ANDRE THE GIANT WAS BRILLIANT, BUT NOT STRONG
For the role of big (but not-so-bad) Fezzick, Reiner says there was no one else he could think of to play the part except Andre the Giant. Andre Roussimoff, who died of heart failure in 1993 at age 46, had a syndrome called acromegaly, which causes an excess of growth hormone — making him huge, but putting terrible strain on his body.
Reiner: Andre was incredible. He was a really smart guy. He grew up in the same village as [Nobel prize-winning playwright] Samuel Beckett, who wrote Waiting for Godot. And they were friends. [Beckett] used to take him to school. So Andre used to hang out with Samuel Beckett before he was in the [World Wrestling Federation.]
He was the only guy for the part. [Screenwriter and novelist] Bill Goldman said, ‘You’ve got to get Andre the Giant,’ but it took us a long time to find him. He was wrestling in Tokyo, and then arrived in France and [his representatives] said, ‘You can meet him.’ So I came into the hotel and the guy behind the desk said, ‘There’s a man waiting for you at the bar.’ I walk in, and there’ s a large man sitting on two barstools. He was huge!
We auditioned him. I read a little scene with him. And I didn’t understand a word he said.
The big man’s thick French accent, coupled with his deep, rumbling voice, meant he would have to practice speaking the lines phonetically.
Reiner: I sent him his part on tape. I recorded his entire part.
Reitman: Your voice?
Reiner: Me, personally. And I said, ‘Listen to this, and study it.’ And he studied it. We never had to [re-record his dialogue.] He learned the whole thing [phonetically.]
Reitman: How was Andre with doing stunts, given his wrestling background?
Reiner: Here’s the interesting thing. We figured, ‘This will be the easy part. He can do the wrestling’ But he had a horrendous bad back, and couldn’t do it. He couldn’t carry Cary on his back. I used a stunt guy [for Fezzick], oddly enough, for the wide shots when Cary is on his back.
Reitman: Where do you find a stuntman the size of Andre the Giant?
Reiner: Nowhere. He was about 6-foot-5, and Andre was about 7-foot-5.
Onscreen, Westley is running into Fezzick’s formidable chest, making no progress in his fight.
Reiner: With this, Andre was okay. This he could do.
Now Westley hangs from the giant’s back as the large man lumbers around the rocky field.
Reiner: Here, Cary’s feet are on a wooden plank to take his weight off of Andre, who couldn’t carry it. He couldn’t catch the Princess Bride at the end either.
Reitman: I’m even more impressed with Andre’s acting now.