There was nobody else quite like the legendary André the Giant. Born André René Roussimoff in 1946 in Coulommiers, Seine-et-Marne, France the hall of fame wrestler and sometimes movie star led an unavoidably conspicuous life that few of us of standard stature can even imagine living. However, there is a lot you may not know about Andre. Here are the myths and facts about Andre the Giant.
How this kid born just after WWII in a small town Northern France went from obscurity to literally one of the biggest and most recognizable people in the world is a story that continues to fascinate people long after his untimely death at the young age of 46 in 1993.
Now, the life of André the Giant is being remembered in an upcoming HBO documentary, “André the Giant,” produced in collaboration with HBO Sports, WWE and Bill Simmons Media Group. The documentary is set to debut on HBO on April 10th, just a few days after Wrestlemania 34, some 31 years after André met Hulk Hogan before 93,000 fans in Wrestlemania III.
“Everyone who ever crossed paths with him has an André story—and usually four or five,” Simmons recently told HBO.com. “I’m delighted to join forces with [director] Jason Hehir and WWE so we can capture André’s amazing story once and for all.”
Fortunately for fans around the world, André left a rich collection of video, photographs as well as a lot of myths and colorful stories about his adventures throughout his short life. He wasn’t just a one dimensional character as his movie and wrestling career tended to portray him, but a pretty sensitive guy who dealt rather stoically with a lot of physical difficulties inherent to his condition and the disease which caused his extraordinary size.
In the pages that follow, we share some of those myths, legends and photographs that chronicle his amazing life.
How Big Was Andre?
André was billed at 7 feet four inches tall and 520 pounds but André’s actual height is a point of debate. Some say he was only 7 feet tall. His weight varied a lot but he was over 500 pounds during his adulthood. According to Hulk Hogan, “He was never 500 pounds … we weighed him at Detroit airport before WrestleMania III and he was 650 or something. He was big, he’d just had back surgery and he was heavy,” he told Grandland’s Bill Simmons.
What size shoe did Andre the Giant Wear? He wore a 24-26 size shoe. As a comparison, 7′ 1″ Shaquille O’Neal wears a size 22 shoe.
However, Andre wasn’t the tallest pro wrestler ever. Two lesser known performers were taller–though their careers were much shorter and less memorable.
“Silo Sam” (Sam Harris) was 7 feet 8 inches tall, was briefly in the AWA and wrestled for WWF under the name “Trapper John” in 1990.
“Giant Gonzalez” was 7 feet 6 inches tall and wrestled for the WCW as “El Gigante” after being cut by the Atlanta Hawks in the early 90s then as Giant Gonzalez for the WWE in 1992.
Did you know André was drafted by the French army, but was then rejected? The army did not have the uniforms, shoes, bunk beds that would fit him. Plus, his head stuck out of the trenches, so he got an exemption from service.
Andre When He Was Young – Myths and Facts About Andre The Giant
By age 12, Andre was 5-foot-10 and at age 18, he was already more than 6-foot-10.
Here is a photo of André the Giant at age 19 in Paris surrounded by models in towels at a fashion exhibition in 1966.
During his early career, Andre had many different wrestling names, including “Monster Eiffel Tower”
Other ring names:
André the Gian
In Japan, Andre wrestled under the name Jean Ferre. The hotel bathrooms were just too small for André in Japan. He had to resort to relieving himself in the bathtub or on newspapers as Hulk Hogan once witnessed.
During Andre’s teen years, he had 68 teeth. He grew 6 more as a adult. A normal adult mouth has 32 teeth. His condition, known as acromegaly, often produces double rows of teeth among those who suffer from the growth hormone disorder as well as problems with teeth spacing due to excessive jaw bone growth.
The WWF Years – Myths and Facts About Andre The Giant
After his early years, Andre the Giant went on to star within WWF where he was one of the top attractions. Here is a photo from the historic Olympic Auditorium Battle Royal in 1976 with André the Giant and Ernie Ladd.
Andre had a since of humor in the ring if you can call it that. He got a kick out of farting on his opponents. Jake “The Snake” Roberts tells the story of being a victim of André’s colossal flatulence during a match. Once pinned to the mat, the Giant squatted down and really let one go. “This went on for like 30 seconds,” Roberts said. “Giants fart for extremely long periods of time.”
Andre was definitely the center of attention everywhere he went. In many instances, the attention was adulation and amazement but there time when people would often just staree at him, sometimes heckle him, and often made fun of him.
“He used to tell me, ‘I’d like to be you for a week,’” said Tim White, a former wrestling referee and close friend of André. “Because he just couldn’t be seen or be gawked at.”
Life on road with the WWF was tough. It included long road trips. So much so, that Andre had his own personal trainer during those long trips. Vince McMahon also had a trailer built especially for the Giant where he could be comfortable and where he could reportedly consume a case of beer in nine minutes.
Here is an interview with Andre the Giant by a young Vince McMahon. McMahon knew the value of Andre and used his popularity to ignite several wrestling careers. For Wrestlemania III, Hulk Hogan faced off with Andre. Hulk Hogan won the match. In fact, Hogan body slammed the giant. That match catapulted Hogan to fame.
On a somber note, WrestleMania VI , uut of 14 matches in WrestleMania VI on April 1, 1990, nine involved wrestlers that are no longer alive including André The Giant, Macho Man Randy Savage, Mr. Perfect and The Ultimate Warrior.
Family, Friends & More – Myths and Facts About Andre The Giant
André had a daughter. Not many people know that but Robin Christensen Roussimoff, André the Giant’s only daughter was born in 1979. Her birth was somewhat miraculous because people afflicted with acromegaly are usually sterile. André did not have a great relationship with Robin’s mother, Jean and only saw his daughter a handful of times when the WWF brought him to town for a brief visit.
Robin was just ten when her father died but he left his entire estate to her, save for a sum left to the caretaker of his ranch on North Carolina.
Andre loved being around his friends for celebrations, having a good dinner or enjoying some drinks. In Andre’s case, a lot of drinks. It was reported that at a dinner with friends, André ate five steaks, two lobsters and drank three cases of beer.
He always insisted on picking up the check at dinner and at bars. If you attempted to pay, he would pick you up.
Once, when friend Arnold Schwarzenegger slipped away from the table to pick up the check for a substantial dinner bill, André caught sight of him right when he went to hand his credit card over to the waiter. André PICKUP UP ARNOLD and deposited him back in his dinner seat.
It has been reported that Andre drank a lot because he was in constant pain. He drank a lot, spent a lot on bar tabs and took a lot of pictures in bars. André reportedly didn’t like pills but was in a great deal of pain most of the time. He chose to ease his discomfort with alcohol.
“Obviously for a man his size, he could drink a lot,” said wrestler Ted DiBiase, “The Million Dollar Man.”
“He hated pills, medicine, and painkillers and stuff, because he saw what it was doing to other guys. So, the way André killed his pain and medicated himself was with booze.”
Although Andre was an avid drinker, he never drank on planes even though he was in pain. André didn’t drink on planes because he couldn’t fit into the bathroom.
Andre also loved to shop on QVC. In fact, in his later years, he became obsessed with buying stuff on QVC.
Before Amazon, there was QVC, the home shopping network right on your TV. From his ranch in North Carolina, André would love to buy that latest miracle product without leaving the comfort of your custom-built home. It was a real chore for André to just go out and shop, so it makes perfect sense that he would be so attracted to the convenience of QVC where he could buy at his leisure and in anonymity.
Andre Had Massive Hands – Myths and Facts About Andre The Giant
Not only did Andre have massive hands, people were fascinated by them as well and they would become a point of focus during interviews and other appearances.
Andre didn’t seem to mind. In fact, he seemed to enjoy covering people’s entire face with his massive hands on TV or in film sequences or holding his favorite beer, Molsen Canadien.
Movies & Television – Myths and Facts About Andre The Giant
Andre loved doing TV interviews and would reveal a great deal about his life during TV interviews. André left home at 14 to seek opportunities outside his small town. He didn’t return home for about five years but when he did, his parents didn’t even know it was him when he knocked on the door. According to a 1981 Sports Illustrated profile, André had grown to nearly 7 feet tall since leaving home and had started wrestling professionally and appearing on TV under the alias Jean Ferré. His parents watched his matches without even realizing it was their son.
During one interview, Andre confessed he wanted to go an see a Broadway play, but he never did because he was reportedly afraid of blocking people’s views due to his massive size.
In regards to movies, perhaps the most notable role for Andre was Fezzik, the gentle giant, who was Vizzini’s (Wallace Shawn) sidekick in the movie, The Princess Bride. However, while filming The Princess Bride, another giant had to be hired to do the “giant stuff.” André’s back problems were so bad during the movie, a double had to be hired to do the onscreen heavy lifting.
“He couldn’t even hold me, said Wright. “I had to be hooked up to cables when I’m supposed to fall into his arms. A hundred pounds…it killed him.”
Andre did keep Robin warm when filming outside by placing his giant hand on Robin Wright’s head. Robin said his massive hand would cover her neck and much of her face.
Clips from The Princess Bride
Andre did appear in a number of films and TV shows other than The Princess Bride.
The Six Million Dollar Man – “The Secret of Bigfoot – I and II” (1976), Bigfoot
B. J. and the Bear – “Snow White and the Seven Lady Truckers” (1981), Manny Felcher
The Greatest American Hero – “Heaven Is in Your Genes” (1983), Monster
“The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough” music video by Cyndi Lauper
Conan the Destroyer (1984), Dagoth (uncredited)
Micki & Maude (1984), Himself
I Like to Hurt People (1985), Himself
The Princess Bride (1987), Fezzik
Trading Mom (1994), Circus Giant
André was also up for the role of “Jaws” in the James Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me; however, the part went instead to 7′ 1″ Richad Kiel.