FLEX: When did you first see Pumping Iron?
KAI GREENE: It was sometime in the late ’80s. It was the class movie at the institution I was in at the time (Greene became a ward of the state at age 6), and I remember the main character was this huge dude who liked working out.
It became a point of reference for my life because I was working out by that time, but didn’t know what competitive bodybuilding was, didn’t really know what bodybuilding itself was, until that movie. The ’80s was a time when pop culture was very heavily influenced by the idea of working out—you had Olivia Newton-John telling everyone to “Get Physical” and Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon was still very popular. Hollywood was showcasing Arnold, Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme and other action heroes who were larger-than-life, with equally larger-than-life muscles. That exposure made a lasting impression on me as a teenager.
Seeing that movie definitely changed my life forever. I’ve seen it hundreds of times. My friends and I could quote the entire movie verbatim. If fact, several years after seeing it, at my first Colorado Pro [in 2006], I got a chance to meet [IFBB pro] Darrem Charles. The whole time we were backstage, we went back and forth with dialogue from the movie. It was clear we were both well-versed in the art of Pumping Iron. That was our common ground. I can imagine— I hope—aspiring athletes in the future will do the same with Generation Iron.