Shrek is such a cartoon exaggeration that it seems like if he were based on a real person, it would be loosely, but it turns out that the artists who worked on Shrek had a real life model that looked exactly like their green ogre with a heart of gold.
Russian-born French professional wrestler Maurice Tillet, also known as “The French Angel” is the real life Shrek. Tillet has such exaggerated features because in his twenties he developed acromegaly, a condition where the body has took much growth hormone, and the bones and tissue continue to get larger.
Here he is at age 13 before developing the disorder:
Maurice wrestled in Europe and the U.S. in the 30s and 40s. In 1950 sculptor Louis Linck made several busts of Maurice, which have a greenish tinge. Two of the masks are on display at The Weightlifting Hall of Fame and York Barbell Museum.
An anonymous blogger who says he worked at Dreamworks art department during the time that Shrek was being developed says he had photos of oddballs, including wrestlers like “‘The Swedish Angel’,’Irish Angel’ and the ‘French Angel’. They may well have inspired the modelers who sculpted Shrek.” The modeler and artist who worked on Shrek have remained quiet about their inspiration, but there has been no flat-out denial that Maurice inspired Shrek.
Shrek was voice by Mike Myers, but the role originally went to Chris Farley, who recorded nearly 90% of the film before he passed away of a drug overdose in 1997. The Chris Farley version of Shrek had a different plotline and Shrek was originally much sweeter. His love interest Princess Fiona was to be voiced by Janeane Garofalo, but when the movie was reworked she was fired from the film. “I was never told why. I assume because I sound like a man sometimes? I don’t know why,” Janeane told Film.com in 2007. “Nobody told me… But, you know, the movie didn’t do anything, so who cares?” As much as we love Janeane, she’s wrong about that. Shrek, was was released in 2001, made $484.4 million at the box office and launched a successful movie franchise for Dreamworks.
Here’s some early Shrek artwork compared the the Shrek that ended up looking strikingly like Maurice Tillet: