TORONTO - The actor who played the swashbuckling hero of "The Princess Bride" nearly three decades ago returned to the role on a Toronto stage Saturday night, drawing roars of approval from a capacity crowd.
Cary Elwes, who starred as Westley in the family favourite, was among one of many surprises at the live read of the film pulled together by Montreal-born director Jason Reitman at the Toronto International Film Festival.
"This is kind of like hearing one of your favourite songs live for the first time," Reitman told the crowd minutes before Elwes walked on stage. "In the role of Westley, originated by Cary Elwes, Cary Elwes."
The event — which involved celebrities reading out the movie's screenplay in its entirety — was a homecoming of sorts for the film, which won the People's Choice Award when it premiered at TIFF in 1987.
Elwes settled into his original role with a broad smile and even had to pause minutes into the live read after delivering his character's famous phrase "as you wish" while the audience erupted into laughter and applause.
Also drawing cheers was the appearance of the film's director, Rob Reiner, to play the role of the grandfather who narrates much of the adventure-comedy to his grandson.
The rest of the star-studded cast included London, Ont.-bred Rachel McAdams as Princess Buttercup, originally performed by Robin Wright; former NHL enforcer Georges Laraque in the role of Fezzik, made famous by wrestler Andre the Giant, Patrick Stewart in the role of the villainous Prince Humperdinck, former "Community" star Donald Glover as kidnapper Vizzini, and Chris O'Dowd as the evil Count Tyrone Rugen.
Mexican star Gael Garcia Bernal took on the role of the revenge-bent Inigo Montoya only about halfway through the performance due to a delayed flight, but Reitman's sister, Catherine Reitman, ably stepped in to fill his spot until he arrived, drawing laugh after laugh from the crowd with her exaggerated Spanish accent.
Both Reitman and Bernal appeared to revel in their delivery of their character's most iconic line: "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."
Before the start of the live read — which saw the cast sitting in a row on stage to read out their parts as stills from the film flashed on a large screen behind them — Jason Reitman explained the process to his audience.
"Most of this cast has never met before so we're going to find it on stage," he said. "What's kind of fun about these is for the first five to ten minutes we're going to be feeling each other out, we're going to find it and then hopefully we'll hit a groove and we will come to life."
The cast quickly hit their stride, but the event also had its humorous fumbles, miscues, the occasional unscripted quip and moments of on-stage antics.
Elwes, for instance, whipped out his cellphone at one point to take a photo of Stewart delivering a particularly emphatic line, throwing the veteran actor off course for an instant.
O'Dowd was also seen placing a hand on Stewart's knee in mock sympathy when Stewart's character was described uncharitably at one point.
Reitman, who directed the live read, describing scenes and providing context for the audience, also appeared to drop in some of his own commentary and had to lean away from his microphone as he burst into laughter several times during the event.
"This is one of my favourite films," he said earlier in the night. "Tonight is for the people in this room."