The Short, Sad On-Screen Career of André the Giant

Illustration for article titled The Short, Sad On-Screen Career of André the Giant

By all accounts, André René Roussimoff—better known by his stage name André the Giant—was a kind but profoundly tormented man, plagued by both the psychological and physical pains of his gigantism, both of which worsened in the years leading up to his death at age 46.


Although best known as a professional wrestler, character actor video essay series No Small Parts devoted its most recent episode to Roussimoff’s career in TV and film, such as it was. For a man who wanted little else but to blend in, his credits reveal a lifetime of exploitation to greater or lesser extents—as a brute, a faceless villain, or worst of all, as the butt of slapstick jokes mocking him for his size. Even by character actor standards, André was doled out the smallest of bit parts.

But by the same turn, a lifetime of being The Big Dumb Guy in movies, TV, or pro wrestling is what makes his performance in The Princess Bride so memorable and genuine. In the same year that Roussimoff served as little more than a prop to propel Hulk Hogan’s career in Wrestlemania 3, he was also shooting the film that would become his enduring legacy—the one role where his size was a part of his character, not the entirety of it.

Unlike The Princess Bride itself, Roussimoff’s career doesn’t have a happy ending. He never took on another major role due to his failing health, and passed away about 5 years later. But based on interviews and behind-the-scenes footage dug up by No Small Part’s Brandon Hardesty (himself a character actor), on the set of Bride André was finally able to blend in and find the sense of normality he had always craved.

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Actually, the Princess Bride doesn’t technically have a happy ending. As William Goldman wrote at the end, Inigo’s wound reopens, Westley relapsed, Fezzik took a wrong turn and Buttercup’s horse threw a shoe, while the prince’s horses followed in pursuit. “Life isn’t fair. It’s just fairer than death, that’s all.”