The Princess Bride is a beloved film remembered for fencing, fighting, revenge, true love, miracles, and of course, André the Giant. The cast and crew have plenty of stories about André Roussimoff and his time working on the set of The Princess Bride, and they've shared many of these since the film's 1987 release and Roussimoff's passing in 1993. Their tales prove that the audience wasn't the only group enthralled by the gentle giant.
Over the years, numerous stories have cropped up about the making of The Princess Bride, but despite the film's numerous memorable characters, much of the fascination falls squarely upon Roussimoff's shoulders. These are some of the best behind-the-scenes stories about André the Giant from the making of The Princess Bride.
One of the benefits of hiring a wrestler to play Fezzik was his baked-in acting ability. Thanks to his professional wrestling background, Roussimoff knew how to move without much - if any - guidance from director Rob Reiner. While he did have some difficulty pronouncing his lines, he required very little physical direction.
According to Reiner, "He had never [acted] before. He was a natural actor from being in, you know, the wrestling ring. They were always pure. He never made false moves. He would do things that were totally natural. I mean you never had to tell him, you know, physical stuff... He always did the right thing."
During filming, André Roussimoff often felt overheated, whereas Robin Wright, who played Buttercup, shivered from the cold. To combat this problem, the two worked out a plan, which Westley's actor, Cary Elwes, described in his book, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of 'The Princess Bride':
[Roussimoff], sweetheart of a man that he was, devised a technique to keep [Wright] warm, which was very simple really. He would use one of his hands as a hat on top of Robin's head. She said it was like having a giant hot water bottle up there, and it certainly did the trick - and he didn't even mess up her hair!
Roussimoff was born and raised in Grenoble, France, and spoke French as his primary language. While he learned some English early in his wrestling career, he wasn't entirely comfortable speaking it. To overcome this hurdle, director Rob Reiner recorded all of Fezzik's dialogue onto cassette tapes. Roussimoff could then memorize the script by hearing, not reading, which aided his pronunciation.
Reiner described first meeting Roussimoff at a Paris bar:
I brought him up to the hotel room to audition him. He read this three-page scene, and I couldn’t understand one word he said. I go, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do? He’s perfect physically for the part, but I can’t understand him!’ So I recorded his entire part on tape, exactly how I wanted him to do it, and he studied the tape. He got pretty good!
Roussimoff was constantly in pain due to back problems resulting from his physical size. According to Cary Elwes, he drank to dull this pain, since no pharmaceutical pain relief could effectively combat his mass. He underwent back surgery in 1986, which made walking for extended periods particularly difficult. The resulting pain prevented him from performing any of his stunts unassisted.
In the fight scene between Fezzik and the Man in Black, Roussimoff couldn't manage the strain on his back. This was remedied by clever camera tricks and hidden ramps for each actor to stand upon, creating the illusion that Elwes was on Roussimoff's back when, in reality, they were merely walking beside one another.
In another scene, Fezzik catches Buttercup after she jumps down to him from a window. This stunt was equally difficult for Roussimoff, so Wright was lowered by a wire rig and safely "dropped" into Roussimoff's arms.