Fact Check: Rumor Says Shrek Was Inspired by Russian-French Wrestler Maurice Tillet. Here's What We Found

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Getty Images


The character of Shrek was based on the appearance of a Russian-French wrestler named Maurice Tillet.


Rating: Unfounded
Rating: Unfounded

On May 28, 2024, a Facebook user claimed the movie character Shrek was inspired by the appearance of a 20th century Russian-French wrestler named Maurice Tillet.

The Facebook user wrote: "The creator of the popular cartoon Shrek, William Steig, drew his character from the professional wrestler Maurice Tillet."


Similar claims appeared on X in January, April and May 2024. Together, the posts had amassed more than 150,000 views at the time of this writing.

However, the rumor existed online years before those posts, with Snopes finding examples of it from 2013, 2012 and 2011. The earliest iteration we found was on a now-defunct blog site called Panterhouse (archived here), which simply referred to Tillet as "Maurice Shrek" in the headline of a post published on March 24, 2007. That same day, a Reddit user uploaded a link to the blog post and called Tillet "the REAL Shrek."

Blogging site Neatorama published a similar post two days later, which referenced the Panterhouse and Reddit posts. Neatorama also referred to Tillet as the "real life Shrek."

However, Snopes found no evidence the character of Shrek was based on the wrestler, despite their seeming resemblance. The earliest online examples of the rumor suggest it originated as hearsay or speculation, which is why we have rated this claim as "Unfounded."

Snopes contacted representatives for DreamWorks Animation — the production company behind the "Shrek" movie franchise — its parent company, NBC Universal, and Amblin Partners — the parent company of DreamWorks Pictures — for comment on whether the animation was inspired by Tillet and will update this article if we receive responses.

The "Shrek" movie franchise was loosely based on a children's picture book of the same name, "Shrek!" The book was written by William Steig, who died on Oct. 3, 2003, and therefore could not be contacted to determine whether his character was based on the 20th-century wrestler.

Snopes found no proof Steig ever described Tillet as the inspiration behind his "Shrek!" character, despite numerous news outlets reporting on the rumor over the years.


'Maurice Tillet (1903-1954), the REAL Shrek'. Reddit.com, 24 Mar. 2007, https://www.reddit.com/r/reddit.com/comments/1ck9c/maurice_tillet_19031954_the_real_shrek/.

'Meet The Man Rumored To Have Inspired Shrek'. HuffPost UK, 29 Dec. 2014, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/real-life-shrek-inspiration-maurice-tillet-french-angel-photos_n_6391422.

'Real Life Shrek.' Neatorama, 26 Mar. 2007, https://www.neatorama.com/2007/03/26/real-life-shrek/.

'Shrek!' Macmillan Publishers, 12 Feb. 2021, https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780312384494/shrek.

The New Shelton Wet/Dry. 28 Mar. 2007, https://web.archive.org/web/20070328045014/https://www.pantherhouse.com/newshelton/for-five-minutes-can-you-not-be-yourself/.

'Was This Man The Inspiration For Shrek?' Yahoo News, 9 Mar. 2016, https://uk.news.yahoo.com/was-this-man-the-inspiration-for-shrek-135145727.html.

William Steig | Biography, Books, & Facts | Britannica. 26 Apr. 2024, https://www.britannica.com/biography/William-Steig.

'William Steig' 'Maurice Tillet' - Google Search. https://www.google.com/search?q=%22william+steig%22+%22maurice+tillet%22&sca_esv=361416631b2a74db&ei=KOxZZvW5B-jBhbIP_bG3uA8&ved=0ahUKEwj17dzdmbiGAxXoYEEAHf3YDfcQ4dUDCBA&uact=5&oq=%22william+steig%22+%22maurice+tillet%22&gs_lp=Egxnd3Mtd2l6LXNlcnAiICJ3aWxsaWFtIHN0ZWlnIiAibWF1cmljZSB0aWxsZXQiMgYQABgWGB4yCBAAGIAEGKIEMggQABiABBiiBDIIEAAYgAQYogQyCBAAGIAEGKIESKhWUJ0LWLBUcAZ4AZABAZgB0QGgAfERqgEGMTcuNi4xuAEDyAEA-AEBmAIdoAKOE8ICChAAGLADGNYEGEfCAgsQABiABBiRAhiKBcICBRAAGIAEwgIIEAAYFhgeGA_CAggQABiiBBiJBcICBRAhGKABwgIHECEYoAEYCsICERAuGIAEGJECGLEDGIMBGIoFwgIFEC4YgATCAiAQLhiABBiRAhixAxiDARiKBRiXBRjcBBjeBBjgBNgBAcICCxAuGIAEGLEDGIMBmAMAiAYBkAYIugYGCAEQARgUkgcFMTkuMTCgB7xh&sclient=gws-wiz-serp#ip=1. Accessed 31 May 2024.