My two greatest passions in life are science fiction (especially Star Wars) and bodybuilding. On the surface, these seem like two very disparate fields, one being a genre of fiction that often deals with the high minded ideals that a society aspires to or the lowest of all points of the human condition, and the other a seemingly self-indulgent and almost solipsistic pursuit of personal glory and achievement. However, these two passions share one important trait: they both rely on and honor the extreme and the exceptional.
There are three particular cases of the intersection of bodybuilding and science fiction that come easily to mind. The first is, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger and his work in such movies as Total Recall, Predator and the Terminator series. In every case, his tall, thick, and densely muscled frame provides a larger-than-life presence that quickly lets the audience know that he is special, either as a hero or villain. These superhuman characters have been the inspiration and induction for many young bodybuilders, and I confess that I was no different, looking up to the independence and achievement of Arnold as something worthy.
Slightly more niche, but no less inspiring to many a young boy wanting to becoming something else, is Lou Ferrigno who played the Incredible Hulk in the original television show, and has since been the body model for every iteration of the transformed Bruce Banner in film since then. It’s worth noting that Ferrigno is a personal hero of mine for the way he trained his body and pushed through his semi-deafness to be a film and bodybuilding star. I would even say that his portions of the great documentary Pumping Iron were my favorite, showing a person doing what it takes to reach his goals.
My third example is easily one of my favorites, and someone not often thought about despite some significant achievements. David Prowse is the man inside the Darth Vader costume in the original Star Wars trilogy. At 6’5” and the British heavyweight weightlifting champion, he is no small player in the world of bodybuilding and acting. Not only was he the astounding physical presence for one of the most iconic villains in cinema history, but he also played one for the first ever science fiction characters: Frankenstein's Monster. In both cases, similar to the two above, Prowse is an exceptional and extraordinary physique that symbolizes the inhuman. With height, mass and a uniquely physical acting talent, he menaces and impresses at the same time.
All three of these men have been major inspirations for me, each of them finding a home on the competition stage and in the science fiction canons I so love, as well as being inspirations and driving forces for many aspiring athletes and bodybuilders. The world of fitness and the world of fantasy are much more closely connected than most people realize, and I hope one day to be the trainer for many a young man trying to be able to do a few things his role playing game character can do.
Pictured: me, flexing my lats after back day recently, trying to get wide as a barn.