On the Set of Generation Iron

Stories about what it was like to film modern bodybuilding's first feature film
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Last month we brought you the first part of our exclusive look at the making of Generation Iron, the feature film that takes viewers inside the sport of professional bodybuilding. Seven elite,professional bodybuilders were captured on camera as they prepared for the 2012 Mr. Olympia and the right to be named the greatest in the world. Now in part two, we continue our conversation with writer, director, and producer Vlad Yudin.

FLEX: Judging from the photos, it’s clear that you had a sizeable crew on hand.

VLAD YUDIN: Production quality was very important. Our goal was to make a monumental film that defined the sport as it is today. And we knew this was going to be a theatrical release so it had to have theatrical quality, and to do that, you need the right team. We had 10 people, so we had the option of a smaller breakaway crew to follow the guys if necessary. Basically, we were with the athletes in some form or another at all times. At the Olympia, we had even more people. And everybody had worked on Hollywood films, so we had plenty of cinematic experience on the team.

You were at a couple of IFBB Pro League shows leading up to the Olympia, but what was it like being at the biggest event in the industry?

That was my first Mr. Olympia and it was a very cool experience. The Olympia is on a whole different level. The production value is enormous. It gives you a real sense of the scale of the contest and you can see why the athletes train so hard and make the sacrifice to be at this level. More than any other contest, you have to earn the right to stand on that stage. The Olympia will always be No. 1, like the Oscars for the movie industry. They live for it because this is the absolute standard of excellence. You can’t go any higher.

One of the interesting facets of all sports is the rivalry between athletes, especially at the pro level, with so much on the line.

Everybody has an opinion, and when opinions start to clash, that can add fun and excitement to the sport. And I found that there was no shortage of opinions between these guys. And it’s not like some amateur talking about Phil; these are guys that have competed against him, and in some cases, even beaten him before. You’ll see that they were very open about sharing their opinions.

It was very important that the different personalities come through on-screen. It’s a misconception that bodybuilders are machines who just lift weights. The film shows that they have emotions just like everybody and they go through their highs and lows. They have to deal with everyday life as they’re training for the contest. And with the seven guys, you have the full range of personalities. You have the scientific, methodical type in Ben, and the blue-collar type in Branch. Kai’s introspective while Phil is outgoing. Just like their training styles are different in the gym, so is the way they are outside of the gym, in the way they deal with people and everything else. I really like that aspect of the film. Showing them not only as world-class bodybuilders, but as regular people with regular-people concerns and commitments.

Now let’s skip over to Colorado, where you shot Phil Heath. This is an ensemble cast, but as the reigning champion, Phil certainly has a presence in the film, much like Arnold did in the original, as the “man to beat” and from the trailers, he definitely comes across that way.

Phil’s a true champion. He’s achieved so much in a relatively short period of time. If you want to be a successful bodybuilder you have to believe that you’re the best. That’s where it all starts. If you don’t believe it, no one else will. And the thing about that kind of belief is that you can tell if someone really believes in himself or is trying to convince others that he does. The way that champions look at things is different, and Phil has that. He has bigger goals. He’s not content with just being on top. He wants to make bodybuilding more exciting, make it bigger, and see it grow and attract more fans. That’s how the sport continues to get better, and Phil understands this because he has a good business sense. Yes, he’s outspoken, but he has that right. He’s earned it. He has worked hard for everything he has and went straight to the top, and the rest of the guys are chasing him.

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