'Andre the Giant: Life and Legend' - Book Review

Andre the Giant: Life and Legend
by Box Brown
First Second, 240 pages


There's a wonderful photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger on the set of "Conan the Destroyer" (so probably in 1983) standing between Wilt Chamberlain and André the Giant. Schwarzenegger looks small (not a word you ever thought you'd hear in association with the man), even though he was at the height of his muscularity at the time. Chamberlain (who is listed as 7'1") and André are roughly the same height. Sadly this photo isn't part of the book, but you can find it easily by searching Google Images for the names of the people involved.

"André the Giant" is possibly the most famous professional wrestler who ever lived. He suffered from acromegaly, a disease that was to kill him at the age of 46. It also made him enormous: his billed height was 7'4", although it's more likely he was 7'2". And for many people, he will forever be remembered for his wonderful portrayal of Fezzik in the great movie "The Princess Bride." It's from this movie that I know him best (I had friends in university in the 1980s who were fans of wrestling, I never was - but I've seen the movie six or seven times): it's always been my belief that he wasn't a very good actor, and thus the charming personality that shines through in the movie is probably who he was. (Let me believe it.)

Box Brown has written a 240 page graphic novel about André: he's clearly researched it as much as he could, but as he's quick to point out in the introduction, the scripted nature of professional wrestling - and the decades long denial that it was scripted - leads to some difficulty in ascertaining which oft-repeated stories are true. Oddly, after all that research, he must have known André's full name: "André René Roussimoff," and yet throughout the book he refers to him exclusively as "Andre" (without the accent on the E).

Sadly, the end result feels a little thin (on details - not so much in the physical sense at 240 pages ...). It feels like a mix of apocrypha and stuff I already knew. Brown is right: it's very hard to know which of the many stories about him are true. Perhaps we'll know some day: for now, I'll remember him as Fezzik.