Imagine a man who stood 7’4″ tall and weighed in at about 520 lbs, almost all of which was pure muscle. He drew stares wherever he went, and he was even rejected from the French army for being too large. So, he decided to capitalize on his massive size.
Of course, we are talking about none other than the legendary Andre the Giant.
We know him from his incredible career as a wrestler, who remained undefeated for an unprecedented 15-year span. We know him as the actor who played the gentle giant Fezzik in The Princess Bride. And we know him from Shepard Fairey’s “Andre the Giant has a Posse” street art campaign. That said, most of Andre’s private life was shielded from the public eye. HBO is about to release a documentary about Andre’s life that is sure to be illuminating, as Esquire reports.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Andre’s Massive Size Was Due to Gigantism & Acromegaly, Which Ultimately Inspired Him to Become a Professional Wrestler
André René Roussimoff was born on May 19, 1946 in Grenoble, France. He was of Slavic ancestry. There are rumors that his grandfather also suffered from Acromegaly. By age 12, Andre was over 200 lbs. and 6′ tall. When he was in primary school, he was often given a ride by none other than the famous playwright Samuel Beckett. When asked what he and Beckett used to talk about during their drives, André answered “cricket.”
After finishing school, André tried to enlist in the French army, but he was rejected due to his massive size. He then set his sights on becoming a professional wrestler. In order to fund his education, he worked full-time as a mover. After completing his training, André quickly became noticed because of his size and skills in the wrestling ring. He was able to travel extensively throughout Europe, and soon became known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Later, he was able to travel to places like New Zealand and Africa, further from his home than he had ever been before, as Deadspin reports.
André was also given various other monickers as he began his wrestling career. He was called “the Butcher” and “the Monster” before finally simply settling on “the Giant.”
2. Andre Could Drink 156 Beers in One Sitting
Not surprisingly, André could eat and drink a lot. In addition to being able to consume over 100 beers in one sitting, it was rumored that it took two bottles of vodka for André to become even slightly intoxicated. André infamously drank 127 beers in a hotel lobby once and passed out. Due to his massive size, not even a group of people could move him. They simply draped a piano cover over him and let him sleep. He even drank 16 bottles of wine on his own before competing in a battle against 20 other wrestlers. This information proved to be useful when André was hospitalized and the doctors were trying to determine how much morphine to give him.
In addition to his love of alcohol and incredible tolerance, André loved to eat. He could eat 12 steaks and 15 lobsters in one sitting. However, André didn’t do that often; he did it from time to time to have a laugh and put on a show. André was always a showman and a crowd pleaser, inside the ring or out.
To put it bluntly, André was a man of large appetites.
His Strength Was So Powerful That it Almost Defied Physics
André’s strength and prowess was evident each time he dominated in the ring, lifting his opponents into the air as if they were weightless. However, as if that weren’t impressive enough, André did other things to show his seemingly superhuman strength. For example, after dining with Wilt Chamberlain and Arnold Schwarzenegger, he famously listed up Arnold as if he were weightless and put him on top of a car. Another time, he is rumored to have lifted up a car with four people inside.
André enjoyed a 15-year winning streak during his career as a professional wrestler. He had many rivalries during that time, which were dramatically played up for the audience and to create a buzz. It was Hulk Hogan who would ultimately defeat him. That said, at that point in his career, André was suffering from some serious health problems and had sustained multiple injuries.
In fact, there was a reason André always wore his signature one-shouldered suit; he suffered from a back injury and constantly wore a brace. The one-shouldered piece was specifically designed to hide the brace.
Wrestling wasn’t André’s only career option. The Washington Redskins tried to recruit him as a defensive linesman. However, once André retired from wrestling, he stuck to acting and other endeavours which would be less taxing on his already strained body.
Andre also enjoyed appearing on TV and loved to joke around during interviews, such as when he was David Letterman’s guest.
4. The Role of Fezzik in The Princess Bride Was Written Specifically With André in Mind
William Goldman, who wrote The Princess Bride, stated that the role of Fezzik, the gentle giant was written specifically with André in mind, as Mental Floss reports. Though The Princess Bride was not André’s only acting experience, it was by far his favorite.
Fezzik is said to have been similar in personality to André. A good-natured, loyal person with a light-hearted sense of humor. André’s most famous scene in the film is when he’s attempting to help control a boat and refuses to stop making puns. “Stop rhyming and I mean it!” screams Vizzini. Fezzik responds with “anybody want a peanut?”
André later said that his favorite thing about making The Princess Bride was that no one stared at him while making the film. Although André drew stares from people his entire life, he was never able to completely ignore it, and it bothered him. Actor Cary Elwes once said that during the making of the film, André got drunk and passed out on top of someone. From that point forward, André had to be followed and monitored, to protect anyone else from being injured.
5. Andre Was Only 46 When He Died Due to Congestive Heart Failure
André died in January of 1993 at the age of 46. He left behind a daughter, Robin.
André died of congestive heart failure and is believed to have died in his sleep while in Paris, biography.com reports. It is believed that his massive size put a great deal of strain on his circulatory system. He was discovered by his chauffeur.
Sadly, André’s father died only a month before André did, and his burial was just weeks before André’s death.
Though André left us much too soon, his legacy lives on.