The way people build up moments such as this you might think that there was something clandestine behind the role that meant Kareem Abdul-Jabbar turned down something that was meant to be. But surprisingly the producers of The Princess Bride didn’t offer the role of Fezzik to anyone except Kareem, though many others apparently auditioned for it. Looking back at it now though a lot of people might go ahead and say that Andre the Giant really turned in a great role no matter that he wasn’t the first choice. Unfortunately he had to turn it down since he was still active in the NBA at that time and filming wouldn’t have coincided with his schedule. He did go on to act in several different productions eventually however since he’s been seen to show up in various movies and TV shows over the years, making good use of his time by making an appearance in various places. But as far as The Princess Bride goes it does feel as though the character of Fezzik was best served by being played by Andre largely because he was the lovable giant that a lot of people knew and managed to get along with. Obviously his health wasn’t always the best and he had to be handled with kid gloves at some times thanks to his back, but he did his absolute best and made the part stand out in a big way.
Kareem on the other hand felt a little too serious for the role from a personal standpoint, though he did well in Airplane! since he was pretty funny and hard not to like. He’s even showed up in other movies throughout the years and did manage to get a part in The Stand miniseries years back as the doomsayer that confronted Larry and was then struck dead by the main antagonist, Randall Flagg. He’s also showed up in other movies such as Game of Death with Bruce Lee, Forget Paris with Billy Crystal, and a couple of cameos here and there such as in the movie BASEketball with Trey Parker and Matt Stone. So to be fair he’s been plenty busy following his basketball days and he’s had a lot to do outside the movies, TV, and off the court as well. But thinking back to The Princess Bride it’s kind of easy to think that while he could have been a decent Fezzik, it still might not have matched up to Andre’s performance simply because from a physical standpoint Andre kind of epitomized what a lot of people would think of when speaking of a giant. He was absolutely huge after all, and while Kareem stood at 7’2″ and Andre was billed out at 7’4″ (he was really closer to seven feet tall), they were both quite literally giants, though the rumors of Andre’s actual size have been debated now for a while.
Andre’s size, as far as how bulky he was, also stood out as another giant-like trait that was hard to ignore since Kareem didn’t really have that girth, which would have left him looking more like a dark-skinned Slenderman in a way, though it’s easy to think that those working on the design of Fezzik would have made him look a little friendlier. All in all though he was great for his role in Game of Death because he looked like an honest challenge for someone of Bruce Lee’s size, as his reach is just amazing and trying to get inside on such a character would have to be a little difficult at least. As Fezzik though, the character selected for the role only really needed to be big, strong, and not too terribly bright but not stupid either. This also feels as though it would have worked against Kareem since he’s a rather intelligent man. So was Andre, but the truth is that his appearance did make a lot of people think that he might be a little dim, despite the fact that he was an intelligent person and was also quite influential in the WWF, pre-WWE , locker room. To say that Kareem would have done a better job is hard to do with a straight face and with a definitive voice since we’ll never know, but at the very least it’s interesting to find out that he was the first pick for the role. It does make one think that there are times when the first pick isn’t exactly the best pick and that if producers can’t get who they want then they go to the next best thing and sometimes strike absolute gold.
Obviously Kareem went on to have a successful career despite not taking this role, and for the rest of us we managed to get a Fezzik that looked and acted like a true giant.