Matthew McGrory, who appeared in Tim Burton's 2003 movie "Big Fish" and Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects," died on Tuesday in Los Angeles from natural causes, according to a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office. He was 32.
Initial autopsy results were inconclusive, so further tests will be required to determine a definitive cause of the actor's death.
Though his deep voice and towering height — he was 7 feet 6 inches tall — helped him land roles in a variety of movies, McGrory began his media career in the 1990s with guest spots on Howard Stern's radio show and Oprah Winfrey's daytime talker, graduating to appearances in music videos, including Marilyn Manson's "Coma White" and Iron Maiden's "The Wicker Man."
Born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, on May 17, 1973, McGrory weighed 15 pounds and was already 2 feet tall at birth. In 1998, the Guinness Book of World Records judged him to have the largest feet of any living person — one foot measured 17 inches, the other 17 1/2, and he wore a size 29 1/2 shoe. McGrory, who played drums and attended law school, decided to pursue an acting career when his outsized proportions began netting him media exposure.
The attention led to his first film role, in the low-budget horror flick "The Dead Hate the Living!" (1999), and later gigs as a human Sasquatch in "Bubble Boy" (2001), an alien in "Men in Black II" (2002) and Tiny Firefly in Rob Zombie's "House of 1000 Corpses" (2003) and this year's sequel, "The Devil's Rejects." He also made cameos on a number of TV shows, including "Malcolm in the Middle," "Charmed" and "Carnivale."
But he was best known for portraying Karl in 2003's "Big Fish," a soft-spoken colossus whose size doesn't intimidate Ewan McGregor's character. At the time of his death, McGrory was filming a movie chronicling the life of another beloved big man, "Andre: Heart of the Giant," about professional wrestler and "Princess Bride" actor Andre "The Giant" Rousimmoff.
"He was sick of playing a carnival act and we came up with the idea for the Andre movie together," said the film's director, Drew Sky. "I wrote the script and he read it and said, 'Oh my God, this is me.' " Sky said it was in another of their collaborations, completed last year, "Planet of the Pitts," where McGrory did his best work. "It was a dark comedy and he liked it because I didn't typecast him," Sky said. "He played a tough guy who works for this diva and lays down the law for her."
Sky said he built a friendship with McGrory outside of their film work together and saw that the actor had a good sense of humor about his size and liked to joke around with friends, but was hindered at times by his stature. "Like Andre, sometimes he just wanted to be able to walk around and be a regular guy and not have people ask him how tall he is or how much he weighs," Sky said. "He wanted to ride in a sports car and he loved making movies, but it made him sad that he couldn't even go to theaters to watch them because he was too big for the seats."
McGrory was scheduled to film a big scene in "Heart of the Giant" on Sunday, but called in sick. Sky said he had been saving up many of McGrory's scenes for the end of shooting due to the actor's health problems and is unsure now if he will be able to complete the film.