Johan as Carnival Giant
Johan as Carnival Giant (enlarged)
Johan as a Giant in the Movie 'Why Worry'
Bound for Australia
John Aasen continued to grow way beyond the normal growth age. This eventually led him out into the wider world, where he ended up as a “tall man” or giant in a circus. By 1917, Johan was working for the Sells-Floto Circus in Denver, Colorado. During the same year, he wanted to enlist to serve in WW I and “scare the Germans” as he put it, but he was rejected due to bad eyesight and large feet. At this time (age 27), his height was officially measured as 215 cm (7’1”) and, as mentioned, still growing.
Life in the circus gave Johan economic security and a social life, together with others who were “different”, but in 1922 an iconoclastic event occurred that resulted in a total change of direction in Johan’s life. Silent film star/director Harold Lloyd’s producer, Hal Roach, was desperately seeking a tall man because George Auger, “The Cardiff Giant”, had just passed away—just before filming for his next silent film, “Why Worry”, was about to take place. They quickly needed a replacement for the giant’s part in the film. Coincidentally, someone from the film team had read about a shoemaker in Minnesota who had made a pair of giant shoes, and through him they found Johan Aasen.
This was Johan’s breakthrough and—ultimately—his greatest success in the silent film business. He eventually played a part in seven films, up to his last performance in the murder mystery “Charlie Chan at the Circus” in 1936. One of these films had a sound track, but Johan wasn’t well suited for sound movies because he had a relatively high-pitched voice that didn’t match what would have been expected from such a large man.
Below is the original contact between the famous producer Hal Roach and Johan Aasen for $300 a week.
Contract With Hal Roach Studios
In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s Johan made several promotional tours to Hawaii, Tokyo, Sydney, and Europe usually traveling with his manager, Dick Wayne. He had great difficulty traveling since the berths on board passenger ships were quite cramped. In one case, on his way to Sydney, they accommodated him by knocking out the partition from one berth to another and placing the beds end-to-end so he could stretch out with his upper body in one berth and his legs in the other.