When thinking about the figures who brought bodybuilding into the mainstream, classic athletes like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, Lou Ferrigno, Steves Reeves all come to mind. While all influential individuals in their own right, George Butler, acclaimed documentary maker and director of Pumping Iron, really pushed bodybuilding into the limelight, giving rise to the legendary status of Schwarzenegger and others. 

Pumping Iron Director George Butler Passes Away

Unfortunately Butler passed away on October 22, 2021 at 77 years old. With his death, the world of bodybuilding has been dealt a major blow. There really is no way to envision the sport without Butler’s contributions. 


Born in 1943 in Great Britain, Butler grew up in various different countries across Africa. As a young man, he worked as a reporter, where in 1972 he was tasked with covering the Mr. Universe bodybuilding competition. It was this assignment that inspired him to look deeper into the world of bodybuilding, culminating in his collaboration with author of the Pumping Iron book, Charles Gaines. The two’s visions lead them to Arnold Schwarzenegger, giving birth to the legendary Pumping Iron documentary. 

Released in 1977, the documentary was a complete success, transforming bodybuilding from a niche community into an international sensation. Beyond just shedding light on the obscure subject of bodybuilding it fully captured Schwarzenegger’s charisma and drive, launching his acting career. One could go as far as to say that the entire fitness industry owes its success to Pumping Iron’s influence. 

With such a monumental impact on today’s culture, Butler’s death is extremely solemn. Schwarzenegger, who owes so much to Butler’s legacy, weighed in on his recent death, going to Instagram and Twitter to relay his thoughts. 

He stated:

“When I think about all of the people who were responsible for the growth of bodybuilding and the sport’s crossover to the mainstream, two of the first people to come to mind are, without any doubt, George Butler and Charles Gaines. Pumping Iron, the book and the movie, drew the general public in to our strange little niche sport and brought fitness and this Austrian with an unpronounceable name and a funny accent – to the masses,

I was saddened to hear the news of George’s passing. He was such a talent, he had a fantastic eye, and he was a force for the sport of bodybuilding and the fitness crusade. My thoughts are with his family.”

The world will miss Butler, a great man filled with passion and a unique eye for art. Here at Herculean Strength, we give our condolences to his friends and family. 

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