FLEX: What was your first exposure to Pumping Iron and what was your impression of the movie?
PHIL HEATH: I believe it was the first couple of months of being a bodybuilder, and I can definitely say it was very entertaining. Of course, I knew Arnold was going to win, but it was how he did it that impressed me.
The way he toyed with everyone showed how supremely confident he was. And you could see that the other guys were definitely chasing him. You could even sense a little envy or jealousy because of all the things that Joe (Weider) was bringing to his table, as far as appearances and all the notoriety, which is to be expected given that he was a five-time Mr. Olympia at the time and rightfully deserving of all the spoils. But more than all of that, it was the balance he showed in his life. He had more balance than anyone else in the movie. He was doing his thing at Muscle Beach and Gold’s, eating, doing photo shoots, chasing chicks, living the lifestyle, and all that stuff.
Then you had Lou Ferrigno training in the dungeon with his dad. That was all he was concerned with, almost to the point of being narcissistic. I didn’t relate to that. I didn’t think to myself, “That’s how I want to be.” No disrespect to Lou, but I wanted to be like Arnold. I wanted to be the guy that people are painting pictures about; the guy having fun and enjoying everything that came with being the absolute best. Everywhere he went people were falling at his feet. I mean, I’m sure he had his haters, as everyone does, but he was respected.
I can relate to that, especially now because I’m dealing with it myself. I have a lot of fans, but I also have a lot of competitors and people who don’t like who I am and what I’m about. But at the end of the night, he stomped on these guys and he did it with a smile on his face. You couldn’t say that he wasn’t good and didn’t deserve it because he was obviously very focused, but not with this crazy do-or-die attitude like there’s nothing else in the world. You see him training his ass of and the next minute he’s telling jokes.
That’s how I am. I can turn it on and be as hardcore as the next guy but I can also make people laugh and have fun with it. You don’t see a lot of bodybuilders smile or tell jokes. They’re all super-serious. But how are you going to interest people if all you are is a big dude who just grunts, lifts weights, and scowls all the time?
How did you become involved with Generation Iron?
Robin Chang (of AMI) told me there was a potential re-telling of Pumping Iron, a movie that would pick up where the original left off, and I thought, “Gosh, if that really does come to fruition I’d love to be a part of it.” It would be an honor. Then when I actually talked to the Vladar Company guys, they gave me an idea of what their vision was. You have to realize that bodybuilders get of ers for movies or TV, but then we’re not treated with respect. It’s usually done as a mockery or to make us look stupid. They didn’t come of like that at all. They were for real. And it was their attitude and enthusiasm for the sport that sealed the deal.