In the world of wrestling, Andre the Giant’s legacy looms large (no pun intended). He took a condition of gigantism, which made him grow to an incredible size, and he found a way to make it an advantage. However, it wasn’t all just about wrestling, as movie fans around the world know him for his brief but endlessly memorable film career. We’ve assembled these facts for those who don’t know much about this man, but would love to find out more.
42. What a Man
At his biggest size, Andre wore size 22 shoes; was billed as being 7 feet, 4 inches; and his wrist size was equivalent to that of a gorilla.
Andre was born to Bulgarian and Polish parents in Molien, France, on the 19th of May, 1946. His full name was Andre Roussimoff.
The reason for his immense size was a condition known as gigantism and then acromegaly. One symptom of acromegaly is that the body continues to produce growth hormones. People who have this condition tragically aren’t expected to live long, and Andre was no exception, dying at age 46.
39. Who Needs School?
Although he showed remarkable promise in school, especially with mathematics, Andre dropped out after grade 8, working as a laborer on his father’s farm.
38. Grand Opening
Andre made his debut in the World Wrestling Federation on the 26th of March, 1973 (back when it was called the World Wide Wrestling Federation). He was instantly a fan favorite when he defeated Buddy Wolfe in Madison Square Garden.
37. Oh, You Scamp!
When one of his friends owned a smaller-than-average car, Andre’s idea of a joke was to pick it up and move it from its usual spot. We’re wondering how many times he managed to get away with that joke before his friends stopped falling for it.
36. I’m Ready for My Close-Up
Andre’s first acting experience was in 1967 when he appeared in a French boxing film. Two years later, he made his television debut when he made a cameo in Symphorien, a French-Canadian show on Quebec television.
35. Such Strength
According to his brother, Andre was able to perform the labor work that three men would normally accomplish.
34. Going in a New Direction
Andre first began wrestling when he moved to Paris at 17 years of age. A local wrestling promoter saw his potential (that is, his size), and trained him to be a professional wrestler. Andre took his wrestling training sessions at night while he worked as a mover during the day to pay his bills. To be fair, the idea of carrying and swinging around chairs for a living could also count as wrestling training, no?
33. Thirsty Man
One advantage (or disadvantage) to his immense size was Andre’s ability to consume a higher amount of alcohol than anyone else. He held an unofficial record for his ability to drink 156 beers in a single sitting!
32. There He Is! Sasquatch!
Andre’s first appearance on American television was when he guest-starred on the series The Six Million Dollar Man in 1976. He acted as Bigfoot in a two-parter, because getting tall men to play large hairy creatures was a big thing in the 1970s, apparently (see: Chewbacca).
31. Earning the Greens
In 1974, Andre was entered into that year’s edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. He was credited as the highest-paid wrestler in history at the time, earning $400,000 per year in the early 1970s.
30. Stick With Me, Kid
In 1966, while trying to make his name wrestling in Paris, Andre caught the eye of Frank Valois, a Canadian wrestler and promoter. With Valois serving as Andre’s business manager, Andre began wrestling overseas in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
29. A New Ally
After gaining international success, Andre moved to Montreal where he performed in regularly sold-out shows in the Montreal Forum. However, by 1972, the usual gimmicks had worn out, and his star began fading as he was running out of opponents to fight. This led him to appeal to Vince McMahon Sr., the man who set up what would become the WWF. McMahon provided advice for Andre on how to improve his act, and also arranged for him to travel to various different locales and get paid well for it (of course, McMahon made sure to get a booking fee each time).
28. Something Borrowed
While he was involved with the filming of The Princess Bride, Andre needed to use an ATV to travel between the locations. At one point, Cary Elwes, his co-star, tried driving the ATV, resulting in him hitting some rocks. This caused Elwes to break his toe when his foot slipped off the clutch and got jammed between the pedal and a rock.
27. Shorter, but Still a Giant
While he was said to have stood 7 feet, 4 inches, he lost several inches due to the fact that he underwent back surgery in the 1980s. Following the surgery, he stood around 6 feet, 10 inches, which still would have made him eligible to play Ser Gregor Clegane on Game of Thrones!
Reportedly, Andre’s fingers were so big that he had to use a pencil to properly use a rotary phone (we advise anyone under the age of 25 search “rotary phone” on Wikipedia or Google to understand what we’re talking about).
25. Money Slipping Through My Fingers
In another example of how big his fingers were, a silver dollar coin could easily pass through one of Andre’s rings (shoot, now we have to make you look up how big a silver dollar was…)
24. We’re Looking for a Rogue Clydesdale…
On one of Andre’s drunken escapades while he was in New York City, he came up with a hilarious prank. With the help of fellow wrestler Dusty Rhodes, Andre stole a pair of horse-drawn carriages. We can only imagine their reactions to the subsequent news report and police speculations!
23. My Dinner With Andre
According to Arnold Schwarzenegger, he went out for dinner with Andre the Giant one evening and tried to pay the bill as a courtesy. Andre, however, adamantly refused to let anyone else pay for his meals, but Schwarzenegger tried to do so anyway when Andre went to use the bathroom. When Andre returned and realized what Schwarzenegger was trying to do, he allegedly picked up Schwarzenegger and sat him back down in his seat.
22. Interesting Coincidence
Speaking of Arnold Schwarzenegger, he was almost cast in The Princess Bride in the role of Fezzik. This was when the movie was going to be made in the 1970s, when Andre couldn’t be reached to even read for the role, even though it had been written specifically for him. After 12 years, however, things had switched around. Schwarzenegger was a huge star and Andre was available to be in the movie. Both men had also become friends around that same time.
21. A Hungry Giant
Naturally, with all that size comes an appetite to match. According to his friend Tim White, if Andre wanted to put on a show, he would go into a restaurant and eat as many as 12 steaks and 15 lobsters in one sitting! White pointed out that Andre didn’t do this often, which is understandable to us; imagine the size of that check.
20. Such a Gentleman
While they were filming The Princess Bride, the weather got colder, which affected actress Robin Wright (Princess Buttercup). For his part, Andre would put his hand on her head, and because his hand was so large, he covered the top of her head easily, which also helped her to keep warm when the cameras weren’t rolling.
19. Awkward Cleaning Operation
According to Andre’s frequent wrestling competitor, Hulk Hogan, Andre would sometimes use a bathtub as a toilet when he was particularly inebriated. To be fair, you can probably name a couple of people who did that in college (or you did it and you’re too embarrassed to admit it).
18. Can I Use a Credit Card?
Andre stayed in the London Hyatt while filming his role in The Princess Bride. By the time he was finished and was checking out of the hotel, he had racked up a $40,000 bar tab!
17. Colossal Coincidence
Andre shared a birthday with fellow actor Peter Mayhew, best known as having played Chewbacca in the Star Wars franchise. Mayhew is also famously tall, standing just an inch shorter than Andre’s tallest height.
16. Honorable Homage
For any fans of vintage video games, Andre was the direct inspiration for the playable character Hugo Andore in the game Final Fight.
15. Accolade for Andre
Andre holds the distinction of having been the first wrestler inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. In fact, the Hall of Fame was invented purely so Andre could be inducted into it, which happened shortly after his death in 1993.
Wrestler Paul Wight, better known by his stage name Big Show, was originally billed as the son of Andre the Giant due to his incredible resemblance, in terms of size, to the former wrestling star. However, there was no biological connection between them whatsoever.
13. Final Film
Andre’s final appearance in film was in the comedy Trading Mom. It premiered in 1994, one year after his death.
12. Blocked From His Dream
Andre was always a fan of theatre. One of his wishes was to go see a live show. However, when his agent offered to get him tickets, Andre refused, as he was concerned that he wouldn’t fit into one of the seats, and that his height would mean he’d block the view of the people sitting behind him.
Andre’s only child, a girl named Robin, was born in 1979. However, their relationship wasn’t very close. According to Robin, her first memory of her father was when he joined her at a doctor’s office to take a blood test to confirm their familial relationship. The last time was in court for child support payments.
10. Titanic Rivalry
Andre’s time with the WWF resulted in 15 years of being undefeated until he was pitted against Hulk Hogan throughout the 1980s. While he’d previously been portrayed as a heroic babyface, Andre became Hogan’s heel, leading to a series of legendary matches where Hogan triumphed against Andre.
9. For My Friend
While working on The Princess Bride, Andre befriended actor and comedian Billy Crystal. Crystal would later produce, co-write, and co-star in a film titled My Giant, which had been inspired by his friendship with Andre. Sadly, this tribute was a critical and financial failure, but we can be sure that Crystal’s heart was in the right place.
Andre never left his farming roots behind him. Even while he was at the height of his wrestling fame, Andre would spend his spare time raising cattle on a farm in North Carolina.
7. Let This Sleeping Giant Lie
One true story that has passed into urban legend is the incident in Pennsylvania when Andre drank 127 beers in a hotel bar and passed out in the hotel lobby. Because of his size, none of the staff could move him, so they simply let him sleep it off in the lobby! Elwes also revealed that one time during filming of The Princess Bride, Andre got drunk and fell onto someone, which resulted in the NYPD having an agent tail Andre whenever he went out drinking to make sure he didn’t get into the same trouble.
In January 1993, Andre’s father passed away, leading Andre to travel to Paris to attend the funeral. While back in France, he stayed longer so that he could be there for his mother’s birthday. However, on the 27th of January, after several days of visiting his old friends, Andre’s body was discovered in his hotel room; he had died of congestive heart failure in his sleep.
5. Ashes to Ashes
Originally, his family wanted to have Andre buried close to his father’s grave. However, Andre’s will and testament stipulated that he wanted his remains cremated. True to his wishes, Andre’s family held a funeral in France, cremated his body in the US, and scattered his ashes across the land he owned in North Carolina.
4. Make Yourself at Home
It’s safe to say that The Princess Bride was Andre’s favorite film role. When he was asked why that was, Andre pointed out that it was the one time where nobody stared at him while he was on the set, and he felt like an equal to everybody else.
3. Catch the Princess
Despite his persona as a famous wrestler, and despite his character Fezzik being portrayed as having superhuman strength, Andre suffered from serious back problems. He couldn’t even carry actress Robin Wright in his arms in The Princess Bride; for the scene where she jumps into his arms, wires were used to help Andre out.
2. The Giant’s Little Girl
Despite their distant relationship in life due to his career as a wrestler, Andre’s will and testament named his daughter, Robin, as the sole beneficiary of his fortune and estate. She continues to defend and uphold her father’s legacy to this day.
1. Meet My Chauffeur
By the time he was 12 years old, Andre weighed 240 pounds and stood more than 6 feet tall. Not only was he too big to ride the bus to school, but his parents didn’t have enough money for a car that would be able to accommodate him. Luckily, Andre’s father had helped an Irish expatriate build a cottage nearby where Andre lived, and the man happened to have a truck. He offered to take Andre to school in his truck every day as a favor to his friend. Interestingly, that Irish expatriate was none other than Nobel Prize winning playwright Samuel Beckett. Andre later revealed that the two of them mostly just talked about cricket on these rides.