Kaling was regal and composed as the princess, taking a cue from original Buttercup Robin Wright by reading every line with a straight face. (During the final moments of the reading, the kiss to end all kisses between Westley and Buttercup, Rudd and Kaling gave each other the sloppiest kiss I’ve ever seen, with Rudd going so far as to lick Kaling’s face for a huge laugh. It’s fair to say they were committed to their roles.) Collette Wolfe voiced every other female part, pairing wonderfully with Kevin Pollak as he did his best Billy Crystal impression in the role of Miracle Max. Nick Kroll (“The League”) brought the house down as Count Rugan, imbuing the evil six-fingered man with a foppish quality that had even his fellow cast members cracking up. Goran Visjnic (“Pan Am,” a ton of other things) played the role of Inigo Montoya with a smoldering intensity, and Bill “Marshall’s Dad on How I Met Your Mother” Fagerbakke added a goofy presence as Fezzik, Andre the Giant’s most popular film character. For me, the best fit of any character was Patton Oswalt as Vizzini, bringing the outrage found in much of his own comedy to one of my favorite villainous roles in film history. Rob Reiner, the director of The Princess Bride film, played the Grandfather, and Fred Savage reprised his role as the Grandson, donning an old Chicago Bears jersey as the crowd roared its approval. Announcing the cast as they came out, Jason Reitman saved one of the best for last, warning, “This one’s gonna f*ck with your heads, guys”: Cary Elwes, the original Westley, read the part of Prince Humperdinck.
An event like this depends heavily on the audience; if you’re with a crowd of people who love the property in question, that makes all the difference in the world. This audience clearly loved The Princess Bride, laughing and clapping in all the right places and giving huge applause at all of the most classic lines. In the epic swordfight sequence between Inigo and the Man in Black, Patton Oswalt produced two spoons and clinked them repeatedly, hilariously mimicking the noise of an actual fight as Reitman read the stage directions aloud to the crowd.
Screenshots from the film were presented on a large screen above the actors on stage, providing the audience with a visual of the locations for each scene. This entire event served to highlight the brilliance of William Goldman’s script, and as Reitman reminded us before the reading began, Goldman himself once said that he only loved two projects he’d ever worked on: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and The Princess Bride. The script is whimsical and full of life, a fantastic work of art from one of the best storytellers in the business. That all the emotion and humor still work here in this stripped down version of the story is a testament to Goldman’s work on the screenplay, and a perfect example of why Reitman started this series to begin with: not only to breathe new life into old classics, but also to remind us of why they’re classics in the first place. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
(Photo credit: Amanda Edwards, WireImage, courtesy of Film Independent.)