How tall was Will Sampson

Will Sampson's Height

6ft 5 (195.6 cm)

American actor, best remembered for films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Poltergeist II, The Outlaw Josey Wales and Orca. His son said in a 2000 interview (chicago times) "My father was 6-feet-7, so I looked up to him in every way", although in a 1976 courier times had been described "6ft 5, 250lbs".

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Average Guess (31 Votes)
6ft 5.57in (197cm)
Sandy Cowell said on 31/May/23
I was thinking about Will only the other day and the brilliant parts he played both in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Poltergeist II. Now I can actually play them - HOORAY! Jack Nicholson’s RP McMurphey said to him that he’s about as big as a ***damn mountain, and at 6ft5 and very well built, Jack wasn’t wrong!
Jason Jeffers said on 30/Apr/21
@FrankR1, I also thought 6’4” was inaccurate until I learned that it was a well known fact that Will wore lifts in Cuckoo’s Nest to give him a few more inches to get around 6’7” which was the height his character (Chief Bromden) was meant to be.
FrankR1 said on 24/Apr/21
Some celebrity bio sites have Will Sampson listed as 6’4”, but I believe that’s inaccurate. He looked all of 6’7” in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Jesica said on 1/Dec/20
Not over 6’5. Might have been 6’4.5.
Jase Jeffers said on 12/Sep/20
Click Here
@Chris Junior Hernandez, I found this article, which could well have been closer to the truth in terms of weight. I’ve read also that Will was 6’4.5” and was rounded off to 6’5” which again could well have been true. Remember in Poltergeist 2 he had cowboy boots so would have appeared d as lightly taller than his listing.
Jason Jeffers said on 10/May/20
@Andrea@Rob, yes 6’4”-6’7” has been described for Will, however the more movies I watch him in the more I am leaning towards 6’4”.
Check him out with legit 5’9” Paul Newman in Buffalo Bill and the Indians. Paul easily reaches Will’s nose, also a legit 6’1.5”- 6’2” Robert Ulrich Will has an absolute max of 2” on him. I’m not able to post these pictures but if you google images of Will Sampson with each of these actors, you will probably get my point!
Andrea said on 30/Apr/20
Was the 6'5 just a description or a claim, Rob?
If he was only that, he had to be wearing lifts for sure in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Either that or he really was closer to his son's claim!
P.S. Give him a photo! :P
Editor Rob
Just a description. There have been 6ft 4 up to 6ft 7 descriptions of Will during his career, quite a broad range!
Dream said on 27/Feb/19

Actually, never mind. I remember a lady I encountered, who was right between 6’5”-6’6” once. LOL! She was wearing flats as far as I remember!
Nik said on 28/Jan/19
The average vote is interesting as are the comments above!
Jason Jeffers said on 25/Jan/19
@SandyCowell, your comments are very entertaining haha. I still personally believe that will was closer to 6ft 4 though.
Canson said on 20/Jan/19
@Jason Jeffers: he does at times I’ll admit!
Sandy Cowell said on 19/Jan/19
@ Jason Jeffers - I've just noticed your comment from Halloween, in which you say as 'short' as 6ft4.

Well, just this once, I'm not going to go down that road of saying '6ft4 isn't short!' because compared to the height that I assumed him to be in both 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' and 'Poltergeist II', I can see what you mean!

It seems to be an instance akin to that of Michael Clarke Dunken's, only nowhere near as extreme. It's amazing what they can achieve through camera angles, and the effects from 'The Green Mile' were so expertly done that it took quite a bit of convincing before I caved in and agreed!

Michael's MUST have been down to special effects, but I can credit that Will Sampson's bit of extra height will have been down to camera angles and footwear - I mean, the films from 1975. 'One Flew Over....' had some tiny cast members, making even the average-heighted Jack Nicholson come over as rather tall on a fair few occasions.

Cheers Jason and have a happy weekend!

😊👍🎬.......🗣️💊💊(spit!) "Careful! She could have seen that!"

MacMurphy (JN) replies: "Oooooh!"

Mr Sampson can have 6ft5.5.
Jason Jeffers said on 16/Jan/19
@Canson, @Dream(5’9.5”) images of Will Sampson, you’ll see he can look 6’4””Click Here
Jason Jeffers said on 16/Jan/19
@Canson & Dream (5’9.5”)Will Sampson’s height is tricky to work out. There are some films where he can appear 6’4” max and a few others where he gives a 6’7” impression. You can see one shot on basketball court in Cuckoo’s Nest with 5’9.5” Jack looking no more than a max 6’4” another looking 6’4” with male nurses (the tallest is 5’11” Nathan George) and another where he is clearly wearing lifts and maybe stood on a platform with Jack at start of film where he is over a full head bigger and looks nearer 6’8”-6’9”. Have a look at images and let me know your thoughts. I myself think his natural height was closer to 6’4” but he was made to look bigger for the role. See images next post
Christian 6'5 3/8" said on 15/Jan/19
Average American height has stagnated for decades. I'm sure there were as many 6'5" guys 20 years ago as there are today.
Dream(5'9.5") said on 13/Jan/19

I agree. Even up till now, 6'5" is really rare. I can't remember many 6'5" flat or 6'5" range guys. The only possible candidates are an old friend of mine, or another 'Chris' from my former martial arts class.

You have Howard Stern, who can look taller than his claim. You have Bo Burnham, who can also look taller than a strong 6'5"er should look. You also have Wladimir Klitschko, and that guy also looks taller than a strong 6'5"er should look as well.

I think Will Sampson would be a little over 6'5". Just because someone wears lifts doesn't necessarily mean he would be under 6'5".
Jason Jeffers said on 14/Nov/18
Rob, please see link which also states 6ft 4in half way through. Click Here
Jason Jeffers said on 31/Oct/18
Rob and Sandy, I've posted images in the past of Will actually looking as short as 6ft 4 barefoot. There's shots of him with legit 5'9.5" Bicholson where he reaches above Will's nose and legit 6'2" Ulrick where he has an absolute max of 2" on him and that's been generous to Will. That's even harder to swallow. He was definitely a tricky guy to guess height of. There are even some reports as 6'4", but what you have to bare in mind is that this guy is nearly always judged by how tall he appeared in Cuckoo's Nest. He was made to look taller with clever camera angles and huge heeled boots. In the storyline Chief was 6'7" but in reality Will was a few inches shorter but by far the closest person that could be found to suit the role.
Sandy Cowell said on 25/Oct/18
I'd have believed taller for this Samson-like Will, possibly as tall as 6ft7. To think that a hairdresser of mine was 2" taller than his 6ft5 is quite hard to swallow, but I very much doubt that he'd have been able to uproot that whole sink unit, carry it and then throw it through a window, as Will did in 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest'! No, this guy was as powerful as he was tall...

I'll go for the average of 6ft5.5.
Jason Jeffers said on 2/Jul/18
Junior, in this film Will wore cowboy boots giving him at least 1-1.5" advantage of Craig T Nelson
Junior Hernandez 1990 said on 2/Jul/18
Maybe he was 6'5 1/4. Click Here
Jason Jeffers said on 19/Jun/18
Dream (5'9.5") haven't got another on flat ground but they are both stood on the flat step with one foot on the lower and higher step which are same level. I have got another pic of Will from a deleted scene in cuckoo's nest with wardens. The one in the middle Nathan George was an absolute max of 5'11". In all scene with Nicholson who like you is 5'9.5" there is no more than 1.5" more and that's been generous to Nathan. In this pic you can see that 6Click Here 6'4" is a feasible possibility and also one of pic with max 6'2" Robert Ulrich. There's certainly no more than 2" difference.
Dream(5'9.5") said on 18/Jun/18
@Jason Jeffers

Well, I wouldn't really rely on that picture that much. It's on stairs, and we're not sure how much both guys are losing.

Are there any pictures of them on flat ground?
Jason Jeffers said on 16/Jun/18
Click Here Dream (5'9.5") sorry don't want to burst your bubble but Will Sampson was 6ft 4 in. He is pictured with a max 5'7 Steve Railsback who isn't even standing up straight. This was one of the few films where he was wearing normal shoes. I posted other pictures and newspaper quotes other day which somehow have not been uploaded but I can repost for any doubters. Every single one of them provide very strong evidence to suggest 6'4.
Dream(5'9.5") said on 14/Jun/18
I think Will also matched Clint Walker in height. (Movie: The White Buffalo.)
Dream(5'9.5") said on 14/Jun/18
I actually think this guy was a little over 6'5" or like 6'5 1/8," even without the cowboy boots.

He made Jack Nicholson look super small.

Click Here

I can't find more pictures, but Will also made Richard Harris look average at best.
Dream(5'9.5") said on 12/Jun/18
6'4" is a such a S#@! case.

I think a little over 6'5" is more likely.

@Canson Actually, 6'3" people claiming 6'5" is a lot more common than it looks (at least where I live that is).
Jason Jeffers said on 12/Jun/18
Rob see images of Will looking 6ft 4 with Steve Railsback and barefoot with tallest of 4 wardens a max Click Here 5'11".
Editor Rob
Unfortunately the link didn't seem to work
Canson said on 11/Jun/18
Well said Dream! 6’5 isn’t a “bad” height now a days whereas it used to be too tall for most. 6’7” is the new 6’5” as many people claim 6’5” now a days that are 6’3”
Dream(5'9.5") said on 10/Jun/18
Back in his day, 6'5" was the equivalent of 6'7".

It wouldn't surprise me if he was 6'5 1/8."
Jason Jeffers said on 8/Jun/18
Rob, I have a picture from film he was in (From Here To Eternity) made in 1979. He is stood on a flat step with Steve Railsback who you have as 5'7" and is absolutely not any more than this. He comes up to Will's mouth or just under meaning no more than an absolute max of 6'4" for Will. This is one of only films where Will is not wearing cowboy boots. Around this time there was also another article in paper of Will described as 6'4" and 235lbs. I will post the image and see for yourself.
Editor Rob
I'd be surprised at only 6ft's interesting he was described as low as 6ft 4 and as high as 6ft 7, that's quite a spread.
Dream(5'9.5 said on 5/Jun/18
Is 6'5 1/8" arguable for this guy?

He did make Donald Sutherland look 6'0" at best.
Editor Rob
He's a tricky guy, I think there's still potential for him to look over 6ft 5.
Junior Hernandez 1990 said on 6/May/18
@Tall Sam Sampson wear cowboy/Cuban boots with 6'3.5" Craig t Nelson. At most 6'5 1/4 he could be but not 6'6-6'7.
Tall Sam said on 15/Feb/18
Interesting shot w/ Donald Sutherland but Will's head is closer to the camera so its giving him an advantage: Click Here
Also w/ Craig T. Nelson: Click Here
I think people may be underestimating his slouch in Cuckoo's Nest.
Jeffers said on 7/Dec/17
@ Rampage,
If you look at image in my last comment before yours, there is a link barefoot with the 3 wardens. The tallest is max 5'11" as he has 1-1.5" on Jack Nicholson. That picture tells me he may we'll have been nearer 6'4"
Rampage(-_-_-)Clover said on 4/Dec/17
He certainly looks around 6ft7 in this photo w/h Donald Sutherland (not a chance under 6ft3). Don't know what the floor level is like though nor their shoes. Could he have been a 6ft5 guy who wore lifts?
JEFFERS said on 2/Dec/17
Rob, this is an interesting picture I came across. It shows Will Sampson in Cuckoo's Nest in a scene which was deleted from film. Will is pictured barefoot without lifts he had in large portion of film. The tallest of the three wardens is max 5'11" (he had a max of 1-1.5" on Jack Nicholson in all scenes they were together in) The shortest warden is 5'8" max he was at least 1.5" shorter than Jack. I'm thinking 6'4" is very possible (New York Times said 6'4 & 235 lbs) they also said 6'5" at some point. What's your thoughts?Click Here
berta said on 29/Sep/17
i think the listing is spot on
Jason said on 9/Mar/17
@Charlie, Will had a few inches on Richard Harris and Paul in Orca. Richard was 6ft 1, so I thought Will would have been 6ft 4in.
Charlie said on 7/Mar/17
many of you are makign references to his height in One flew over the Cuckoos nest. Hhe wore a good 3 inch shoe and he had shoe lifts on as well thats why he appeared so tall. Now in Orca he appeared close in height to Richard Harris's friend Paul in the movie. Paul looked the same height as Richard. I'll say Will was around 6 ft 1 if anything. I was surprised how Wills height blended in fine with the male actors in Orca.If he was really 6 ft 5 he would be almost a whole head taller than the other guys. That was not the case in Orca.I'll say 6 ft 1 for Will.
MrTBlack said on 25/Nov/16
I'm going with 6'5.25" do keep in mind though that a lot of people aren't aware of how massive 6'5" actually is.
Sandy Cowell said on 30/Oct/16
What a fantastic and powerful actor in every way! Every single time I see the end of Cuckoo's Nest I feel like punching the air and screaming "Yeah!" And I do!
Will gave a wonderful and soulful performance as the protector of the little girl in 'Poltergeist II.' I don't think he was below 6ft7, and absolutely no way could he have been 6ft5, as I just read in the notes above, unless he wore elevator shoes for his parts, and why would he have to?
Chase Witherspoon said on 22/Oct/16
There's a behind the scenes photo around the web of Harris, Rampling & Will from Orca where he appears 4" taller than Harris who's wearing wellingtons which I reckon places him 194-195 region.
Ice said on 25/Sep/16
He's a example why 6'5 is the best height for a guy
Ian C. said on 9/Jul/16
In the book One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Sampson's character is six foot seven, so it would have made sense to give Sampson a little shoe-boost to bring him up to height. But perfect casting, both physically and emotionally.
Ann said on 30/May/16
Wish I could have been able to work with him.
MrTBlack said on 18/Jul/15
Rob, Do you think he's another 6'5.25" guy?
Jason said on 5/Apr/15
What's your thoughts Rob? There are several reports of 6ft 4 including the New York Times in 1976 when he was described as 6ft 4 and 235 lbs. could he have been this low?
Editor Rob
I wouldn't have thought he looked as short as 6ft 4, generally he looked more than that range.
Jason said on 1/Apr/15
This is a tricky one, although there are several occasions where he gives the impression of a 6ft 7 or 6ft 8 guy, there are other scenes of films where he has full body shots in flat shoes where he looks 6ft 4 to 6ft 5. Most noticeably in Fishawk and Vegas with Robert Ulrich. Robert Ulrich is a confirmed 6ft 2 barefoot and there is a max 2 inch difference between the two. Robert's eyes come up to the bottom of Will's nose they are stood face to face on flat ground with the same footwear. This leads me to believe that Will was actually as low as 6ft 4, which incidentally several reports put him at the height of his career in the 1970's. With the lifts that he wore and some clever camera angles he often looked 6ft 7 as is character in Cuckoo's Nest was meant to be!
Tim said on 4/Aug/14
My Dad who was 6'1" met Will at a NCAI convention said he was indeed 6ft 5 if not taller! Indeed one big Brother! Rest in peace!
Chris said on 13/Jul/14
What was the chances of Will being 6ft 4 barefoot?
Arch Stanton said on 8/Mar/14
Believe me this guy in lifts or whatever was pushing 6 ft 8 in Cuckoo's.
Jason said on 16/Jan/14
Sampson was 6ft 4 barefoot I reckon
Sam said on 13/Jan/14
Would have been interesting to see him and compare him to Clint Eastwood in Th Outlaw Josey Wales but Sampson never gets off his horse in their scene together. Sampson was for sure taller but by how much who knows.
mickser said on 22/Sep/13
I met will on a trip to the usa in 1986. I myself am 6'5" and was eye to eye with him. lovely man. r.i.p
jasperwazup said on 6/Sep/13
In the Book One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest Chief Bromden is supposed to be around 7 foot tall. I guess the lifts made him look 6'7''-6'8'' which is getting up to the 7 foot mark
Arch Stanton said on 5/Aug/13
Rob, Click Here It's only 82p with £1.26 postage.
Arch Stanton said on 5/Aug/13
Rob try to get hold of a DVD copy on Amazon or something, you can get it for a few pence I think. Worth getting, I'd like to here your views on how he looked in the film. Clearly bigger than 6'5" in the film, no doubt.
Arch Stanton said on 5/Aug/13
Trust me, the guy was nearer 6'8" than 6'5" in Cuckoo's Nest, he had 3-4 inches inches on Vincent Schiavelli. He definitely looked around 6'8" in that film and looked a virtual giant as oppose to a just very tall 6'5". Obviously he had on lifts which with his build gave off a massive impression but if he was 6'4.5"-6'5" actually in the film he wouldn't have looked so big and would have been a similar height to Schiavelli.
avi said on 28/Jul/13
@Lo sgozzatore says on 16/Jul/13
yeah i just looked at a few pics between the 2 its obvious they gave him some huge boots. so if he was 6'4 he stood over 6'6 int he movie in shoes. i think they gave him 3 inch lifts to make the difference much greater as many have said here.
Click Here
its the only one i can find where you somewhat see Sampson's footwear. seems easy 2 inches to me and we dont know whats inside! maybe another 1 inch or 2 inch lift!
Jason Jeffers said on 25/Jul/13
Will Sampson was actually closer to 6ft 4.5 if you watch scenes towards the end of the film when Will is wearing flat shoes you'll see Nicholson comes up to just below his nose (Nicholson peak 5'9.5). 7 inch difference.some big platform shoes and clever camera angles were used to make him bigger in many shots earlier in film. This was mentioned years ago in a documentary on the film. He also looks 6'4 in several other films where his height was no significance to his character and he probably had normal footwear. (Fishawk for one)
Arch Stanton said on 24/Jul/13
Lo Sgo, yeah I think it's clear he was wearing big shoes to make him look bigger. My eyes aren't deceiving me, without a doubt he looked around 6'8" in Cuckoos.
Arch Stanton said on 24/Jul/13
Rob he also had 2-3 inches on Vincent Schiavelli who I think was 6'4" range (didn't look his listed 6'5.5" in that film but way did he only have 0.5 on Vincent unless he was wearing big lifts to make him look even bigger.
Arch Stanton said on 24/Jul/13
He looks much bigger than this is Cuckoo's Nest, looked 6 ft 8 I thought. He had nearly a foot on Jack Nicholson.
Lo sgozzatore said on 16/Jul/13
Rob, you think he wore boots to appear taller in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? I mean, just look at pics with Jack Nicholson. There's a huge difference... Look close to 6'7, if Nicholson was 177
Editor Rob
not seen it for a while so can't remember as much
Jason said on 9/Feb/13
Trent, I'd say 6'4 minimum is possible if you consider Sampson nearly always wore cowboy boots with a larger than average heel.
Trent said on 2/Feb/13
Click Here

He looks around 6.5 inches taller than 5'10 listed comedian Jonathan Winters there. Winters, however, is standing closer to the camera; but then the ground appears to be tilted to Sampson's advantage.

I'd say he could have been ~6'5. 6'7 is definitely too high, but I don't think he could have been as low as the 6'4 some biographers put him at.
Lo sgozzatore said on 16/Dec/12
Well, if Jack Nicholson really was 5'9.5 at his peak, this guy was over 6'6, near 6'7 for sure.
drummer777 said on 9/Dec/12
Will was in Orca as well, very tall...
Jason said on 13/Feb/12
good information Tommy but the height could have been in shoes!
Tommy said on 9/Feb/12
I just found an interview with him where he's described: "Sampson still stands tall (six-feet, 5,5-inches, in fact)." This seems like quite a specific measurement for the interviewer to have made up, and the height of his family members is described, so I think he probably claimed 6'5.5 himself. Whether he was as low is 6'4 is up for questioning.
Tommy said on 9/Feb/12
I found an old newspaper article in the Google archives which describes him as 6'5. It also says that he was already 6'1 by the age of 12, so I assume they asked him his height. I found a few other interviews with him where he's described at 6'5. So 6'5 seems to be what he claimed.

I did find a few descriptions of 6'4, but neither of them were in interviews, so I'd assume they're just guesses. Same for all the 6'7 descriptions.
Jason said on 19/Jan/12
Crazy as it sounds will could have actually been 6'4". He wore platform shoes in a few scenes in cuckoos nest to make him appear taller as the character was meant to be. If you google 'William Sampson' he's actually listed as 6'4".
Sam said on 13/Jan/12
Rob, would you consider splitting the different heights in the quotes here? He really didn't seem as low as 6'5"
Anton said on 12/Jan/12
He absolutely towers everyone in Cuckoo's nest.
I say that 6'6 or 6'7 is his real height.
Cliff Lee said on 17/Dec/11
I met him in 1974. He was Grand Marshall of a local town parade and stopped to grab a beer along the parade route. My brother in law is 6' 5 1/2" and Will was considerably taller than him. I would easily believe 6' 7". He was also a very nice man.
Sam said on 5/Nov/11
I think this is a low listing. He was gigantic-looking in every role and I believe he was closer to 6'7" than 6'5".
Jason Jeffers said on 25/Aug/11
Audiovideo analyist. For the most precise estimations of all check out Will with Don Francks in Fishhawk. Don is 5ft 9 and he comes up to bottom of Will's nose meaning a max 7 inch difference. They both have flat shoes. In Poltergist Will has near 2-3 inch cowboy boots with a big hat. 6ft 4 is very likely. He was made to look bigger in many films he did, and with clever camers angles this appeared so.
AudioVideo analist said on 20/Aug/11
How could Will Sampson be only 1&1/2 inches taller then Craig T. Nelson? Yes he wore a tall hat in poltergiest 2 but the top of his head was closer to 3in higher. I'm going with a reported height of 6'7" to be a little more accurate
Christian said on 19/Feb/11
I've seen several articles including, The New York Times, and various Biographies describing him as 6ft 4in
SolidSnake said on 9/Feb/11
He looked 2M (6'7') In cuckoo's nest I reckon
zoe said on 9/Jun/09
He was 6'5" in his stocking feet, but he always wore boots and a big cowboy hat so of course, he presented taller in his hat and boots. His presence was enormous.
LMP said on 6/Jun/09
I'd like to know how tall his pop was if anyone knows. I imagine he was even taller than his father, like I ended up towering over my own fairly tall pop...and do his own sons reach or exceed Will's height?
Sandy said on 4/Jun/09
Let's just say, Sonny was (and still is) larger than life. His friend...
Tonya said on 31/May/09
There is supposed to be a book coming out about his life/art work. I believe it is being worked on by his old friend, Zoe E. Anyone know if this is available yet or when it might be? There is a group of us in Texas anxious to have a copy. Anyone?
Owen said on 4/May/09
The New York times also puts Will at 6'4. Maybe the 6'5 was an early morning measurement just rounded up!
ANNONYMOUS said on 3/May/09
The Indian Oklahoma Film Institute and biography puts will at 6ft 4inches
Deidre Cohoe said on 12/Apr/09
He looked taller than my 6'5 hubby
Nick said on 5/Apr/09
Hi Denise, I'm sorry, you're correct, Will's sister's name is Norma Bible. I don't know where I got Rifle from. I guess we can chalk it up to age. JJ, As I said in an earlier post, I asked Will how tall he was and he told me he was 6'5". He chuckled when he heard stories about him being 6'7" and more. I'm only an inch shorter than him and we were just about eye to eye. Joe, that's a beautiful house you erected over Sonny's grave. I met two of Will's sons, Will and Jess, and they're bot quite tall. I've also met his daughter Audra (?) and she's tall also. As Joe said, depending on which part of the continent you were in 500 years ago average height varied tribe by tribe. Much like tall Scandinavians and shorter Italians. Northwest coast natives tend to run shorter while plains Indians are quite a bit taller as are southeastern people, of which Will was one.
LMP said on 5/Apr/09
Thank you Joe for answering. I've never seen a resting place with a shelter built over it before and I really like that, plus the photo of him added to it. He has a very nice resting place. You and your cousin did a great job.
JJ said on 3/Apr/09
According to a fairly reliable source which is a write up onWilliam Sampson from the encyclopedia of Indian actors/artists he was 6ft 4inches. I also note from an earlier post from a good friend of Will's who said that he himself was 6'4" and he and will stood virtually eye to eye. 6'5 was most probably a very early morning measurement rounded off. In the film 'Fishawk Don Francks who is a legit 5'9 barefoot constantly in 95% of scenes comes to bottom of Will's nose which backs this up well.
Joe said on 29/Mar/09
My cousin and I were nephews of "Sonny" and we were asked by my mother (Will's sister) to build a small house over his grave like so many others in Creek Indian cemeteries. I don't recall asking why, however. An earlier post stated that the average height of a native American is 5'7". That may be true for some regions or tribes, but the Spanish reported meeting a "tall handsome people" when they first explored the southeastern US. The burial mounds left by these early Native Americans commonly held skeletons of men over six feet tall. As for our family, we have several over six feet tall and even some young women nearly so.
Denise said on 5/Feb/09
Hello everyone. Good to see people really loved Will and his work, both as an artist and actor and person. Nick, are you sure his sister's last name is not Bible? This book you speak of I understand is not a published book but a memoire. I had the blessed honor of visiting his grave site in Oklahoma. Can't believe I actually found the darned thing. Middle of nowhere....peacful place. Where he should be.
LMP said on 15/Dec/08
I asked that before, about his grave site. I saw photos of it on the Find A Grave web site and I agree, a nice resting place. I like the idea of a sheltered grave, but I don't know whose idea that was or if it has any special meaning. I'd like to know about that as well.
Janet said on 14/Dec/08
Two questions to anyone who knows, this is not about height which I think has been exhausted here, but can anyone say what WS meant in the movie Firewalker when he said something to the effect of he didn't know how Tonto did it? This was after he told the story of Firewalker and as the young lady was leaving he said this about Tonto? I recently watched this film with my family and that statement threw me. I vaguely remember Tonto. Also, what's with the shelter over his grave? That is just too cool a resting place, very unique!
Nick said on 27/Nov/08
Thanks LMP for the info on Sandy Webb. I just read her reminiscences of Will's last few weeks and I'm still choked up. Sandy is a wonderful person. She put on a couple of memorial celebrations of Will's life in Everett, WA, shortly after he passed. The first one was attended by Zelda Rubenstein, Tangena in Poltergeist, Max Gail, Floyd Red Crow Westerman and Choctow film maker Phil Lucas. Phil was my former brother in law and Will was the best man at his wedding. Craig T. Nelson was at the second one. At the first one, she had a little cowboy hat and a stick of Juicy Fruit gum at every table. I was amazed that she feels Will is her spirit guide now. I can certainly see that. I saw a thing on some cable network some time ago about the "curse of Poltergeist." Craig T. Nelson related a story of being in Oklahoma looking for Will's grave site. He stopped in a store close by and asked the clerk if he knew where it was. A guy standing next to him said he was Will's cousin and he would show the way. Craig said as he went up to the grave, the cicadas were making an awful racket. He looked at the grave and said, "Hi Will, it's Craig." He said at that moment the cicadas went stone silent. Craig looked down at the head stone and said, "Way to go Will." The big guy was powerful in life and is probably still so wherever he is now.
LMP in Texas said on 23/Nov/08
As an after thought, anyone wanting to know more can also research the web for what his best friend has written about him and about how today she is still in contact with him. He is her teacher now from beyond and I think this is a beautiful thing to know. She is Sandy Chartrand Webb. The more I read up on this favorite actor/artist of mine, the more I want to know and what I find just gets better all the time.
LMP in Texas said on 21/Nov/08
I can answer that one Geoff - he was ill, he had a condition called scleroderma and it affected his lungs/heart. He went to a hospital in Houston for lung/heart transplant and not long after his surgery he died due to severe malnutrition. In some of his last films you can see that he was losing weight, although his face looked fuller, but that was due to the medication he was taking for his scleroderma. Zoe Escobar, his friend and companion has put together a book of his life and his art work and hopefully it will be published in a few months. His ex daughter in law, Nancy Rommelmann (married Will's son Tim), a writer now in Oregon, also wrote about his last days in the Houston hospital, she was there. Don't mean to drag on...I love Will's art work, enjoy some of his films, and still to this day wish there were more to see. His very first film was what my oldest brother took me to see before I left home for the Army, it was the only time he ever showed he cared and would miss me, and I still cherish that memory. Our favorite character was not Jack Nicholson's, but Will's, which is why I think I'll never forget him or tire of learning anything about him. He is tied in with something very special in my life. He was also exceptionally tall and seemed gentle and quiet like my brother. Many similarities, but only can tell from films. That is why I'm hoping Zoe's book will shed light on the true man - which is probably going to turn out to be the opposite of my impression, he was probably a hell-raiser and fun to hang with, but either way, I'm glad to have ever been introduced to this man and his talents. If you are interested in learning more, keep an eye on
Geoff said on 16/Nov/08
Nick, Will was only 53 when he passed away I believe, he looked such a large and healthy man, what was the story behind him dying so young? he looked very poorly in Firewalker, was he ill for a while?
LMP in Texas said on 11/Nov/08
Sounds like he was a real character and I just think anyone who knew him, the real him, was fortunate. I am so fascinated with this big guy even today, years after his passing which still saddens me. Photos of his art work (tickles me that he was left-handed), his films are things I never tire of looking back at, wishing there was more to see, but since there isn't, I search to know more about the person. Not many people who inspire and fascinate me, but he did/does. I know about this book Zoe Escobar is trying to get published, and am anxious to have a copy. Thanks for the story, now I'm hungry for a good chicken fried steak too!
Nick said on 10/Nov/08
If you'd like to see another facet of Will's life, go to Click Here Zoe Escobar, Will's former secretary and personal assistant, and an absolutely wonderful person, is putting together a book of Will's art work. Sonny was a brilliant artist who's work hangs in museums and private collections around the world. His work has also been shown at the Smithsonian.
Nick said on 10/Nov/08
Sorry it's been a while since I've been here. I see there's some questions about Will. Ok, as to his shoe size, it was 12. This I know because I was at his place in LA one time and broke the heel on my boot. I wear a 13 or 14, depending on the shoe, and he offered me a pair of his. I could barely get them on and oh boy did they hurt. He found some glue and we did a temporary patch job on my boot. One of my favorite memories of Will goes like this. In about 1983, or so, I was a morning DJ on a country radio station in Pocatello, ID. Will had been there a few times and loved a particular truck stop that served a chicken fried steak that was huge. It draped over the platter. Anyhow, one morning about 2:30 or so, my girlfriend was shaking me awake saying there was someone at the door. I told her she was dreaming when I heard a BANG, BANG, BANG. I stumbled to the door and yelled "Who is it?" "Police, open up" was the reply. I peeked through the curtain and there was Will on my front porch. Seems he had been at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson, WY and got a hankering for chicken fried steak. He loaded up his girlfriend and nephew in his pick up and drove over a hundred miles to Pocatello to drag my butt out of bed to get chicken fried steak.
adam said on 2/Oct/08
Looked like a mountain in One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. At first I really thought that there was about a foot difference between him and Jack Nicholson!
LMP in Texas said on 1/Oct/08
I read somewhere that his son, Tim, said he was 6'7" (maybe when he was younger and wearing cowboy boots, not slouching). Don't we all lose some height naturally as we age? I always thought him to appear about 6'5" and this is a guess judging by whoever he was standing next to and that other's man's height. Anyone know what size hat he wore?
Robert in South Dakota said on 30/Sep/08
I loved Will Sampson in Josy whales,he always took his films up to the next level, He absolutely deserved more credit and if he was still with us he would be getting it I'm sure I wish he was in dances with wolves that would of been so cool . He was truly a great actor ,God bless him.
Jason said on 29/Sep/08
Here here LMP
LMP said on 27/Sep/08
Nick, I'd love it if you would consider sharing your memories about Will. Many folks are big fans of his still and don't know a whole lot about him personally. Write a book! I'd buy it and make sure everyone of my friends and family got a copy for themselves.
Dean said on 22/Sep/08
Nick, do you know roughly what shoe size Will was? His hands and feet looked huge, of those of like a seven footer!
BHM said on 18/Sep/08
Well thanks to Nick, it looks like big Wills height stands at 6'5. I guess I will have to officialy throw in the towel on my case that he was over six and a half feet tall. However, there ae two things I would like to leave you all with: First of all, Nick stated that he is 6'4, he met Will at eye level, thus making it impossible that there was over an inch in height difference between the two. For the record I'm 6'2, I have a friend who is 6'5, when we stand up and talk face to face I have no poblemn in the eye level department with him. Second, Tim Robbins claims to be 6'4. Yet countless people who know him personally state that he is 6'6 or 6'7. Sure enough in "Shawshank" Tim has to bend down when he walks through his cell door.
Dean said on 16/Sep/08
One thing I always noticed about Will especially in Cuckoos Nest was that he had exceptionally large hands and feet, any idea what shoe size he was? Also you say you both wore cowboy boots and you are 6'4 and eye to eye. Could there have been a chance one of you could have been 6'4.5 or could Will have lost some height? Nevertheless its great to talk to someone who has a genuine knowledge of Will after so many years of being a fan of his and not knowing much about him. He certainly came across as been a great actor and person. I will be keeping my eyes open for the documentary and release of his biography
Nick said on 15/Sep/08
Actually Dean, at that time I also wore cowboy boots so it pretty much equaled out. Other than several sets of beaded moccasins given him by various tribes, I don't think he owned anything other than cowboy boots. Will tipped the scales at about 235 to 240, just a semi educated guess. However, if you look at him in Poltergeist II, his face is a lot rounder than in other films. That was weight gain from the meds he was taking at the time for the Scleroderma he was fighting. I spoke with Craig T. Nelson at a memorial service for Will in Everett, WA and he said Will would have to lay down and take oxygen between takes. Floyd Red Crow Westerman said that he and Will walked into a sound stage one time and Will pointed at the sound proofing all around the stage and told Floyd "That's what's killing me." The insulation was asbestos. In his earlier life, Will worked for a while as a lonshoreman in the holds of ships. They also were insulated with asbestos. As for the comment about Craig T. Nelson being 6'3", and that's about right, if you look at the camera angles in Poltergeist II, you can see it was deliberately shot to make Will look taller. In the "the car is angry" scene, Will is shot from a low angle and Craig is shot from a high angle. In Josy Wales, the only scene Will and Clint Eastwood appear in together was shot on horseback because that's what the script called for not because Clint Eastwood didn't want to be "out talled" by Will. Will was a great man and a good friend. I miss him very much. So many memories. I could go on ad nauseum about some of our escapades but this is a forum about height not memories.
Dean said on 15/Sep/08
Thanks for that Nick much appreciated, yes he did have very long legs for height and he often wore cowboy boots didn't he could he have been wearing flat soles when you stood eye to eye? Also any idea on his weight? I've heard from 235 to 250lbs.
Nick said on 14/Sep/08
Will was a good friend of mine and we spent quite a bit of time together. I asked him one time how tall he was. He told me he was 6'5". I'm 6'4" and we stood just about eye to eye. He had very long legs which added to the illusion of being taller. We went into a western store one time to get him some jeans and he bought pants with 36" inseams, I wear a 32" inseam. I've heard everything from 6'7" to 6'9", I hope this clears up the question. As for any biography on him, his sister Norma Sampson Rifle has written a book about his life titled "Beloved Brother." You can find more about it at Click Here Also, the American Indian Film Institute is producing a documentary on his life.
BHM said on 8/Sep/08
Good question Jason. Asside from reading endless internet articles about him, as well as listening to numerous DVD commentaries, I briefly knew one of his grand daughters. All I will say on that note is that according to her mother, Sampson was most certainly 6'8 inches tall as a younger man.
Jason said on 7/Sep/08
BHM, I'm a big fan of Will Sampson and have most of the films he appearded in. However, I don't know much about his life of screen, is there any sort of book or biography available on him? I notice from your previous posts that you seem to know a bit about his personal life!
BHM said on 6/Sep/08
In response to Chris,I did not mean to say it was impossible that the man was in the 6'4 to 6'5 range, both of wich are plenty impressive when you consider that the average native american male is around 5'7. I just wanted to point out how unfair it seems that everyone on this sight is so quick to list him as a 6'4 when among people who knew him best he was all but unanimously listed as over six and a half feet tall. And in my book, sources dont get much more rliable than that. For the record, he experienced a debilitateing rodeo accident when he was younger, so he spent most of his adult life with terrible back pain that only worsened with age. It is a stated fact that the man had really poor posture problems, thus provideing a possible explaination why he apears no more than 7 inches taller than such 5'9 actors like Nicholson and Franks in numerous shots.
Jason said on 2/Sep/08
I don't think this guy is any less than 6'4 but no more than 6'5"!
Jamie said on 29/Aug/08
Editor Rob whats your thoughts?
Jamie said on 27/Aug/08
This guy was most probably around 6'4 and just under 6'7" in cowboy boots.
Marcus said on 27/Aug/08
There is a post from 'cudzoqueen' on the Don Johnson website, that says Will Sampson was a guest star in Nash and Don Johnson comes up to Will's eyes, if this is true and Don is the 5'9.5 as stated then 6' 7 or 8 for Sampson is very unlikely indeed.
Chris said on 27/Aug/08
BHM, I respect what you're saying but I have to leave you with this comment. Check out the movie 'FISHAWK' in which Sampson has a star role alongside Don Francks who is a proven 5'9"max. There's several full view shots of both of them in similar flat soled footwear and 90% of the shots Francks comes to bottom of Sampson's nose meaning no more than 7 inch height difference! Also many full view shots of Nicholson and Sampson in Cuckoos Nest there is no more than 8 inches and that's been generous, we know Nicholson is a proven 5'9". Sorry but 6'4-6'5" for this man isn't at all impossible.
BHM said on 27/Aug/08
I cant believe everyone seems to unanimously list him as 6.4 on this website. I have been a huge fan of this man for a long time and I can assure you that he was without a dought in the 6.7-6.8 range. In every interview with a family member, close friend or coworker of his I have ever read, they all state with dead on sincereity that he was over six and a half feet tall. Just listen to the DVD commentary of OFOTCN, the producer, director, all the actors talk about him like he was an absolute giant. Are we to say that his closest confidants engaged in a conspiracy to exagerate on his height, does not seem likely. In regards to the NYT article that listed him as 6.4, it is a known fact that the media often makes short actors out to be taller that they really are, it also goes in reverse that they often list excessively tall actors as shorter than they really are because extream height makes it harder for them to get roles alongside leading men of medium height, for example, Rock Hudson was listed as 6.4 his whole carrer, yet it was later revealed that he was almost 6.6 inches tall. As for the claims that Sampson did not seem to have a signifigant height difference between famously medium height actors, that is wrong on several levils. First of all charles Bronson could have very easily been standing on a box or wearing lift shoes in their scenes together in "The White Buffalo" after all, he did have a macho image to maintain. Second, 6.4 clint Eastwood admiteddly staged the meeting with ten bears scene in "Josie Whales" with the two actors on horseback the whole time because he felt it would be bad for his image as a towering hero to have Sampson towering over him. Last but not least, in "polterguist 2" he intimidates 6.3 Craig T Nelson with his imposeing stature in one scene, Granted Sampson is wearing cowboy boots in the scene but cmon, Nelson goes up to the mans nose, take away the cowboy boots and thats still a good 3-4 inches taller than big Craig, to top it off, Sampson was 53 at the time and suffered from terrible back and posture pain, so he easily could have lost an inch or two by that time.
Chris. said on 25/Aug/08
Editor Rob: Not sure how to post the link but if you do a search on 'New York Times' Best Picture, you will see a story discussing One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest from 12th Apr 1975. Half way down it quotes, Chief Bromden being played with all the emotion of a brick wall by 6'4" 235lb Will Sampson. Do you think this may be enough to downgrade him? Most of his filmroles were played at clever angles to make him look taller, plus with alot of cowboy boots!
Chris. said on 23/Aug/08
I think he could quite easily have been 6'4 this is what it states in the New York Times from 1976. 6'4 and 235lbs!
Anonymous -15 said on 14/Aug/08
Doesn't look anything less than 6'5" in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest , he towers everyone in it.
JJ said on 7/Jan/08
6'4" with big lifts or cowboyboots for majority of his films. If you watch Fishawk with 5' 9" Don Francks he looks 6' 4" and its the only film where he as average footwear from start to finish!
Gavin said on 18/Nov/07
The New York Times has him listed at 6'4" and 235lbs yes i've seen the link!
Justin said on 18/Nov/07
If you study him with Jack Nicholson when Jack is trying to escape out of window near end of film you see jack comes up to his nose around 6.5inch difference. Here will is wearing flat soles so jack has about 0.5inch advantage so will has 7inches over Jack. Jack was 5' 9.5 back then this gives Will 6' 4.5" Also you'll see that in many scenes throughout the film Will wears lifts to give the character extra height noticeably when he is rescuing Jack from Mr washington. Sorry guys Will was 6' 4.5 possibly even 6'4 as the New York Times suggests in 1975, along with a weight of 235lbs!
l0ck n l0ad said on 18/Nov/07
After watching him in Cuckoo's Nest it's very hard to believe he's anything under 6'5". There are still shots of him in full lench you can see him from head to toe, the guy is massive. Where do these 6'4-1/2" claims come from? Did he suddenly shrink? lol
Justin said on 14/Oct/07
I can assure you will Sampson was 6'4.5"
qwerty said on 9/Oct/07
Now way! I thought this guy was 6'7" at the absolute least. Weird, because in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest they treat him like some sort of giant, when really 6'5" isn't at all uncommon. Plus someone I know said she saw him years ago in person and that he looked around 6'9" lol.
christian said on 25/Jun/07
To answer a question mate the only way i know to view that information is type "6ft 4in Sampson in new york times" and this will bring you to a link of "best pictures" if you go into that link it will take you straight to One Flew over cuckoos nest page. Carry on reading and it will surely mention near the end will sampson's height. I personally think 6' 4" is true and he wore lifts to make it look like he had a few more inches along with a few clever camera angles. What do you think?
Christian said on 22/Jun/07
A 1970's New York Times write up on 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' states that Sampson was 6ft 4inch and 235lbs. This can be viewed online
Andy Turner said on 9/May/07
I Knew him personally. He was 6'4.5"
Matt said on 3/Mar/07
He's a giant! At first I thought he was like 6'9, but it's just because he's so big and huge. When you see Nicholson standing next to him in the basketball scenes, you can see he's about up to his chin, meaning no more of a 7 or 8 inch difference (Nicholson is 5'9-5'10). So 6'5 does sound about right, but he really is pretty huge.
Jason Jeffers said on 27/Feb/07
Sorry Mickey Mouse but Will Sampson was 6'5" at the very maximum
bikagyura said on 26/Feb/07
he sure did look a loooot taller than Nicholson in Cuckoo's Nest... I think 6ft 7in sounds way closer at hand than 6' 5"... If he was 6' 4" I'm Mickey Mouse
Jay Christian said on 5/Feb/07
Studied Will Sampson and I would say he was bang on 6'4"
chris joseph said on 16/Dec/06
Do you think will sampson could have even been 6'4"?
chris jackson said on 19/Nov/06
If this guy was 6'4" or 6'5" where the hell did 6'9" come from theres a bloody big difference. Personally my money says 6'4.5"
Jason Jeffers said on 7/Nov/06
I'd definately go for 6'4.5" 235lbs does anyone agree on this?
Jason Jeffers said on 25/Oct/06
Although Will Sampson was a very clearly a very tall guy as an avid fan of his I have studied him in all his films and he worked with alot of 5'10" actors including Charles Bronson in The White Buffallo Where there is a very clear shot of the two actors stood shoulder to shoulder on level ground and Charles comes up to the bridge of Will's nose. Now giving the maximum height Charles was ever listed as 5' 11" Will was definately no more than 6' 5". Also the New York Times has him listed as 6' 4" and 235lbs. No desrespect to Tim Sampson or anyone else who had Will down as 6' 7" and above but there is just too much evidence when properly studied to suggest this was a big exaggeration to give him an " extra large indian" status for his first film role for One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest.
Jason Jeffers said on 25/Oct/06
In One Flew Over the Cuckoos nest there are many scenes towards the end of the film where Jack Nicholson is trying to escape out of window and Jack comes up to will's nose. Jack is a proven 5'9" and a half so Will is no more than 6' 4and a half also earlier on in film Will appears to be wearing very large heals when he rescues Jack from Nurse in corridor.
thelasttiger said on 11/Oct/06
Hmmm. He looked like a full 6'9" to me. He was about 4 inches taller than Vincent Schiavelli who is 6'5"

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