My name is Inigo Montoya
“I have been in the revenge business for so long, now that it is over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.”
— Inigio Montoya, The Princess Bride
This weekend I heard an NPR interview with Mandy Patankin about his role as the swashbuckling Spaniard in what might possibly be the best (and most quoted) movie ever. Asked to recall his favorite line from the film, he got unexpectedly serious and referenced this line from nearly the end. He said it was one he’d had little attachment to at the time. In fact, he’d even gone back to look for notes he might have left himself in his script, and found nothing. Yet, looking back as an older man at his younger self, he finds it holds real meaning now.
The Princess Bride marked its 25th anniversary this weekend, and to celebrate, I gathered my son, my niece and my sister around my mom’s laptop in front of her sofa while she and my daughter slept in the recliner across the room. The speakers weren’t great, so we had to turn off the dishwasher and sit really still to hear it, forcing us to strain to hear the best lines.
“Inconceivable!” I’d said to Sara when she told me she’d never seen it. I was thrilled to be the one to introduce Haley to it as well. It was the perfect time to share it with Elisio, too, I thought, though as we watched I did worry about a couple of the scenes.
“You call that a giant?!?” Elisio huffed as Andre the Giant lumbered on board the ship.
“He’s a ninja!” he whispered as The Man in Black climbed the rope up the cliffs.
“Is he dead?” he asked on more than one occasion.
“What was your favorite part?” I asked him, the two of us the only ones to have made it all the way through, my mom having passed Nacine to me and then headed upstairs, Sara calling it an early night, and Haley long since asleep.
“The whole thing,” he said.
“I know,” I said. “It is one of my favorite movies.”
“It’s my only favorite,” he said, and curled closer to me as the highlights reel rolled beneath the closing credits on the screen.
I love the film for what Mandy Patankin described as the sense of fun that is behind the actors’ eyes the whole time. The last time I watched it, in college I think, I was the perfect age for quoting lines with friends. Seeing it to tonight with my son, a kindergartener, I watched him enjoy with sincerity all the things we loved half because we and the actors knew we were too old to still feel.
Sitting on the couch with three kids draped across me, I couldn’t help thinking about that near final line, the one Inigo Montoya uttered just before Buttercup leaped out the window to freedom. The one Mandy Patankin said meant something so different to him now.
He talked about how he’s changed as an actor, a person, a man in the last quarter century since it came out. He said he has himself gotten out of the revenge business and learned to be more present and at peace.
In many ways, I guess I’ve spent the last 20 years not in the revenge business exactly, but in the striving business. Aiming to prove that a southern girl from a small town could have it at all, much less have it all. Now that I’ve achieved it – the degree, the husband, the kids, the house, the job – it’s time to figure out what it means and, importantly, what now. What, as Inigo Montoya might put it, to do with the rest of my life.