Victor Martinez reflects back to his time being filmed in the original Generation Iron documentary – and reacts to Phil Heath being seen as the villain of the film.
Phil Heath is a 7x Mr. Olympia champion and considered by many to be one of the best bodybuilders to ever exist in the sport. Beyond skyrocketing to fame due to his killer physique and many Olympia titles – he was also featured in the feature film documentary Generation Iron. This put him into an even bigger stratosphere of notoriety beyond fans of the sport. It also made many believe Heath was a villain of bodybuilding. An athlete that needed to be defeated by an underdog like Kai Greene. In our latest episode of the Generation Iron Podcast – Victor Martinez, Vlad Yudin, and Ehsan Farahi debate whether or not the film is at fault for Phil Heath’s villain status. Or was it simply his own confident personality and a desire to see a champion fall that earned him the title of “villain.”
It’s hard to believe that the original Generation Iron film is almost 10 years old. In that time we now have a nearly completely different lineup fighting for the Sandow trophy at the Mr. Olympia. Big Ramy is now our reigning champion and the likes of Nick Walker, Brandon Curry, Hadi Choopan, and others are real threats to thrown.
No where in that list are the likes of Phil Heath or Kai Greene. Heath might not be retired just yet with rumor he may return in 2023. The last time we have seen him on stage was in 2020. Kai Greene, on the other hand, has not competed since his Arnold Classic run in 2016 with no signs of returning.
However, both of these names are still in the hearts of many bodybuilding fans to this day. They still make headlines with their actions or rumors of their return. It is a testament to how legendary they both were during their bodybuilding careers.
Part of that legendary status was captured and promoted in the original Generation Iron documentary. It gave an inside look into the top bodybuilders at the time before social media made that a normal occurrence. It also pushed a vital narrative that continued for years to come – the Kai Greene vs Phil Heath rivalry.
While there were massive fans on both sides – many looked at Kai Greene as the underdog. And Phil Heath, the constant reigning Mr. Olympia champion, was seen as somewhat of a villain. A confident (or some would say cocky) athlete who many fans wanted to see fall. Was the Generation Iron film responsible for this view of Phil Heath? Or would it have happened regardless simply due to his eventual long running win streak? Just like a hit song that goes platinum and plays ad nausea on the airwaves – perhaps people just wanted to hear something different.
Victor Martinez shares his thoughts alongside Generation Iron director Vlad Yudin and bodybuilding media personality Eshan Farahi. Let’s jump into it.
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Did Generation Iron manipulate Phil Heath’s story to make him into a villain?
One of the biggest rumors that spread since the release of Generation Iron, was that the film purposefully edited footage and possibly even staged scenes to make Phil Heath look more cocky, rich, and conceited than he really is.
During this week’s podcast conversation – this gets brought up to Vlad Yudin. He denies stages or manipulating everything. In fact, he states that Phil Heath was more than happy with the cut of the film when he first watched it privately before release. It wasn’t until the fan opinion became apparent that Heath became concerned about how he was portrayed.
Victor Martinez jumps in from his perspective as both a participant in the film and also a fan who has seen the movie after release. He believes that there was no active manipulation in the film. Rather, like any film, the best and most interesting footage was used to tell a story. That story exists in real life (because it is a documentary) but also hyper focuses that story and enhances it.
In addition to this, Victor Martinez points out that fans always fall in love with the underdog. That’s why films like Rudy, Rocky, or The Karate Kid remain timeless classics. We as people want to see an underdog win. Due to this, we see anyone who gets in the underdog’s way as a villain. In this case, the documentary narrative placed Phil Heath in this role.
How Phil Heath and Kai Greene’s rivalry played out after Generation Iron
Beyond the film – this story remained true in real life for years past the film. With each Mr. Olympia that Phil Heath won (and Kai Greene trailing shortly behind in second), fans wanted to see Heath lose even more. Perhaps next year will be the time Kai finally gets the one up on Phil. That’s what many fans hoped for.
In addition to this, clashes at viral moments such as the Olympia press conference further pushed this narrative. The two bodybuilders would also comment on each other’s social media posts from time to time. Phil Heath was on top. Kai Greene wasn’t. And the two bodybuilders were so close in talent it led to an inevitable labeling of these athletes. Phil was the champion who must be defeated. Kai was the underdog that we all want to see earn that trophy.
If you cut away all of the more mundane moments in someone’s life and only leave the biggest most interesting and controversial moments – you get an enhanced vision of that person’s life. It exaggerates the reality into something more evocative and direct. This is the ultimate consensus that Victor Martinez, Vlad Yudin, and Ehsan Farahi ultimately land on with Phil Heath in Generation Iron.
The gang discuss much more than Phil Heath and Kai Greene – also touching base on money in bodybuilding, IFBB Pro judging criteria, and more. You can check out the full Generation Iron Podcast episode above. And make sure to check back every Tuesday for new episodes only on the Generation Iron Fitness Network or wherever podcasts are downloaded.