Tuesday night saw the HBO premier of Jason Hehir’s “André The Giant,” a look inside the life of André Roussimoff, a man referred to as “The Eighth Wonder of the World.”
This documentary explores his rise to universal stardom in the sport of professional wrestling, explains his health struggles with acromegaly and interviews several of those who were closest to him. Hehir’s film reveals the humanity of being a real-life human giant, living in a world that was completely scripted around him.
Roussimoff was born forty miles outside of Paris in Moliens, France. At the age of fifteen, it was clear something was different about him. Acromegaly, a disease often referred to as gigantism, began to really affect his life. The condition is caused by a tumor of the pituitary gland which produces too much growth hormone if left untreated.
Andre’s body grew to 7’4” tall and to a billed weight of 520 pounds. It distorted features of his face and gave him indescribably huge hands and feet to support such a massive frame. The film’s early footage of Andre was so different than what the world now knows him as. “Le Geant Ferre” would not quite cut it in the United States, and the traveling spectacle Andre the Giant was born.
As André grew, so did the mythology surrounding him. Stories of his strength, his drinking ability, and even his flatulence turned him into the stuff of legend. Friends of The Giant were happy to talk about the old memories. “He despised ‘The Macho Man’ Randy Savage,” Hulk Hogan said in the film. Roussimoff would explode at him for coming into the locker room covered in baby oil.
“For those guys who thought they were tough guys in this business, André would straighten them out real quick.” said Hogan. André was tough and completely capable of overwhelming any of his co-workers with ease. But Hehir included other stories that show another side of the Giant. Out of the ring, he was an insecure individual.
Imagine never being able to walk out in public without being recognized. Even the most famous of celebrities can throw on a ball cap and sunglasses and go unnoticed and unbothered. This was not the case for André, who had no way to hide his seven-foot, five hundred pound frame.
Hehir makes André feel relatable to the audience. André wanted what everyone in life wants—acceptance. This was a man who could only be comfortable in his own skin while inside the ring. Outside of his workplace was a completely different story.
No car was big enough, no furniture was comfortable. At one point, a former travel partner and friend describes what Andre had to go through just to use the bathroom on an airplane on the countless fourteen-hour flights taken while beginning his wrestling career. So many normal parts of life were extremely inconvenient for André.
The climax of the documentary comes with the match between André and Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III before a sold-out Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. At the time, in 1987, the attendance of over 93,000 was the largest for an indoor event ever held in North America.
With André’s body failing him, the WWF had decided it was finally time to pass the torch to Hogan. However, it was not until well into the match that Andre called for Hogan to slam him that anyone, including the producers, knew for sure that The Giant would stick to the script. It was an epic moment.
There are still holes in the film that leave the audience wondering exactly what kind of man André was. He had a daughter who acknowledged in the interview that he was gone for much of her childhood traveling for his work. Still, the movie never delves into the relationship he had with her mother. This is a very pro-André documentary, but whether you are a fan of wrestling or not, this is a film worth watching.