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Andre the Giant Unleashed – Wacky Personal Facts Behind his Towering Persona

Samantha Flaum
Getty Images
Getty Images

Many famous actors’ careers span several fields. Figures like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Terry Crews are know for their beefy figures on screen. Preceding their ranks is an incredibly large man who didn’t choose the body building lifestyle.

In 1946 in Coulommiers, France a Bulgarian émigré Boris and his Polish wife Marianne gave birth to their third child, André René Roussimoff. He is perhaps better known by his wrestling ring name, the Eighth Wonder of the World, or better yet: André the Giant. This sometimes-wrestler, sometimes-actor, full-time giant was measured at 7’ 4”, according to the legend’s eponymous website — a towering height caused by acromegaly, or giantism.

Here are seven facts for every foot of the legendary icon:

 He grew so quickly, he was unrecognizable

André the Giant in the early 1970s

André the Giant in the early 1970s

Upon seeing a Rolls Royce pass by the family’s farm, young André told his father he would one day own such a car. By age 14, he left home, unable to lead a normal life in his small French village. Five years after their son had gone, a knock on the door presented a towering figure who asked, “May I ask how you like the car?” referring to a Rolls Royce limousine behind him. The couple had seen the famous wrestler Jean Ferré on T.V., but neither of them immediately realized that this famous figure was their very own son, as he had grown so much since they last saw him.

 He got rides to school from Samuel Beckett

Beckett offered to drive André to school in his truck

Beckett offered to drive André to school in his truck

Vladimir and Estragon weren’t the only ones waiting for Godot. When André was a child, famous playwright Samuel Beckett lived down the road from the Roussimoff family. The children weren’t provided with a bus for their commute to school, so if Beckett was passing by, he’d occasionally give school children a lift, including André. The relationship didn’t evolve beyond being a helpful neighbor, though.

 He liked a fart joke

Roussimoff’s feud with Jake Roberts derived from Roussimoff’s fear of snakes. Photo by John McKeon CC BY-SA 2.0

Roussimoff’s feud with Jake Roberts derived from Roussimoff’s fear of snakes. Photo by John McKeon CC BY-SA 2.0

According to Andrés opponent and former chauffeur, Jake Roberts, the giant had a funny bone. During a match between the two, Roberts unsurprisingly went down but was surprised when André broke out in laughter, admitting to the referee that he was farting on Roberts. “This went on for like 30 seconds,” remembered Roberts. “Giants fart for extremely long periods of time.”

 He had a shopping channel addiction

Professional wrestler André the Giant walking to the ring in the late 1980s. Photo by John McKeon CC BY-SA 2.0

Professional wrestler André the Giant walking to the ring in the late 1980s. Photo by John McKeon CC BY-SA 2.0

Like most celebrities, André couldn’t comfortably go shopping in public and he relied on sending others to the store for him. A modern marvel allowed him to shop comfortably, however. According to Being Andre the Giant author Denny Burkholder, the famous wrestler developed an obsession with QVC, the shopping channel. Friend Jackie recounts André buying porcelain butterflies from the Franklin Mint and carpet steamers, As Seen on T.V.

 He was impervious to alcohol

Roussimoff feuded with Big John Studd (left) in the build towards WrestleMania I, and later with King Kong Bundy (second from left). Photo by Ethan CC BY-SA 2.0

Roussimoff feuded with Big John Studd (left) in the build towards WrestleMania I, and later with King Kong Bundy (second from left). Photo by Ethan CC BY-SA 2.0

Because of his size and condition, André could drink without feeling much effect. In a 1981 article for Sports Illustrated, Terry Todd enumerates André’s alcohol consumption each day: “a case or so of beer; a total of two bottles of wine, generally French […]; six or eight shots of brandy, usually Courvoisier or Napolèon, though sometimes Calvados; half a dozen standard mixed drinks, such as Bloody Marys or Screwdrivers; and the odd glass of Pernod.” All that couldn’t take the giant down, let alone make him feel tipsy.

Everyday tasks proved difficult for him

André the Giant

André the Giant

An inconvenient side effect of his condition was coming to terms with his size. Normal life sometimes proved unmanageable for André, from dialing a number on a rotary phone (which was an actual issue, as rotary phones didn’t begin to phase out of use until the ‘80s) to never getting the chance to learn to play an instrument, since a single finger would end up playing several notes at once. His hands were so big that they were described as “pawlike” according to Todd, who wrote, “[André] wears a ring through which a silver dollar may easily pass.”

 His condition wasn’t without consequence

Édouard Carpentier and André the Giant

Édouard Carpentier and André the Giant

Acromegaly does not simply effect the size of the person suffering the condition. Throughout his life, André faced impending health issues. Due to his wrestling career, it was only a matter of time before he hurt himself. In 1986, when André was only 40 years old, he had to undergo spinal surgery.

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From then on he relied on a back brace which he hid under his signature black singlet. This caused a great change in the star’s wrestling capabilities, forcing him to use simpler moves which were wrought with pain.

Read another story from us: How Martin Sheen Came to be the Most Arrested Man in Hollywood

His condition eventually got the better of him, and in 1993 André passed away due to heart failure. He will forever be revered for his superior talent in wrestling and, among others, his iconic role in The Princess Bride.

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