Once upon a time, there was a giant. His fingers were like bananas. He was unable to use the phone without dialing four numbers at once or the piano without touching three keys. He could only drive cars with his head outside the sunroof. On airplanes, he had to sit on the ground, since he did not fit in the seats. Moreover, he could never sit in any row of the theater that was not the last.
There was no bathtub big enough for his body to fit in and, according to hotels, he had to shower on his knees. He had a prodigious stomach for both solids and liquids: he could drink 127 cans of beer in one sitting, although some put it at almost 200. His name was André René Roussimoff, although everyone knew him and still knows him as André the Giant. After changing the history of wrestling (professional wrestling), he has become a pop icon revered throughout the planet.
10. Inspiration for Samuel Beckett
In principle, however, no one knew that the giant was going to be a giant. He was big, yes, but nothing extraordinary. He was just a good boy born in Coulommiers, France, in 1946. Maybe too good looking! In his adolescence, André soon knew that his height was going to bring him an unusual life. Few in his village could suspect, for example, that not being able to sit on the bus, due to his corpulence, would cause his driver to be a Nobel Prize winner: the one and only, the playwright Samuel Beckett.
The author of Waiting for Godot bought a piece of land in 1953 near the town of André. There, a cabin was built with the help of some locals. One of those who helped him was a Bulgarian farmer named Boris Roussimoff. He became friends with Beckett. Roussimoff had a son, André the Giant. Beckett learned that Rousimoff had trouble transporting his giant son to school. So, Beckett offered to take André in his truck. The giant child and the future Nobel Prize almost always talked about cricket. What a small world!
9. He was prognosticated to only live until his 40s
At 16, however, André hit another growth spurt. With 2.12 meters, that was already beginning to be extraordinary for someone born in a France of post-war and famine. A recruiter showed up in the village. He wanted to take him to Paris and introduce him to the world of wrestling. In the mornings, he used his extraordinary strength working for a moving company; at night, he trained. Again, with problems: unable to control his strength, his teammates did not want to fight him for fear he would hurt them. Even so, it was evident that the boy was special. Soon, the canopies of the gyms in Paris were filled with their first stage name: Géant Ferrè.
In a record time, even the French capital was too small for someone with its proportions. He started to see the world and, at the age of 22, flew to Japan. The Japanese went crazy due to his size. It attracted as many fans as taxi drivers shied away from him. In a country where the national stature is low, André stood out even more. At an age when he was supposed to have finished developing, André was still growing. He measured 2.17 meters. He visited a doctor. The diagnosis was disheartening: acromegaly. Gigantism. The specialist put an expiration date on his adventures: at age 40, his body would say enough and would die. He was 18 years old. André was willing to enjoy them to the fullest.
8. Making big bucks
When he arrived in the US, his impact was as sensational as it was ephemeral. He understood that his gigantism was going to give him problems even in the ring. The public was bored by the insulting superiority shown in the ring. Nobody thought he could lose a fight. His representatives had a great idea: first, he would change his stage name to André the Giant. In addition, they designed an entire advertising campaign to highlight his qualities: they made him climb into boxes of beer to look even higher in the interviews and advised him not to move around the ring to look more colossal.
André would go around the world and only return to the US rarely. The public went crazy and André became a millionaire. There is, however, a sad point in his life. André is already aware that, for the rest of the mortals, he is a freak. People do not realize that they tire him with their questions about how much he weighed. Too many questions. That is why he went to restaurants in the middle of the afternoon or late at night. He wanted to be polite and nice, but sometimes he found it difficult. Andre would pay for being able to live one day a week as a normal-sized man. He would go shopping, go to the movies, drive a sports car down Fifth Avenue, and look at others instead of being watched.
7. Drink to dodge the pain
2.24 meters. 220 kilograms André grew and grew! He drank and drank! Fabulous stories are told about his ability: that if in a normal day he consumed six bottles of cognac (in service hours). To eat, he was able to take a dozen beers, five bottles of wine, and a few screwdrivers. Unable to move, when he got drunk there was no other option but let him sleep on a piano. Actor Cary Elwes says that when he was traveling to New York, the mayor assigned him a couple of police officers, fearful as he was that he would get drunk and crush a neighbor in his fall.
It seemed that André was hitting the big life, but the reality was very different. His back was shattered from all the chairs that had been broken against his body in the ring. He drank to soothe the pain. His body kept growing, and André suffered continuous and intense pain. He broke an ankle, and the doctors saw it and they wanted it to provide him with some crutches that supported his body. Worse was when he decided to have his back operated to alleviate the pain. It was necessary to fuse two stretchers, since there was no way of entering one, although the anesthetist took the worst part: he was unable to know what dose to administer to sleep to that force of nature.
6. The Princess Bride
Jane Jenkins was the casting director of The Princess Bride, the highly successful comedy directed by Rob Reiner in 1987. Moreover, as part of her work, Jenkins had to choose between hundreds of men of great importance who came to the casting to give life to the giant Fezzik. In an interview with TheWrap, Jenkins explained how André Roussimoff, the world’s greatest wrestler, jumped from the ring to the cinema and became one of the flags of one of the most legendary fantasies and adventure films of recent decades. The casting director confessed that she had met with the director, Rob Reiner, and the author of the book, William Goldman, to decide the profile they were looking for.
Jenkins then called his contact in the World Wrestling Federation and asked him to meet with André to participate in a Rob Reiner movie. What was the problem? André had been hired for a wrestling match in Tokyo for which he would be paid millions, and unless those responsible for the film were willing to match his salary, he was not available. However, everything took an unexpected turn when André’s fight was canceled. Then, Reiner and producer Andrew Scheinman flew directly to Paris to meet the French fighter. Reiner confessed to TheWrap that Scheinman read the lines of the script with André and recorded them on a tape recorder so Andre could study them. To make matters worse, the complications did not stop here. In the first meeting with André, the director Rob Reiner could not understand a word of what the fighter said. Luckily, everything evolved to achieve the great result, remembered fondly by all fans of that mythical title, The Princess Bride.
5. The Giant in Spain
When Andre the Giant visited Spain he wore an erotic ring. It was a gold ring that was engraved “an erotic train, men, and women alternating in erotic positions, forming a circle”. José Luis Ibáñez tells the story, a journalist and writer who during the first years of Telecinco was the voice of the Pressing Catch in Spain with Hector del Mar. He received him in Spain, in 1990, when he came to visit and was his interpreter. A character, André, a horny guy. Taking advantage of the date, Ibáñez remembers how he was when lived in Spain with the brand-new television, how the wrestler was and how the person, who already knew that they are not always the same.
Literally, it did not fit through the doors either across nor on the top. They had a big problem, the journalist explains, there was no bed where he could stay. He had to call the Torrejón de Ardoz military base and, as everyone knew him, they came to help him. Some carpenters occupied a room in the Ritz hotel that they hardly used and there they put a bed in. It was a bunk with the measurements of the American military police, of the marines, which were also huge, and not only that: they installed a campaign shower in the terrace because otherwise there was no way. All the military, Ibáñez explains, took photos with André and everyone knew who he was. In the United States, he had been a star for years.
4. An HBO documentary
Many will remember him for his supporting role in The Princess Bride, but André René Roussimoff, better known as André the Giant, was one of the first and greatest stars of wrestling in the United States. In the 70s, the time when circus wrestling began to become popular as a television phenomenon and after years of consolidating shows in France, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan or Canada, André burst onto the scene soon becoming one of the key characters of the then known as WWF until his retirement in 1992, plagued by numerous problems due to an extremely fragile health due to the hypertrophy of much of his body. André would die the following year to his retirement by a cardiac failure, with only 46 years of age.
The HBO documentary André the Giant portrays the life and legacy of this guy who, although his character in the ring was set to be frightening, everyone appreciated and portrayed as a tremendously affable guy. Produced by Bill Simmons, co-creator of the prestigious program 30 for 30 of ESPN. Many of the people who knew him in the professional environment like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hulk Hogan, Vince McMahon, Rick Flair, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal or Rob Reiner appear in it.
3. 60s kung-fu movie
The truth is that André fought for years before coming to America. In France, it was Jean Ferré (by géant ferré, iron giant). In Japan, it was Monster Roussimoff, and before he came with Vince McMahon Sr. in New York, he was not really a “giant”. That quality was given by McMahon, who named him André the Giant and gave him the guidelines for his fights (no more flying kicks, frogs, etc.). He had to behave like an unstoppable giant, and never should a scene like this happen again in Japan, where Karl Gotch applies his specialty, the German superplex.
However, there is a facet of André little known, which the Uproxx website came back to light. This is André’s participation in a French kung fu movie, called Casse-tête chinois pour le judoka, which in Spanish markets was called Chinese puzzle, which sounds like a tangram. Although it was known of his participation in this film (especially by IMDB), there was nothing on YouTube, until someone uploaded a clip, in which they combine Cantonese and French. The film was directed by Maurice Labro in 1967, and in it we see a 21-year-old André in action scenes, fighting as a judoka. So, it seems more like a UFC fighter than the unstoppable giant we would know later.
2. The giant’s daughter
The existence of this daughter was made public in 1992, a few months before the death of André the Giant, who by then was no longer in WWE and was making his last tours in Mexico and Japan. In the program A Current Affair, produced by the Fox branch in New York, and conducted by Maureen O’Boyle, they broadcast the report Wrestling with his Conscience, where they presented Robin Christensen-Roussimoff, the twelve-year-old daughter of the legendary fighter.
André met Jean Christensen in 1974 and they had a relationship far from the spotlight. She remembers that André was the first man with whom he could feel comfortable wearing heels because with these he was 1.85 meters tall. But when Jean became pregnant, André refused to recognize the paternity of the girl, born in 1980, which led to a legal battle that lasted for years. Finally, the court ordered a pension of $ 750 per month, certainly little for what André, the most sought-after fighter in the world, perceived. In 1991, the pension went up to a thousand dollars a month.
1. Climactic legend
Since his appearance in the world of wrestling, business, like all shows, had changed and had been professionalized in a brutal way. André had to give up the baton to the new rising star, a guy named Hulk Hogan. The event was called WrestleMania III and took place in Michigan. To the call of Hogan and André went the whopping 93,000 spectators, historical record of a covered show. The fans will never forget that picture of André, with a kind of black swimsuit with a single strap. The same thing happened with the graphic designers: Shepard Fairey, founder of the clothing firm Obey, turned it into his logo, and Capcom designed the character of the video game Street Fighter with his pixeled measurements. He had won all the wrestling prizes and championships. André was already a legend.
In 1993, André returned to his native France to attend the funeral of his father. He moved with a lot of difficulty and with the help of a cane. Each day, his driver took him in his suitably adapted luxury car from his five-star Parisian hotel to the Molien village and did what he liked best in the world, as well as eating and drinking: playing cards with his countrymen at the local bar. One day, the car did not appear. André had died at night. Cause of death: heart failure. It was 1993 and he was 46 years old.