Pop Culture

Rescuing The Princess Bride: Can the Emmys Save This Lost Tribute Film?

A star-filled homemade version of the classic fantasy film was buried in Quibi’s collapse. But Emmy voters have access—and among them are potential saviors.

Nobody wanted a remake of The Princess Bride. There is near universal agreement that the 1987 fantasy adventure remains a timeless classic that should not be touched, altered, or replaced. But a playful DIY tribute to that movie, shot on cell phones, using household items as props, and reenacted by 80 of the most famous people in the world—like Jack Black, Tiffany Haddish, Javier Bardem, David Oyelowo, John Cho, and Zoe Saldana? That was something people actually wanted to see.

Unfortunately, they had to subscribe to Quibi to watch the whole thing. And very few did that.

Now, after Quibi’s closure, the project is nowhere to be found, which is rare in an era when seemingly the entire history of entertainment is instantly accessible from anywhere. But there is a chance it might be saved, and perhaps finally seen by a wide audience. A lot of that hope rests on the upcoming Emmy nominations.

The 10-episode homemade Princess Bride was launched by filmmaker Jason Reitman, as something fun to do during quarantine while also raising money for charity. Jeffrey Katzenberg made a $1 million donation to World Central Kitchen to secure the rights to the project for his short-form entertainment startup. “That was a very fast decision to do good based on us making these homemade videos,” Reitman says. 

Home Movie: The Princess Bride went live on Quibi at the end of June 2020, but the platform struggled to attract enough paying subscribers. By September, the company was trying to find a buyer. In October, it shut down completely.

“By the time it went up on Quibi, the few of us working on it from home couldn’t believe this thing we had been doing privately was now public,” says Reitman. “Then all of the sudden, this thing that was public was once again private. Now we have this movie that’s nowhere to be found, made with such loving care. It feels like a sword in the stone waiting to be pulled out by someone else.”

Audiences may have been indifferent to Quibi, but they still loved the idea of this handcrafted tribute. The cast list was staggering: Adam Sandler, Penélope Cruz, Chris Pine, Beanie Feldstein, Keegan-Michael Key, Diego Luna, Hugh Jackman, Taika Waititi, Dave Bautista, Bryan Cranston, and Patton Oswalt all stepped in to do a scene. 

Jennifer Garner played dual roles in the same sequence as both Princess Buttercup and the old woman who mercilessly boos her. Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka took a turn playing the fairy-tale couple, and so did Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas. It had Sarah Cooper, the Trump lip-synching comic, as swordsman Inigo Montoya. Seth Rogen and Ari Graynor recreated Miracle Max and Valerie. Even Shaq showed up to play the giant.

There was also a truly heartbreaking final scene with Rob Reiner, director of the original film, playing the role of the little boy listening to this fantastical story while his own father, Carl Reiner, played the part of the grandfather who reads it. This turned out to be Carl’s final performance. He died just days after shooting it.

Most of Quibi’s content library was purchased by Roku. But the homemade Princess Bride wasn’t part of that bundle because it was acquired separately as a charity endeavor through an agreement with Reitman and producer Norman Lear, who controls the rights to the original film.

So even if you want to watch it, you can’t. It’s not available anywhere—except on the private streaming service that’s provided to Emmy voters. That awards consideration may be the thing that helps salvage this bizarre, endearing film from total oblivion.

The category of outstanding short form comedy, drama, or variety series is not one of the higher-profile awards bestowed by the Television Academy—but Home Movie: The Princess Bride is eligible for it. If the film can score a nomination, Reitman hopes it might generate new attention, placing it on the radar of programming executives who might be willing to rescue it. All they’d need to do is make another charity arrangement with him and Lear. 

“We’re out of this pandemic, but people are still hungry, and so much income was lost during this crisis. And a simple check from the government is not going to cover everything,” Reitman says. “If a big streaming service wanted to put food on the table for people, I’d happily ask all 80 actors and Norman if they were up for another curtain call.”

That would mean those who’ve seen the original movie countless times can finally watch it in this new way—one that honors the original without trying to take its place.

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