Welcome back to Whatever Happened To…, a weekly column where we unearth a pop culture personality from the deep, dark recesses of your over-stimulated psyches. Because nostalgia is fun! For this second installment we present you with Andre the Giant, the large man who won our hearts over in The Princess Bride — which we watched for the first time ever last night. We’re going to pause here so that you can judge us for having never seen the canonical movie before. Done? OK, so back to Andre.
First off, our only reference point for Andre is those Shepard Fairey OBEY posters. We didn’t realize he was a French wrestler. The back story: A promoter named Lord Alfred Hayes discovered him as a kid, and brought him to Paris, where he became a national sensation. From there, Andre went on to pro wrestle in Japan, and then in Montreal, Canada. Once his novelty wore off, he stopped making money. Wrestling gurus Vincent J. McMahon and his son, Vince McMahon, Jr., advised Andre to develop a more nomadic lifestyle to keep his “act” fresh. He made his WWF debut in 1973 and was considered the “highest paid wrestler in history” by The Guinness Book of World Records in 1974.
Throughout his career in the US, Andre had public feuds with the likes of Killer Khan, Big John Studd, and most notably, Hulk Hogan. By this point, the strain that his massive size and weight (a rumored 7’4″ and 520 lbs.) was putting on his joints made his life a painful one in and out of the ring. There’s also some more wrestling drama involving Jake “The Snake” Roberts (a guy who would always bring snakes into the ring because they scared Andre) and a much young wrestler, The Ultimate Warrior, who kicked his ass. Andre was the first ever inductee into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1993.
He was also acting this whole time, playing random roles like Bigfoot in The Six Million Dollar Man and Fezzik in The Princess Bride. His lifelong dream was to see a Broadway show, but he was always too worried about his size to attend one.
Andre died in his sleep in Paris in 1993; ironically, he was in town for his father’s funeral. His ashes were scattered on a farm in the small North Carolina town where he lived most of his adult life.
He will be remembered fondly. At least by us.