Pumping Iron Documentary Review Essays

For other people with the same name, see George Butler (disambiguation).

George Butler

Butler in March 2004

Born1944 (age 73–74)
London, England
OccupationPhotographer, documentary filmmaker

George Butler (born 1944) is an English photographer and documentary filmmaker.


After meeting John Kerry in 1964 he worked with him on the book The New Soldier published in 1971.

On a photo assignment to cover the IFBB Mr. Universe contest in Baghdad in 1972, Butler met Arnold Schwarzenegger. His photographs were used to illustrate Charles Gaines' 1974 essay "Pumping Iron", on which Butler later based his first documentary feature, Pumping Iron (1977). The film showcased Schwarzenegger and other bodybuilders that is credited with starting Schwarzenegger's film career. Butler later directed a sequel, also based on Gaines' writing, called Pumping Iron II: The Women (1985). It featured Bev Francis, Rachel McLish, and several other women.

Butler initially worked sparingly as a documentary filmmaker making 3 films between 1977 and 1999. However, in recent years he has started to work more regularly. In 2000, he made The Endurance a 97-minute documentary about Ernest Shackleton's failed Antarctic expedition in 1914. The film was well received by critics,[1] and was nominated for and won several awards.[2] The following year, Butler released a documentary, Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure, which recounts the crew's heroism. Narrated by Kevin Spacey, the film is 57 minutes shorter than The Endurance.

In 2004, Butler again collaborated with John Kerry this time to make the documentary Going Upriver. Going Upriver is about Kerry's Vietnam experiences, his activity in the peace movement following his return from Vietnam, and his current political views and theories. It includes footage from the early 1970s of Kerry along with current interviews of Kerry and a host of other veterans.

Butler's most recent documentary is Roving Mars (2006), about the twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit, and Opportunity, which were launched by NASA in 2004.

On December 31, 2008, Butler's close friend Charlie Rose included a segment on Butler in his annual New Year's Eve tribute to recently deceased notables on PBS. However, Butler was not deceased; another notable George Butler, a record producer, was the one who had died.[3]



  1. ^The Endurance entry, rottentomatoes.com, accessed January 12, 2007.
  2. ^The Endurance awards page, imdb.com, accessed January 12, 2007.
  3. ^Charlie Rose Mistakenly Declares Friend Dead NYTimes, January 3, 2009
  4. ^Tiger, Tiger Film

External links[edit]

Back in in the 1970s, before every strip mall had a gym or Pilates studio, George Butler was trying, without much success, to fund a documentary about bodybuilders. The concept of PUMPING IRON, based on Butler's and Charles Gaines' book of the same title, was to show the hard work, dedication, and focus that amateur and professional bodybuilders pour into the sport. Driven to create artistically symmetrically and proportionally beautiful bodies, the men fight to win major competitions. The focus is on the all-important Mr. Olympia contest held in South Africa, where former Mr. Universes compete for the top honor in the sport.

The movie follows several competitors for the 1975 title, including Mike Katz, Ken Waller, Louis Ferrigno (later known for playing "The Incredible Hulk"), Franco Columbu and, most culturally significant, Arnold Schwarzenegger, then 28-years-old. Although Arnold isn't given that much more screen time than the others, his buoyant personality, subversive sense of humor, wit, intelligence and abundance of self-esteem make it immediately apparent that he is a star. The irony is that his photogenic face is far more compelling than his rippling muscles. He is magnetic, but he is driven by yearnings first felt in his Austrian childhood. He knew then he wanted to go to America and be famous, to fulfill a special destiny, just like Jesus, as he puts it.  

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