MOTW: Cary Elwes: The Life of a Comedy Legend

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
November 21st, 2013

MOTW: Cary Elwes: The Life of a Comedy Legend

Cary Elwes is an English actor whose interior designer mother, Tessa Elwes, comes from a rich and established family in the shipping industry, and whose deceased father was well-known portrait artist Dominick Elwes. Cary and his brothers, Cassian and Damian, were raised in London. Cary chose to attend the Harrow high school, from which he graduated and from where he discovered his love of drama and acting. After deciding to move to the United States, he began studying drama at Sarah Lawrence College. Although he enjoyed his time at Sarah Lawrence, he chose to leave after only two years to pursue a career in film.

The Elwes family is known not only for producing artists but also prominent members of the Catholic Church as well. One of Cary's great-grandfathers served as Chamberlain to the pope, and the Elwes family still has several high-ranking clerics in their ranks. Cary himself took inspiration from his family's rich heritage and has chosen to fill his career with numerous period-drama roles. In fact, Cary Elwes is best known for such comedic period pieces as "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" and "The Princess Bride." Although these films mark the most prominent pieces in Cary's on-screen resume, his first acting role came in 1979 as a background disco dancer in 1979's "Yesterday's Hero."

Although Elwes has been a successful film actor for quite some time, his most iconic role is that of Westley in "The Princess Bride." The film is one of the most beloved romantic comedies of all time, not to mention one of the most often quoted. Westley is the childhood friend and romantic interest of Buttercup, a beautiful woman forced to marry a horrible prince. Although the storyline sounds conventional, the film is anything but that. Westley's quest to save the princess from harm is full of playful jabs at the conventional princess and hero narrative. Westley delivers some of the film's most memorable lines, and he straddles the line between romantic hero and comedic foil perfectly.

In 1993, Elwes portrayed Nick Eliot, the lead male protagonist in "The Crush." The film marked a major turning point in both Cary's dramatic film career and that of his onscreen costar, Alicia Silverstone. The age difference between the two actors was the film's major plot point; Silverstone portrays a teenage girl who falls madly and obsessively in love with a much older man. Nick attempts to rebuff her affections, but what seems like a schoolgirl's crush quickly escalates into a far more dangerous affair. Immediately after his role in "The Crush," Elwes took on the role as the titular lead in "Robin Hood: Men in Tights."

"Robin Hood: Men in Tights" has been resoundingly successful as a cult comedy. It is underpinned by a hilariously tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and plenty of sarcasm is laced throughout the film. While the film had romantic undertones between Robin Hood and Maid Marian, it was a comedy through and through, marking a triumphant return for Elwes to his status as a comedy legend after numerous dramatic roles. The film was a welcome change of pace for some fans, who became enamored with Elwes after his role as Westley in "The Princess Bride." Both films had similar tones with plenty of quick-paced, witty banter between characters, who frequently broke the fourth wall for a nod to the audience.

Cary Elwes is truly one of the most versatile actors of his time, earning his status as a comedy legend. His penchant for turning offbeat comedies into cult classics has earned him a respectable place in numerous subgenres. In addition to his impressive professional accomplishments, the actor engages in philanthropic pursuits in his spare time. His wife, and a professional photographer, Lisa Marie Kurbikoff and he are active in numerous political causes. One of Cary's greatest passions is providing support to Native American people groups, and the actor has devoted a significant portion of his income to that cause.

From comedic roles to dramatic period pieces, Cary Elwes has earned his way into the hearts and DVD collections of millions of fans around the world. The actor has more than proven his ability to portray diverse and interesting characters with sincerity. His down-to-earth persona makes him particularly effective as a charming, if bungling, leading man. He has portrayed some of the most beloved characters in modern-classic comedy films, and he continues to take on new and exciting roles in a variety of genres. If there is one thing that Cary Elwes fans can be certain of, it's that the actor always has something new on the horizon.