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Business Wire/WWE

10 Larger-Than-Life Facts About André the Giant

Business Wire/WWE
Business Wire/WWE

Although a number of professional wrestlers have transcended the squared circle to become worldwide stars—Hulk Hogan, The Rock, and Jesse Ventura among them—few have captivated the public quite like André the Giant. Born André Roussimoff in Grenoble, France on May 19, 1946, the towering grappler stood nearly 7 feet tall and weighed over 500 pounds shortly before his death in 1993 due to heart failure.

It’s fitting that André’s mythological proportions have led to a number of myths surrounding his life, from an exaggerated height (he was often billed as 7 feet, 4 inches) to his alleged propensity for drinking hundreds of beers. HBO's new documentary, which just premiered, may resolve some of those urban legends. In the meantime, we’ve sifted through some of the more sensational stories to separate fact from fiction. As it turns out, the Giant’s life needed no embellishment.

1. SAMUEL BECKETT DROVE HIM TO SCHOOL.

In the 1950s, playwright and novelist Samuel Beckett took up residence in Ussy-sur-Marne in France and commissioned local laborers to construct a cottage. The property was just a few hundred yards from the Roussimoff residence and along a stretch of road where Andre and other school children started their walk to class. (There was no bus.) Like many of the kids, Andre would sometimes accept Beckett's invitation to hop on the back of his pick-up truck to get a ride to school. Over the years, the story has been exaggerated to the point where Beckett and Andre are the only occupants in the truck, though it's unlikely Beckett paid him any particular attention. Still, the unlikely pairing has inspired several plays, including the recent Sam & Dede, Or My Dinner with André the Giant.

2. HE GREW SO FAST HIS OWN PARENTS DIDN’T RECOGNIZE HIM.

Andre the Giant is interviewed ringside by Vince McMahon
Business Wire/WWE

When Andre turned 14, he left home to seek employment and opportunities outside the boundaries of his rural farm community in France. At 19, he visited his parents for the first time, having already broken into the professional wrestling business. According to a 1981 Sports Illustrated profile, André had grown so dramatically in the interim, stretching to nearly 7 feet tall, that his parents did not recognize the stranger who knocked on their door. As André explained his career choice, they realized they had even seen him wrestle on television under his alias, Jean Ferré, without ever knowing they had been watching their own son.

3. HE ENJOYED MOVING CARS AS A PRANK.

André’s dimensions were the result of acromegaly, a disorder of the pituitary gland that causes uninhibited growth hormone secretion. Because his body was so generous in its strength, André rarely (if ever) lifted weights for additional power. His resistance training seemed to come in the form of moving his friends' cars around during nights he was out drinking with friends. The smaller vehicles could be easily slid over to tight spaces or turned to face the opposite direction.

4. HIS FINGERS PRESENTED UNIQUE PROBLEMS.

While André’s height and girth proved to be problematic when it came to traveling—most vehicles made for uncomfortable rides that required him to slouch—his hands and fingers posed special challenges. Said to have fingers so large that silver dollars could pass through his rings, André could never use a conventional rotary phone without sticking a pencil in the dial; learning to play the piano was also out of the question, since one finger would strike three keys at once.

5. HE HAD FUN FARTING ON OPPONENTS.

Andre the Giant poses with several models
Business Wire/WWE

By most accounts, André was a jovial giant, content to play cards, socialize, and enjoy all the food and drink his success afforded him. During matches, he amused himself by stepping on an opponent’s long hair or wringing the sweat from his singlet into their face. In one bout, Jake “The Snake” Roberts recalled that André waited until Roberts was on the mat before he squatted down and unleashed his flatulence. “This went on for like 30 seconds,” Roberts said. "Giants fart for extremely long periods of time."

6. HE LOVED QVC.

When he wasn’t traveling for his wrestling engagements, André largely kept to himself in his North Carolina ranch home, which featured a tree growing through the middle of each of its three stories. Because shopping could be a cumbersome experience, Andre grew fond of QVC, the home shopping channel that had launched in 1986. His friends recalled that André bought several steam cleaners and lots of porcelain butterflies from the channel.

7. RELATIVELY SPEAKING, HE WAS NOT AN EXCESSIVE DRINKER.

Nothing pours fuel on an André story quite like alcohol, with the Giant allegedly consuming over 100 beers in a single sitting. But most of his colleagues report that alcohol had surprisingly little effect on him, with no hangovers or slurred speech affecting his wrestling duties. There were only a handful of exceptions. According to Cary Elwes, his co-star in the 1987 film The Princess Bride, André once drank enough to pass out in a hotel lobby. Since it was impossible to move him, hotel employees arranged a velvet rope around his slumbering frame so he wouldn’t be disturbed. 

8. HE WORE A BACK BRACE UNDER HIS SINGLET.

Andre the Giant poses for a publicity photo in his singlet
Business Wire/WWE

As years of wrestling and his acromegaly condition conspired to affect his health, André underwent spinal surgery in late 1986. When he returned to wrestling, his signature black singlet helped hide a back brace that provided support for his ailing frame. His physical condition was reportedly so diminished at this point that André spent his remaining years in wrestling in pain and able to perform only basic maneuvers. According to his peers, some of Andre's most famous matches—like the bout with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III in 1987—were nowhere near what he had been able to do earlier in his career.

9. BABY OIL REALLY ANNOYED HIM.

For reasons known only to André, his genial demeanor didn’t apply to opponents in the ring who would use baby oil to make their muscles stand out more. André reportedly despised baby oil, and extended that enmity to “Macho Man” Randy Savage, who was disliked by the Giant simply because he used a lot of the stuff while wrestling. “André hated baby oil," Randy’s brother, Larry Poffo, told the Tampa Bay Times in 2017. “But Randy wouldn't stop wearing it. He stubbornly said 'André's gimmick is being a giant and mine is baby oil.' He never backed down from André and they never got along because of it."

10. HE PROBABLY WASN’T AS TALL AS YOU THINK.

Because wrestling is prone to exaggerating size, ability, and accomplishments, it didn’t take much for promoters to latch on to the idea of promoting André as the largest athlete on the planet. From his earliest matches in Montreal, he was billed as being 7 feet, 4 inches tall, enough to exceed the towering Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by two inches. But when André’s height was measured at the age of 24 in 1970, he stood exactly 6 feet, 9 and ¾ inches.

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George De Sota, Getty Images
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12 Fascinating Facts About Rick Moranis
George De Sota, Getty Images
George De Sota, Getty Images

Beloved for his film roles in the 1980s and 1990s, Rick Moranis played perfect iterations of an endearing geek in Ghostbusters (1984), Little Shop of Horrors (1986), Spaceballs (1987), Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), and The Flintstones (1994), amongst others. But in 1997, to the consternation of his many fans, he walked away from it all to focus on raising his family. Although Moranis has been mostly out of the limelight since then, he's kept busy with music and voice work, and he hasn't ruled out the option of appearing on screen again (fingers crossed).

In honor of his 65th birthday, here are some things you might not know about Rick Moranis.

1. HE GOT HIS BIG BREAK THANKS TO A CANADIAN TELEVISION CONTENT REGULATION.

After working at a Toronto radio station after high school, Moranis appeared on a sketch comedy show on the CBC called Second City TV. The show, which was in its third season when Moranis joined in 1980, legally had to devote a few minutes of airtime in each episode to “identifiable Canadian content.” In other words, Canadian television had to contain some Canada-related content, which Moranis found silly.

After the crew went home, Moranis and fellow actor Dave Thomas satirized the requirement by improvising the characters of Bob and Doug McKenzie, two stereotypically Canadian brothers. The sketch filled the extra airtime with Canadian content, and audiences loved Bob and Doug. Moranis and Thomas portrayed the McKenzie brothers in the 1983 film Strange Brew (which they also wrote and directed), and their comedy album The Great White North got a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album in 1983.

2. HE COUNTS FILMING LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS AS ONE OF HIS LUCKIEST MOMENTS.

In 1986, Moranis starred as florist Seymour Krelborn in the film adaptation of the musical Little Shop of Horrors. As he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015: "I'm the luckiest guy to get that … It was timing, and I fit the right type. It was an amazing experience. One of the greatest moments of my life was shooting that thing."

3. HE STARRED IN A PEPSI COMMERCIAL.

In 1995, Moranis starred in a funny Pepsi commercial, playing twins separated at birth—one twin is in America, while the other grows up in Germany. One sunny day, the twins telepathically connect via the power of drinking Pepsi.

4. HE LEFT HOLLYWOOD TO BECOME A STAY-AT-HOME DAD.

In 1991, Moranis's wife died of breast cancer, and he had to reshuffle his priorities in order to take care of his two young children. In a 2005 interview with USA Today, he explained that he stopped making movies in 1996 because he couldn't juggle being a stay-at-home dad and traveling to make movies. "I took a little bit of a break. And the little bit of a break turned into a longer break, and then I found that I really didn't miss it," Moranis said.

5. HE HAS DONE VOICE WORK ON A FEW ANIMATED MOVIES.

Although Moranis shifted his focus from movies to raising kids, he never completely retired. In 2001, he did voice work as both the Toy Taker and Mr. Cuddles the Teddy Bear in the animated film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer & the Island of Misfit Toys. In 2003, he voiced Rutt in the animated film Brother Bear, and reprised the role for its 2006 sequel, Brother Bear 2.

6. HE'S A GRAMMY-NOMINATED MUSICIAN.

In 2005, Moranis let the world know about his love of country music. The Agoraphobic Cowboy is a comedy album comprised of 13 songs inspired by alternative country and bluegrass. Although Moranis admitted that the album began as a lark, it was nominated for a Grammy in 2006 for Best Comedy Album. "I started writing a song," Moranis told Billboard. "I wrote one, and then another one. I was singing them to a couple of friends, and they'd be relatively amused."

7. HIS JEWISH UPBRINGING INSPIRED HIS MOST RECENT ALBUM.

In 2013, Moranis released another musical comedy album called My Mother's Brisket & Other Love Songs. Thematically, Moranis focused on his Jewish upbringing, and he used a mix of klezmer and jazz sounds on songs like "The Seven Days of Shiva" and "Live Blogging The Himel Family Bris." The best part? The deluxe pack of the album comes with a purple yarmulke.

8. HE'S STILL GOT TONS OF FANS.

Moranis lives in Manhattan and often gets recognized on the street. As he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015, "People are very nice when they see me." Moranis attributes some of his enduring influence to his clean style of comedy. "We were governed by a certain kind of taste at that time, and there were places we wouldn't go with language and bodily fluids and functions. I think that's what [fans are] nostalgic for."

9. HE NEVER SOUGHT FAME FOR ITS OWN SAKE.

Moranis says he never decided to be an actor for the fame. Rather, he focused on the art itself, and fame and publicity followed. “The need to do publicity and everything other than the work is not something that I set out to do," Moranis told Heeb in 2013. "For some people it is. They want that. They want the connection to the audience. They want their name in the paper. For me, that was just a by-product of the work's success. I didn't really seek out any of that stuff." He also didn't seek out celebrity friends; he told the magazine that he hasn't kept up with any of his co-stars in more than 20 years.

10. HE AVOIDS AIRPLANES BUT ISN'T AFRAID OF FLYING.

In an interview in 2013, Moranis revealed that he avoids airplanes in favor of driving, but not because he's afraid of flying. Moranis dislikes the dragged out process of flying, from getting to the airport a couple hours early to dealing with sick seatmates. “We started to hear the stories of people stuck on the tarmac for six hours," he said. "If that happens to me, I'll be on the front page of the New York Post the next day. I'll fake a heart attack or melt down. So it’s better for me to stay away from airports."

11. HE DECLINED A ROLE IN THE GHOSTBUSTERS REBOOT.

Although original Ghostbusters stars Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, and Sigourney Weaver all appeared in Paul Feig's Ghostbusters reboot, Moranis wasn't among them. As he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2015, he was offered a cameo role but declined: “I wish them well. I hope it's terrific. But it just makes no sense to me. Why would I do just one day of shooting on something I did 30 years ago?”

12. HE'LL BE BACK ONSCREEN AS SOON AS HE FINDS AN INTERESTING ROLE.

Although Moranis's acting hiatus has lasted more than 20 years, he may act again. His two kids are in their twenties now, and he says he'll act again once he finds an interesting role. “I still get the occasional query about a film or television role, and as soon as one comes along that piques my interest, I'll probably do it,” Moranis said last year. "I'm happy with the things I said yes to, and I'm very happy with the many things I've said no to. Yes, I am picky, and I'll continue to be picky. Picky has worked for me."

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Helen Maybanks, (c) RSC
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Pop Culture
Royal Shakespeare Company Auctions Off Costumes Worn By Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Patrick Stewart, and More
Helen Maybanks, (c) RSC
Helen Maybanks, (c) RSC

The stages of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, England have been graced by some of the most celebrated performers of our day. Now, the legendary theater company is giving fans a chance to own the original costumes that helped bring their characters to life. On April 17, more than 50 costumes worn in RSC productions will hit eBay to raise money for the group's Stitch in Time campaign.

With this new campaign, the RSC aims to raise enough money to renovate the aging workshop where costume designers create all the handmade garments used in their shows. Following a play's run, the costumes are either rented out to other theaters or kept safe in the company's museum collections. Designers often make duplicates of the items, which means that the RSC is able to auction off some of their most valuable pieces to the public.

The eBay costume auction includes clothing worn by some of the most prolific actors to work with the company. Bidders will find Patrick Stewart's beige shorts from the 2006 production of Antony and Cleopatra, David Tennant's white tunic from 2013's Richard II, Ian McKellen's red, floor-length coat from 2007's King Lear, and Judi Dench's black doublet from 2016's Shakespeare Live! Costumes worn by Anita Dobson, Susannah York, and Simon Russell Beale will also be featured.

All proceeds from the auction go to restoring the RSC's costume workshop. Shakespeare fans have until April 27 to place their bids.

Patrick Stewart in Antony and Cleopatra.
Pascal Molliere, (c) RSC

Actors in stage play.
Manuel Harlan, (c) RSC

Actor in stage play.
Kwame Lestrade, (c) RSC

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