Phil Health on Starring in Generation Iron

The Gift talks about his role as one of the subjects in an epic film about modern bodybuilding
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You said before that having the cameras there helped you. Can you explain that?

Anytime you have cameras in front of you, it’s a reminder to not screw around. It’s extra motivation. You think about how you want to be remembered on fi lm because thousands of people are going to be watching it and it’s forever. Let’s face it, shooting free throws in your backyard is different from doing it in a high-pressure situation in front of 20,000 people. But I have experience with that from my basketball days, and others who aren’t used to performing in front of a crowd might not shine in that moment.

I mean, bodybuilders by definition are introverted. They don’t want the attention, but on the other hand they do want it because they’re working so hard to build their physiques and they want to be recognized for it. It’s funny because you see guys trying to copy my swagger onstage, trying to pump up the crowd and all, but the reaction isn’t the same because you can tell they’re not comfortable doing it. It’s like when a rapper tries to raise the roof and the crowd doesn’t respond. Then you get another guy who just says a couple of lyrics, and the crowd stands up, and the place is jumping.

It’s just like acting. You can read the script, but if you want to nail it like an Oscar-winning actor, you have to own it. Charisma comes from within. You can’t fake it. That comes from being in tune with who you are and what you’re trying to represent. For me, I just love people and it comes out in the way I do things. And I realize that being in my position, all eyes are on me. There’s always someone watching, so you give it your best shot. I know guys are taking notes on my workouts at the gym or snapping photos when my back is turned, and they don’t think I notice. But hey, there’s a picture of me training fi ve minutes later online. As a bodybuilder, that’s what I signed up for. We’re judged onstage and everywhere we go. You have to be a strongminded person to handle that. People can think they are, but until they walk in those shoes, they’re not battle-tested.

You saw the trailer for the first time last year during the contest. What did you think of it or were you too focused on the show to really have an opinion?

I thought, “Holy shit! This is crazy.” I said to myself, “I gotta win this contest tonight.” And the best part is that moving forward into this year’s O, all the guys who talked trash in Generation Iron are going to have to watch that movie, and watch me win. [Laughs]

What do you want people to think about bodybuilding and bodybuilders after watching this movie?

I want them to get an honest look at the sport. If I could ask each person to write down their top 10 impressions of bodybuilding as they walk into the theater and then another list of 10 things after watching the movie, I’d hope that their stereotypes would be gone and that those 10 new things would be positive. Each and every one of us puts a ton of effort into this.

The movie will show what we go through and that we’re professional athletes with a great perspective on the world of health and fi tness. We do it every day, not with fads or gimmicks, but with fundamental diets and training programs that actually help us lose fat while gaining muscle. It would be great for the general public to realize that they can do it, too. You don’t have to be Mr. Olympia or a professional bodybuilder to excel at this sport and use it to improve your current situation.

And for those guys who do want to be Mr. Olympia one day, they can say, “Look, Mom, I don’t have to be a basketball player, I can be a bodybuilder like Phil Heath.”

Let’s be honest, most kids want to play pro sports for fame and money. And this movie is making me look like the biggest baller there is, which I’m not, but bodybuilding has given me a very comfortable lifestyle. Parents can see that here is an educated family man who works hard and is a decent role model. Mr. Olympia can be a role model who can motivate you to do better things. I want them to learn something new.

The next time they see a bodybuilder, especially a pro who makes his living in this sport, maybe instead of sneering or making backhanded compliments, they can look at that person and say, “I admire your work, that takes a lot of dedication.”

 

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