bodybuilding movie stars Header FB

Who’d make the final cut?

Severance package. Two words you’re likely to hear most working individuals mention at least once or twice in their lifetime. The idea that you’ll have some level of security once you’re ready to retire from your nine to five gig and head off to greener pastures of rest and relaxation. For professional bodybuilders there’s a tendency to wonder whether they’ll be able to have a budding career after years of competition. One such avenue popularized by Arnold Schwarzenegger is the notion of breaking into the film industry. It’s a goal that many, though not all, bodybuilders at least wonder about post competition years. Are there any athletes competing today that could make the cut and crossover into the world of acting.

Athletes from all walks of life like Dwayne Johnson, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, and Schwarzenegger himself have all turned professional athletic careers into flourishing movie careers. They have shown that there’s a path that can be taken to achieve greatness outside of their respective sports. They could use their trials to create a new path for themselves.

Dennis Wolf

Dennis Wolf has the look and the build of a man who could prove a visual force to witness on the big screen. At a quick glance, obvious comparisons to Arnold Schwarzenegger pop up – he’s got the size and the bad ass foreign accent. But then you look closer. We’ve already seen Wolf take his shot at acting in the film Generation Iron… with less than stellar results. As much as we’d all love to see Wolf take on a juicy villain role, much likeĀ Arnold’s turn as the Terminator – it doesn’t seem like this is going to be the case. But look, people can change and grow. Just like how you might mock a skinny kid who wants to be a bodybuilder; you might find years later he’s jacked and exceeded everyone’s expectations. As for now, Wolf shouldn’t quit his day job.

Big Ramy

Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay is on the rise in professional bodybuilding competition. Just his sheer size alone makes him a fearsome foe to any accomplish bodybuilder. But when he decides to leave competition there’s no garuntee that he’d be able to make it as an actor. Unfortunately, the fact that he can’t speak English would definitely cause some worry in Hollywood. It’s a sad but true fact, subtitled movies just don’t make million dollar blockbusters. So unless Big Ramy suddenly reveals himself as an amazing Egyption actor in foreign films. This doesn’t seem likely.

But all is not lost. There’s one role that we believe would be an absolutely killer role for him – an iconic James Bond henchman. The franchise has seen it’s fair share of bad acting henchman in the past – but Big Ramy’s massive and intimidating size would be more than enough to throw him into an action scene with James Bond himself. Bond 24 starts shooting this December – let’s ditch the rumored Dave Bautista and get Big Ramy in for the next iconic henchman.

Branch Warren

Branch Warren definitely has a very specific personality and feel to him. Something that jumps out at you immediately when you hear him speak or even simply by the way he carries himself. He’s got the real power grit. The kind of blunt but passionate personality that makes you think – “America.” For this reason, Branch might actually be able to pull off being an actor – even if he doesn’t know the first thing about acting itself. His personality alone might be enough to exude excitement on the screen. We’re thinking maybe a modern action western. Maybe he can be the next buff version of Clint Eastwood.

The one problem? Branch Warren probably has no interest in being a part of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. That very same gritty persona is the exact reason why he would hate it. Bodybuilding fame is one thing – but can you imagine him sitting through press junkets, constant talk shows, and dealing with the paparazzi? We don’t want to put words in his mouth – but we’re thinking the answer is no.

Hidetada Yamagishi

It’s not everyday that you see a Japanese bodybuilder competing on the world stage and it’s just that fact that makes Hidetada an interesting prospect as an actor. Hidetada has previously stated that Pumping Iron, Arnold Schwarzenegger in particular, has been a major influence on his career. The confidence, the mental fortitude – Hidetada credits Arnold with many of the strategies that have brought him his own success. His drive has pushed him to become the first Asian athlete to compete in the Olympia competition. This makes Hidetada a unique individual in bodybuilding. Would that make him a truly unique actor? Maybe. With Hidetada now competing in the smaller 212 competitions, he would have one up to many of the pro men’s bodybuilders. Why? Because he wouldn’t have the perceived “freak” factor that many non-bodybuilding fans would might distaste.

Kai Greene

Kai Greene would have a great chance at translating his bodybuilding talents over to film. A very creative man outside of bodybuilding competitions, Kai is a performer through and through. He’s a fairly talented painter besides being an athlete. Not only that, but he also enjoys doing performance art on the streets of NY and takes to his duties with a relish and enthusiasm that would be great to see on screen. It’s Kai’s animated personality and passion for the arts that would help bolster a move to cinema. If you’ve ever heard the man talk, especially at his seminars, you know that he is truly mesmerizing. And that’s exactly what movie goers want and need – to be mesmerized and transported into another world. Kai can do that. And perhaps one day in his future, Kai will do that.

Phil Heath

Blessed with confidence and charisma, Phil Heath is a bodybuilder with true star potential outside of competition. Phil possesses the type of confidence to walk on a movie set, take on a role and grab everyone’s attention with his presence alone. Schwarzenegger was a man who translated his aura of being a bodybuilding champ into being a leading man of merit. Phil has that same kind of demeanor and confidence that could translate well. A few acting classes and the same drive he’s used to become an Olympia champion and who knows, we could see Phil break into Hollywood sooner rather than later.

The Challenge of Crossing Over

Perhaps the biggest challenge for any of these men would be avoiding type casting. Bodybuilders are built differently than most people, molding their bodies as close to perfection as possible. This stigma could hold them back from obtaining consistent movie roles, but it wouldn’t be impossible. What made Arnold Schwarzenegger special was that he didn’t file himself into one type of role. In the beginning of course he had little choice in the matter, but eventually he broke into roles that allowed him to show off his charismatic personality and acting ability. Not everyone can cross over into a movie superstar. Just like not everyone has the genetics to be the #1 bodybuilding Olympia champion.

While there’s nothing worse than seeing an athlete trying to act and failing miserably – we shouldn’t be so harsh to judge. Every actor starts somewhere, they just didn’t have the media attention for previously being a superstar athlete. The Rock may be the greatest example of this. A man who debuted on screen as a terribly acted and terribly CGI’d half man/half scorpion is now an actor respected in his own right – not just because he was a wrestler. Will we see another bodybuilder crossover like Arnold Schwarzenegger? We can’t wait to find out.


Which pro bodybuilders do you think would be able to make the leap to the big screen? Let us know in the comments below or follow us on Facebook and Twitter and tell us who you think has a shot.

Jonathan Salmon
Managing editor of Generation Iron, Jonathan Salmon is a writer, martial arts instructor, and geek culture enthusiast. He has been writing about bodybuilding, combat sports, and strength sports for over 8 years. Check out his YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Sound Cloud for in-depth MMA analysis.