After close to two years of developing the long-anticipated Andre the Giant documentary, HBO released the 90-minute special on the Eighth Wonder of the World earlier this week. The network’s venture in association with WWE provided aspects of Andre’s background, but made sure to hit and highlight his (and his profession’s) biggest moments.
As director Jason Hehir explained on a podcast released after the debut of the documentary, HBO wanted to tell an A and a B story. The A story was the obvious — an overview of André Roussimoff. The B story evolved into how wrestling came to be.
It was the latter that received some criticism, as viewers wondered why a film dedicated to the life of Andre the Giant told so much of the story on Hulk Hogan’s own rise to the top of the company.
For Hehir, the Hogan bit was necessary from a nostalgic point of view as he meshed that into Andre the Giant’s story. From the Ringer:
“I was trying to think, we’ll start in France and end in France. We’ll tell this A story and B story, where he was from, where he got to and I was overthinking it. The visceral enjoyment that people get from a lot of these documentaries is just cool B roll and fun characters and great sound bites. It’s not that difficult a formula,” said Hehir.
“I was really fascinated with that storyline at WrestleMania III with (Hulk) Hogan. If we just portray it as a sporting event, then everybody knows what happened and you have a certain amount of skepticism. That was true suspense. When they went in the ring, no one truly knew what was going to happen. We established earlier in the film that, whatever Andre wanted to happen happened. He just had that kind of power and that kind of strength. If he didn’t want to go along with the script and he was in a bad mood that day, it wasn’t happening. He could have walked out of there with that belt and Vince would have had to adjust the entire evolution of that business.”
That entire evolution of the business is apparent as the focal point for the B story. If fans were frustrated with how much the documentary focused on Hogan, earlier cuts may have been infuriating. Hehir notes that prior cuts with Hogan were borderline in taking over the documentary entirely, taking the focus away from Andre and shifting to Hogan’s huge star power.
Here’s how Hehir handled that:
“Vince Sr. banished Hogan from WWF for filming Rocky. He came back and went to the Minnesota territory, and that’s where Hulkamania started. Then Vince [K. McMahon] realized, ‘Alright, we’re going to take him over.’ That always fascinated me — how one guy went against the wishes of his father,” said Hehir.
“What helped was that you need to keep on peppering Andre in somehow. What happened was when [Hogan] won the title from Sheik in ’84, Andre the Giant was there pouring champagne on him and that was a deliberate attempt on passing the torch as the alpha dog to Hulk Hogan.”
That passing of the torch led to the explosion of pro wrestling around the world and one of the most iconic moments in wrestling history, when Hogan slammed Andre at WrestleMania III. Whether fair or not, the documentary’s focus never deviated from what it said it would be — telling the story of the wrestler, Andre the Giant, with bits broken in on who he was as a person.