Princess Bride: Was the true identity of the Man in Black supposed to be a surprise/twist?

So I’ve seen this movie more times than I can count (as I’m sure is the case for many of you). This question came to while rewatching it recently.

When Buttercup pushes the Man in Black down the hill and realizes that it really was Wesley, was that supposed to be a surprise reveal to the audience? It’s been so long since I watched it for the first time that I dont remember what I thought.

It seems to me it would be pretty obvious to the viewer (Cary Elwes is easily recognizable under the mask) but maybe it was intended to be a twist nonetheless. I also know that the movie was based on a book, I’m guessing in the book it was most definitely supposed to be a surprise to find out the true identity of the Man in Black (and easier to pull off), but I never read it myself so maybe it was telegraphed in some obvious way as well?

Yes, it was supposed to be a surprise.

It was “supposed” to be a twist to Fred Savage in the movie, and to little Billy Goldman the first time the barber read it to him (go read the book. Then you’ll understand what that means).

I think the film makers lightly masked Cary Elwes so as to leave hint who it was for the movie. It’s not inconceivable.


Well, for what it’s worth, when I first watched it at about 10 years old, presumably as part of the target audience, it was a surprise to me.

Probably would have fooled me when I was 10 years old too.

Surprised me (and I was 20 when I saw it). Of course, I had thought that Humperdinck would prove to be at least somewhat honorable, too.

Surprised me, but I was a child when it came out and I saw it in theaters.

In the book, it was totally meant to be a surprise. In the movie, perhaps it was done too clumsily or not hidden well enough.

I was an adult when it came out, and honestly I can’t remember what I thought.

But…This was the first movie I’d seen Cary Elwes in (it was like his sixth movie or so, and I hadn’t seen any of them). I didn’t know him from Chris Sarandon at the time. It’s possible I didn’t recongize him in both roles. So it could have been a surprise.

Heck, I’m so bad with faces I didn’t recognize Michael McKean in Sopinal Tap.

Some surprises are supposed to be only for the characters, and the audience is meant to be in on it throughout. Especially since we’re primed for it. And even when it is a surprise for the audience, we need to still enjoy the reveal when we rewatch subsequently. Watching Luke’s reaction in ESB still retains a visceral thrill for a lot of viewers.

His personality was hugely different, so I believe some bit of surprise was expected. I saw it when I was 9-10 and I did not find it hugely surprising.

Also, in the book, while Buttercup was the most beautiful girl in the land, she was also the stupidest. It certainly would have been a surprise to her.

I don’t remember that being stated anywhere in the book.

It was quite clear in the original Florin … the nuance may not have survived translation.

I’m pretty sure I had it spoiled by the time I was old enough to understand what was going on, having seen other parts of the movie before the one in question. I also think it really shouldn’t be much of a surprise to someone who’s steeped in storytelling convention, because it’s an obvious consequence of the law of conservation of detail; why would they go into so much detail about Wesley in the beginning of the film if he wasn’t going to come back? When someone appears whose identity is a mystery later, I would think one’s first thought is that it would be Wesley, especially if there’s nothing ruling it out. Certainly to children it’s more likely to be a surprise, but I don’t think anyone familiar enough with storytelling would find it surprising, so I’ve never been under the impression that it was supposed to be surprising.

Yes, it’s mentioned quite clearly. From early in the book:

“I don’t understand that first one yet,” Buttercup interrupted. She was starting to get very excited. “Let me get this straight. Are you staying that my love is the size of a grain of sand and yours is this other thing? Images just confuse me so – is this universal business of yours bigger than my sand? Help me, Westley. I have a feeling we’re on the verge of something just terribly important.”

She’s not an idiot, but she’s not much for complex logic. However she did see through the Prince’s fake plan with the 4 ships so she’s better at reading people and their intentions.

I didn’t see that Indyellen said she was stupidest girl in the land. That’s clearly not the case. But she was never written to be excessively smart.

To be completely fair, I’ve met more than a few girls and women who deliberately act stupid, despite actually being quite smart, in the (correct or not) belief that it makes them seem cuter. It’s not inconceivable that Buttercup was doing that.