EXCLUSIVE: Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia’s Seven Bucks Productions have set a feature documentary focusing on the attempt by seven-time Mr. Olympia Phil Heath to return after a two year hiatus to reclaim his status as arguably the greatest Mr. Olympia champion to walk the earth (sorry, Arnold). Johnson and Garcia are the executive producers and writing and directing the untitled film is Canadian filmmaker Brett Harvey (Inmate # 1: The Rise of Danny Trejo, Ice Guardians).
The film will cover Heath’s rise to the top of the bodybuilding mountain — he won the title every year from 2011-2017 — and the adversity of trying to come all the way back from the two year layoff, overcome injuries that come with 18 years of physical and mental sacrifice, and the beefcake that filled the gap while he was away and will be onstage against him. Adding to the challenge of his comeback is COVID-19 and its looming implications on his training schedule and the Olympia event itself — the event is scheduled for the weekend of December 16 in Las Vegas — presenting an entirely new dynamic to the hill that Heath must climb, as he once again stands on the edge of bodybuilding history.
Competitive bodybuilding has been captured several times in features, most famously by the 1977 George Butler-directed Pumping Iron, where Arnold Schwarzenegger first established himself as a charismatic onscreen personality as he competed for his sixth Mr. Olympia against the bodybuilders he trained with at Muscle Beach and the larger but less polished Brooklyn youngster Lou Ferrigno (who would go on to star as the title character in the TV series The Incredible Hulk). Made on such a shoestring that Schwarzenegger and other bodybuilders had to kick in cash to finish it, Pumping Iron captured the zeitgeist and led to a surge of popularity in bodybuilding, with gyms sprouting like swollen biceps and pectorals across the country. A 1980 docu The Comeback, which chronicled Schwarzenegger’s comeback to win his seventh title, sounds closer in spirit to what Heath and the filmmakers are doing here. Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Olympia record has since been eclipsed by Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman, each of whom won eight times, so Heath is in rare-ified territory. He already looks chiseled and large enough that both Johnson and Garcia might take a workout tip from Heath and say, I’ll try that (both Johnson and Garcia are accomplished gym rats).
“As a fellow bodybuilder, I am endlessly in awe of Phil’s abilities and unprecedented career,” said Garcia. “Not only is his physique iconic but his work ethic, mental persistence and relentless commitment are simply unmatched in the sport. I am excited to be collaborating with Phil, alongside our partners, to tell his story with conviction as well as to bring an authentic glimpse into his world as he cements his legacy.”
Said Johnson: “Phil is one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time and when it’s all said and done, he could become the greatest to ever step on stage. For good reasons, his nickname is ‘The Gift’ and his bodybuilding surname is The Dream Killer’. This is going to be fun to produce. I can’t wait.”
Heath is committed to giving the filmmakers complete access as he trains and diets down to the necessary level of shredded-ness.
“I’m thrilled to partner with Brett Harvey and the Seven Bucks Productions team whose creative minds and trust make them the ideal partners to finally share my story with the world,” Heath said. “I look forward to offering unprecedented access as I compete in yet another Mr. Olympia and using this opportunity for self-expression and honesty to allow my fans around the world to finally understand who I really am.”
Said Harvey, who’s directing: “It’s a rare opportunity to step inside the personal voyage of an elite athlete who has been as dominant as Phil Heath. Even more rare is the ability to do so while he battles back from injuries and attempts to alter the course of bodybuilding history within the landscape of a world pandemic. I’m intrigued to be joining Phil’s fascinating journey.”
Seven Bucks’ Johnson and Garcia will executive produce alongside Adam Scorgie for Score G Productions and Super Channel, and Heath. Seven Bucks’ Hiram Garcia, Brian Gewirtz and Kevin Hill will also serve as executive producers, along with Erin Lardy and Nikki Cuff on behalf of The Garcia Companies. Stephen Green will edit the film.
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