How did a boy from a small town in France become the Eighth Wonder of the World?

This new documentary from HBO and Bill Simmons tells the story of how little André Roussimoff grew up to become Andre the Giant, one of the most recognizable professional wrestlers in the world.

He was so recognizable, in fact, that it’s surprising to see black and white footage of him as a young man where he just seems tall, actually sort of thin, and without the prominent brow and jaw characteristics of the giant he would become.

4 stars

Modern interviews with Andre’s brothers show that his other family members are all average-sized people. They show items from the French family homestead, such as Andre’s chair at the kitchen table, which his mother had made specially for him with a width at least twice the normal size.

Many people may not realize that Andre was actually, medically, a giant. He had a condition in which his body produced too much growth hormone, resulting in gigantism and acromegaly. This accounted not only for his height, but also for his huge hands and feet, and the sloping forehead and prominent jaw that seemed to get more pronounced throughout his adult life.

In one of the most insightful moments in the movie, a doctor who treated Andre for a minor wrestling injury diagnosed his medical condition for the first time in the 70s and offered treatment that would, if not reverse the disease, at least stop its progress. It likely would have added years to his life. But Andre refused treatment. He was already a wrestling star, travelling the world as a giant.

The documentary features interviews with past wrestling stars, most notably Vince McMahon, owner of what is now World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and Terry Bolea, who you might know better by his ring name, Hulk Hogan. There are genuinely touching moments with each of them as they share detailed insights into Andre’s personality, ego and insecurities.

The highlight of this movie for me is the wealth of behind-the-scenes details about Wrestlemania III. I was in elementary school when Hulk and Andre met in the main event. For kids our age, this wasn’t just the biggest wrestling match of all time, this was one of the most important moments in our lives, period. In case you’re not a wrestling fan, or in case you’ve forgotten that match, I’ll say only that it ended in a way none of us ever could have imagined. It was spectacular, and all these years later, there is an in-depth explanation of how it all came together and how it went down.

But while Andre the wrestler is fully explored, there are large portions of his personal life that are glossed over. For example, there are interviews with two people who are his children, yet there is no indication he ever had a personal relationship with anyone. At one point Hulk Hogan says Andre kept his personal relationships private, and that’s about as much as we learn about that side of him. Which too bad, because these 85 minutes are so good, it definitely leaves you wanting more.

Title Andre the Giant
Director Jason Hehir
Runtime 85 minues
Starring Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, Vince McMahon
Production HBO, Bill Simmons Media Group, WWE