Mandy Patinkin talks film, theater and activism ahead of March 5 Kravis Center show

Mandy Patinkin never gets tired of talking about "The Princess Bride."

A 1987 fantasy adventure film based on the William Goldman book of the same name, it tells the story of a swashbuckling young farmhand who must rescue his true love from the clutches of an evil prince.

Patinkin, an award-winning actor and singer known for his work in musical theater, television, and film, played the role of Spanish swordsman Inigo Montoya in the film, which is widely considered a cult classic and remains beloved by fans decades after its release.

Award-winning actor and singer Mandy Patinkin will appear at the Kravis Center March 5 in "Mandy Patinkin in Concert: Being Alive."
Award-winning actor and singer Mandy Patinkin will appear at the Kravis Center March 5 in "Mandy Patinkin in Concert: Being Alive."

"I get asked about it every day of my life," said Patinkin, 71. "It was one of the blessings of my existence. I had a great, great time doing it. None of us ever imagined it would become the joy that it's become for so many generations. If you told me that I would be in The Wizard of Oz of my generation, I'd go, 'Oh, please.' I actually feel like I got to be one of the lions or scarecrows or tin men. I can't believe I got to be in this thing and play such a wonderful role by such a beautiful man like William Goldman."

Patinkin, who will appear at the Kravis Center March 5 in "Mandy Patinkin in Concert: Being Alive," won a Tony Award in 1980 for his role as Che in Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Evita" and an Emmy Award 15 years later for his performance in the CBS television series “Chicago Hope.” He addressed a number of topics during a phone conversation last week with the Palm Beach Daily News.

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You've performed in West Palm Beach on numerous occasions. What are your impressions of the area?

I've been doing this since 1989, and I go to Florida probably more than anywhere else, obviously in the winter. They've been very welcoming to me. It's been like a second home, and a real godsend in the winter and a break from the east coast cold. I take great walks. The people are wonderful. Sometimes we stay a little longer after the concert for a day or so and just chill out.

What can guests expect from your show at the Kravis Center?

Like all my other shows, I'm never going to tell anybody what I'm going to do. You can obviously look online and see what other people have written. But I never say what I'm going to do, because too many times people have come and said to me that they flew in to see me or they drove from here to there and they thought I was going to do X, Y or Z, and I didn't. I did other things. They just thought I was going to do this or that. I make a point of making sure I don't promise this or that.

How long do you plan on performing live concert shows?

I have no desire of retiring. My joy, more than anything else I get to do, is the live concert venue. It's the most immediate. The audience makes it everything that it is. Without them sitting there in the seats, it's all for nothing.

You have such a diverse background in theater, film, television and music. Is there any genre you prefer?

I enjoy doing everything. It's the variety that I find to be the spice of my life. Different things have different systems. Here (at the Kravis Center), it's just another piano player, but a huge audience, a live audience. Films and television you have a crew, which is your audience. You never see the real audience. A play is a different thing, and recordings are the microphone and the orchestra and the conductor. They're all different worlds. Podcasts are a new thing. That's another interesting journey. I find them all interesting. I love them all for their differences. Most of all, I love to keep busy and keep moving.

Did you recognize from a young age that you wanted to perform?

I wasn't an admirer of school. It was not my favorite thing. I started doing plays at the Young Men's Jewish Council Youth Center on the south side of Chicago in my freshman year of high school. I just went wild. I liked it. I didn't even know you could do it for a career. I just found out little by little you can go to school and learn more about it. Maybe you can try to do it and see if you can put a roof over your head and feed your family. All of those things worked out well, and I've been doing it since I was 15 years old.

You won a Tony Award for 'Evita' at the age of 27. What was that experience like?

It was bittersweet. I remember holding it in my hand and looking up to the heavens and talking to my father. He passed away when I was 18. That's what I remember best about it, reaching out to him and saying, 'Hey Dad, look where we are.' He was such a wonderful cheerleader for me, and I thought he would have loved being there more than anyone in the world.

You've played so many different roles throughout your acting career. Do you have a favorite?

No. What I'm doing right at that moment is my favorite. That's what I try to hold on to. That's what I have. What I have right in front of me is what I cherish.

How do you pick your projects?

One way or another, something gets to me, and then I read it. If I have an instinct that this might be enjoyable on a variety of different levels, I then give it to the smartest person I know, which is my wife. And then she reads it, and if she likes it, I give it to my son and his writing partner, and often times my lawyer. My agents put in their opinion, and then I decide whether or not to do it. You only get so much time in this life. Do I want to spend it doing this or not? That's how I make the decision. There's no sure ride, but you learn certain things as you go along the road. Then you've got to close your eyes and take a chance.

Why is social activism so important to you?

The world is in trouble. It's hurting. It's burning, literally and figuratively. So many people are suffering and need a new beginning. The refugee crisis is only growing through conflict and climate change.

You said the singular most important sentence William Goldman wrote in 'The Princess Bride' is the one no one ever quotes. What is that line, and why is it so important?

"You know, I have been in the revenge business so long. Now that it's over, I don't know what to do with the rest of my life." Before that scene, (my character) Inigo spent his whole life trying to find the six-fingered man who killed his father. Right when he finds him, and the more he puts the sword inside this man's heart, he says, "I want my father back, you son of a bitch." And he kills him, and he did not get his father back.

He did not know what to do with the rest of his life, and I'll tell you what to do with the rest of your life. The whole world is so consumed with revenge. Let it go. Start to care for each other, love each other, take care of each other, build each other's lives, give each other a safe sanctuary to live in, educate your children, feed them well, give them good medical care, and most of all, kindness and love. That's what every one of us needs to do all over the world. I know it sounds corny, but it takes an artist like William Goldman to teach us these lessons, and if only the world could listen. It's so frustrating to me that they quote every line from that movie, people love it so much, and they never quote that one. That's the one that needs to be heard more than any right now.

Tickets for Patinkin's show at the Kravis Center are available at www.kravis.org/. For more information, call 561-832-7469.

Jodie Wagner is a journalist at the Palm Beach Daily News, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach her at jwagner@pbdailynews.com. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Daily News: Mandy Patinkin talks 'Princess Bride,' craft before West Palm Beach show

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