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HISTORY

       Pumping Iron was filmed in 1975, leading up to and including the International Federation of Bodybuilders’ “Mr. Olympia” competition in Pretoria, South Africa in mid-Nov, according to the 16 Nov 1975 LAT. According to studio notes in AMPAS library files, photography began in Los Angeles in Jun 1975, moved to Sardinia, Italy, New England (specifically MA and CT), New York City, San Francisco, CA, and finally Pretoria. In all, over a hundred hours of film was shot.
       A 2002 documentary called Raw Iron: The Making of Pumping Iron, included on the DVD release of Pumping Iron, as well as an article in the 25 Nov 2002 New Yorker, revealed that when director George Butler completed principal photography, he was broke and in debt to his credit card company for $35,000. To raise money to complete the film, the producers arranged for Arnold Schwarzenegger and two other bodybuilders to pose during a show called “Articulate Muscle: The Male Body in Art” at Manhattan’s Whitney Museum of American Art, which attracted 5,000 paying customers on 25 Feb 1976. Pumping Iron premiered in New York City nearly a year later, on 18 Jan 1977. In the “making of” documentary, Butler and several bodybuilders, including Schwarzenegger and Louis Ferrigno, admitted that much of the personal rivalry in the film was manufactured, or at least overplayed, to add drama. Butler created a stark comparison between the charismatic Arnold and the more introverted Louis by filming Arnold at sunny Gold’s Gym and Muscle Beach and Louis in a dark, cramped Brooklyn gym; Butler also enhanced Matty Ferrigno’s “overbearing” qualities to make ... More Less

       Pumping Iron was filmed in 1975, leading up to and including the International Federation of Bodybuilders’ “Mr. Olympia” competition in Pretoria, South Africa in mid-Nov, according to the 16 Nov 1975 LAT. According to studio notes in AMPAS library files, photography began in Los Angeles in Jun 1975, moved to Sardinia, Italy, New England (specifically MA and CT), New York City, San Francisco, CA, and finally Pretoria. In all, over a hundred hours of film was shot.
       A 2002 documentary called Raw Iron: The Making of Pumping Iron, included on the DVD release of Pumping Iron, as well as an article in the 25 Nov 2002 New Yorker, revealed that when director George Butler completed principal photography, he was broke and in debt to his credit card company for $35,000. To raise money to complete the film, the producers arranged for Arnold Schwarzenegger and two other bodybuilders to pose during a show called “Articulate Muscle: The Male Body in Art” at Manhattan’s Whitney Museum of American Art, which attracted 5,000 paying customers on 25 Feb 1976. Pumping Iron premiered in New York City nearly a year later, on 18 Jan 1977. In the “making of” documentary, Butler and several bodybuilders, including Schwarzenegger and Louis Ferrigno, admitted that much of the personal rivalry in the film was manufactured, or at least overplayed, to add drama. Butler created a stark comparison between the charismatic Arnold and the more introverted Louis by filming Arnold at sunny Gold’s Gym and Muscle Beach and Louis in a dark, cramped Brooklyn gym; Butler also enhanced Matty Ferrigno’s “overbearing” qualities to make him a “stage father.” Footage showing the bodybuilders hanging out, eating, partying, and laughing together was cut to a minimum. Also, Schwarzenegger had already planned to retire from bodybuilding because he wanted to concentrate on his nascent Hollywood career, but he agreed to train for one last Mr. Olympia title to give the filmmakers a story.
       Raw Iron also revealed that during filming, Butler introduced diminutive actor Bud Cort as a comic foil for Arnold and other bodybuilders, but quickly rejected the idea.
       According to the May 1994 issue of Buzz magazine, Schwarzenegger’s attorneys tried unsuccessfully to buy the rights to Pumping Iron in order and stop any further video release, because of his indiscretions and brash comments in the film. However, when a digitally enhanced Pumping Iron, complete with outtakes of Arnold smoking marijuana, was issued in 2002, he praised the film and told the 22 Nov 2002 Entertainment Today, “I would refuse to wipe out that record or change it or alter it because of image’s sake. That would not be true to the filmmaker.”

      End credits give the following acknowledgments: “Our Thanks To: The International Federation of Bodybuilders—Ben Weider, President; Joseph Weider of Muscle Builder Power Magazine; Gold’s Gym, Venice, Cal.—Ken Sprague, Dan Howard; Mid City Gym, New York, N.Y.—Tommy Minichiello; R&J Health Club, Brooklyn, N.Y.—Julie Levine; Denny’s Body Shoppe, San Francisco, Cal.—Denny Holmes; Mountain Park, Holyoke, Mass.—Ed Jubenville; The South Africa Bodybuilding Federation; Whitney Museum of American Art Art—Palmer Wald, Vicki Goldberg; Abe Peck—Rolling Stone; Annie Leibovitz—Rolling Stone; Jim Stingley; Dennis Stallard; Oscar State; Charles Roman—Charles Atlas; Reg & Marion Park; And Ann Morton, Ellie Wyeth, Mary Rose, Victoria Butler, Susan Gary, Christy Barnes, Bill Benenson, Bud Cort, Bobby Zarem, Helen Bransford, Delfina Rattazzi, Rusty Guinzburg, Dan Green, Patricia Gary, Oatsie Charles, Phillip Pillsbury, Dan Sandburg, Porter Bibb, Charles McGettigan, Jr., Pat McBaine, Teri McLuhan, Larry Shaw, Adelle Romano, Brian Lockwood, Peter Schmidt, Cindy Hay, Cindy Ziesing, Christine Zane, Jamie Currie, David Chard, Protection by ‘Chula’.”
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Buzz
May 1994
p. 36.
Entertainment Today
22 Nov 2002.
---
Los Angeles Times
16 Nov 1975
Section E, p. 1, 8-13, 20.
Los Angeles Times
18 Apr 1977
Section E, p. 1, 10.
New York Times
19 Jan 1977
p. 20.
New Yorker
25 Nov 2002.
---
Time
24 Jan 1977
p. 79.
Variety
19 Jan 1977
p. 22.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A White Mountain Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Asst prod
WRITER
Conceived by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Cine/Dir of photog
Lighting/Dir of lighting
Cam, South Africa
Cam, San Francisco, N.Y., S.A.
Cam, N.Y., South Africa
Cam, Holyoke, Mass.
Cam, Los Angeles
Cam, San Francisco
Cam, South Africa
1st cam asst
Cam asst
Cam asst
Film processing
Opt blowup
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Negative cutter
MUSIC
Mus and title song
Title song
Backup vocal
Backup vocal
Backup vocal
Guitar
Bass
Drums
Drums
Keyboards
Synthesizer
Trumpet
Trumpet
Trombone
SOUND
Sd/Dir of sd
Sd, N.Y., S.A.
Sd, Los Angeles
Sd, N. Branford, Conn.
Sd mix
Sd transfer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Film titles/Film title des
PRODUCTION MISC
Consultant
Consultant
Prod asst
Prod asst
South African prod by
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the book Pumping Iron: The Art and Sport of Bodybuilding by Charles Gaines and George Butler. (New York, 1974).
SONGS
"Pumping Iron Song," written by Michael Small, sung by Joey Ward.
PERFORMER
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 January 1977
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 18 January 1977
Los Angeles opening: 20 April 1977
Production Date:
began June 1975 in Los Angeles
ended November 1976 in Pretoria, South Africa
Copyright Claimant:
White Mountain Films
Copyright Date:
7 April 1980
Copyright Number:
PA70190
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Prints
Du Art
Duration(in mins):
85
Length(in reels):
5
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At Gold’s Gym in Venice, California, Arnold Schwarzenegger and other bodybuilders lift heavy weights to sculpt their bodies. According to a sign on the wall, the International Federation of Bodybuilders’ “Mr. Olympia” competition will be held in Pretoria, South Africa, on 7 November 1975, only 101 days away. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an Austrian immigrant, has already won the Mr. Olympia title five times, but now that new opportunities have opened for him in Hollywood, he plans to retire after he wins his sixth. Arnold compares his weightlifting with sex, because the extreme workouts “pump” the muscles, infusing them with blood, and make him feel “fantastic.” He and his fellow champion bodybuilders make their living traveling, entering various competitions, and showing off their muscles. While in San Francisco, California, for a “Mr. Pacific” contest, Arnold visits a co-ed prison on nearby Terminal Island and impresses a group of inmates. Meanwhile, several of his Venice companions fly to the “Mr. Universe” contest in Pretoria, South Africa, where the more prestigious Mr. Olympia contest will be held later in the week. Mike Katz, a Connecticut school teacher, says he became an athlete because he was bullied as a mild-mannered Jewish schoolboy in a largely Catholic neighborhood; after an injury cut short his football career with the New York Jets, Mike turned to bodybuilding, and by 1973 he won the “Mr. America” and “Mr. World” titles. His chief competitor is Ken Waller, a cocky redhead who says Mike’s body is not “properly proportioned” to win. Backstage before the performance, Ken steals Mike’s lucky T-shirt to “mess with his mind.” When Ken wins the Mr. Universe title, Mike is dejected but makes an effort to ... +


At Gold’s Gym in Venice, California, Arnold Schwarzenegger and other bodybuilders lift heavy weights to sculpt their bodies. According to a sign on the wall, the International Federation of Bodybuilders’ “Mr. Olympia” competition will be held in Pretoria, South Africa, on 7 November 1975, only 101 days away. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an Austrian immigrant, has already won the Mr. Olympia title five times, but now that new opportunities have opened for him in Hollywood, he plans to retire after he wins his sixth. Arnold compares his weightlifting with sex, because the extreme workouts “pump” the muscles, infusing them with blood, and make him feel “fantastic.” He and his fellow champion bodybuilders make their living traveling, entering various competitions, and showing off their muscles. While in San Francisco, California, for a “Mr. Pacific” contest, Arnold visits a co-ed prison on nearby Terminal Island and impresses a group of inmates. Meanwhile, several of his Venice companions fly to the “Mr. Universe” contest in Pretoria, South Africa, where the more prestigious Mr. Olympia contest will be held later in the week. Mike Katz, a Connecticut school teacher, says he became an athlete because he was bullied as a mild-mannered Jewish schoolboy in a largely Catholic neighborhood; after an injury cut short his football career with the New York Jets, Mike turned to bodybuilding, and by 1973 he won the “Mr. America” and “Mr. World” titles. His chief competitor is Ken Waller, a cocky redhead who says Mike’s body is not “properly proportioned” to win. Backstage before the performance, Ken steals Mike’s lucky T-shirt to “mess with his mind.” When Ken wins the Mr. Universe title, Mike is dejected but makes an effort to be a gracious loser. Meanwhile, Arnold, who spent his Austrian boyhood dreaming of being famous in Hollywood, enjoys his growing reputation as a bodybuilding superstar. Everywhere he goes, young women and men flock to meet him. A magazine photographer poses him with three pretty models wearing bikinis. Star photographer Annie Leibovitz shoots him for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Meanwhile, in a Brooklyn, New York, gym called R & J Health Studio, Louis Ferrigno trains under the eye of his father, Matty Ferrigno, who retired from the New York Police Department to manage Louis’s career. Like a cheerleader, Matty gives Louis constant encouragement. Louis is a relative newcomer to professional bodybuilding, but at nearly six-and-a-half feet tall and 275 pounds, he is the largest participant. Louis has won the Mr. America title twice, as well as the “Mr. Venus” title, and now he wants to be the ultimate: Mr. Olympia. He says he began as a skinny, picked-on kid with a speech impediment caused by a severe hearing problem. When Louis lifts weights, he adds a few extra, painful repetitions, or “reps,” screaming “Arnold” each time. In California, Arnold and his friends lift weights at Muscle Beach, an ocean-side area not far from Gold’s Gym. Arnold says a bodybuilder must push beyond the edge of endurance because the final, most painful repetitions are the ones that add new muscle. Another champion is Franco Columbu, a former Mr. Universe from Sardinia, Italy, who has moved to America to fulfill his dream of stardom. Franco is the smallest man on the circuit, but also one of the strongest; on a trip home to Italy, Franco lifts the back end of a car trapped in a parking space and pulls it into the street. Franco is close to Arnold because they knew each other in Germany, but Arnold calls Franco “a child.” Among Arnold’s winning skills are his wit and cunning: If he thinks a competitor is a threat, Arnold will “mix him up” by deflating his confidence, breaking his concentration, or giving him bad advice. At a “Mr. Munich” contest years earlier, he convinced a bodybuilder that the judges would be impressed if he yelled every time he lifted a barbell, and the man was thrown out. Arnold, Franco, and Louis fly to Pretoria for the Mr. Olympia competition. The men pose as a group and individually, and then the top three scorers display themselves in a “pose-off,” gracefully moving from one pose to another. There is an under-200-pound class and an over-200-pound class, and the winner of each class competes against the other for the crown. Franco wins the under-200 competition. The three finalists in the heavier class are Arnold, Louis, and Serge Nubret, a black French movie star. Arnold verbally picks on Louis to upset him. Privately, Arnold says he cuts off his own emotions for months before big events like the Olympia, and even refused to go to his father’s funeral in Austria before a competition, fearing he would lose focus. At the final judging, Louis comes in third and Arnold wins the 200-plus class. Arnold also beats Franco to win his sixth Mr. Olympia title. As he accepts the award, he makes his formal announcement that this will be his final competition. On their way to the airport, Arnold and Louis joke together in the back of the bus. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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