Thursday, December 27, 2018

Throwback Thursday Comedy Special: Billy Crystal as Miracle Max in "The Princess Bride"



In the 1987 film The Princess Bride, Billy Crystal wore so much makeup that it was hard to recognize him in his role as Miracle Max, the crooked old healer living in the woods with his wife, played by Carol Kane.

And just listening to his voice made us think that the role was being played by Mel Brooks as the 2000 year old man.

But it really is Billy Crystal as Miracle Max. As Eric Grundhauser wrote in a 2015 article,
Over just three days of shooting in the tightly packed set of Max’s hovel, Crystal’s performance managed to nearly shut down the production. Given pretty much free reign by Reiner, Crystal became a show-stopping gag factory. In his book, Elwes remembers, “For three days straight and ten hours a day, Billy improvised thirteenth-century period jokes, never saying the same thing or the same line twice.”
Most of the manic energy and “medieval stand-up,” like the classic MLT sandwich line (mutton, lettuce, tomato), made it to the screen, but Crystal came up with some racier lines that had to be cut. One deleted scene includes the line “Never rush me. I had a very rough night. I found my oldest nephew with a sheep.”
In another deleted scene, Crystal can be seen mugging for the camera, sparking hooting laughter from the cast and crew out of view. This actually became a pretty big problem as reactions to Crystal’s ad-libs kept ruining the sound during takes. Reiner himself eventually had to leave the set and watch the takes from a monitor because he couldn’t keep from bursting into loud laughter. Even more troublesome was Elwes, who had to lay stock still on a table in Max’s hovel, hovering near death. Crystal was so funny that Elwes couldn’t contain himself either, and had to be replaced with a dummy in some shots.
Only Patinkin was able to keep a straight face for the shots, but it cost him. As he says in Elwes’ book, he was clenching so hard to keep from laughing that he actually bruised a rib.
It should also be noted that Max’s scenes would not have been half as memorable and funny were it not for actress Carol Kane who played opposite Crystal as his shrieking harridan of a wife, Valerie. Nearly unrecognizable under her prosthetics, Kane held her own against Crystal’s onslaught. In a movie brimming with catchphrases (“as you wish,” “you killed my father, prepare to die,” etc.), the real miracle behind Miracle Max is that he is remembered at all.
Enjoy!

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#Throwback Thursday, #TBT