Fearlessly defeating anyone who challenges their ability, is a major motivator in the world of bodybuilding. The critically acclaimed and award-winning documentary series, ‘Generation Iron,’ has continued to also garner fan appreciation since the first entry’s theatrical release in 2013. With its recent fourth installment, ‘Generation Iron: Natty 4 Life,’ the franchise is highlighting another facet in the sport of bodybuilding-the controversial world of natural bodybuilding, as top professionals compete for the title of Natural Olympia. The competition’s dedication to ensuring all athletes are free of performance enhancing drugs is showcased in the series’ third sequel.
Filmmaker Vlad Yudin returned to the franchise by writing, directing and producing ‘Generation Iron: Natty 4 Life,’ after he penned, helmed and produced the first three movies in the franchise. The documentary is now available on Digital and On Demand, via iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Vimeo, courtesy of The Vladar Company.
In addition to scribing, directing and producing ‘Generation Iron: Natty 4 Life,’ Yudin also founded The Vladar Company, a production company that distributes various features and documentaries. He also founded the Generation Iron Brands, which is a Manhattan based digital media content publisher, broadcaster and producer of Strength Sports, Wellness, Bodybuilding, Fitness, MMA, entertainment, news and original content that reaches over three million readers monthly, and has over 1.2 million subscribers.
‘Generation Iron: Natty 4 Life’ features several world famous natural bodybuilders, including Rob Terry, who’s known for his work in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA). The narrative explores the inner workings of the controversial world of professional natural bodybuilding, in attempt to expose the truth behind the all-natural claim of the sport. This next chapter in the flagship film series also showcases the top pros as they compete for Natural Olympia in a league that’s dedicated to ensuring all competitors are free of performance enhancing drugs. With medicine and technology continuing to change at a rapid pace across sports and entertainment, natural bodybuilding as a whole has been criticized and questioned. The bodybuilding community questions if the league can guarantee that its competitors are truly natural.
Yudin and Terry generously took the time recently to talk about directing, producing and appearing in ‘Generation Iron: Natty 4 Life’ during individual exclusive phone interviews. Among other things, the filmmaker and Welsh professional bodybuilder discussed how the third entry in the franchise became focused on natural bodybuilding because fans of the series informed The Vladar Company that they were interested in seeing how the competitors in the subdivision of the sport trained and lived. The duo also shared that they think the movie is a great way to showcase the natural bodybuilding competitions, which have largely been stopped from being held in person during the current COVID-19 pandemic, and will offer hope to audiences that the sport will return as soon as possible in the future.
The conversation with Yudin began with the filmmaker explaining why he was interested in returning to the ‘Generation Iron’ franchise to direct ‘Natty 4 Life.’ “This film basically goes back to the original ‘Generation Iron’ that we made in 2013. It follows the stories of a few athletes who compete (in the International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness) for the title of Mr. Olympia. Their stories show them overcoming several obstacles; they all have to maintain other jobs, and they also have families,” the helmer shared.
The fourth installment in the ‘Generation Iron: Natty 4 Life’ series “shows the (athletes’) struggles as they go for the number one title in the natural organization.” So in that sense, the third sequel reminded Yudin of the original movie. “But in this film, we obviously also had to explore the topic of natural bodybuilding and drug testing.”
Further speaking of the drug testing, the director decided explore natural bodybuilding in the franchise’s latest entry because “a couple of years ago, we started receiving emails from people who were asking us to cover natural bodybuilding. So we found athletes in the fitness industry (that fit that criteria). So this film basically originated because of the demand and requests we’ve been receiving.”
Terry began his conversation by explaining how he became involved in appearing in ‘Generation Iron: Natty 4.’ “I’m a huge old-school bodybuilding fan, and anyone who I consider to be an old-school bodybuilding fan has seen ‘Pumping Iron,'” which is a 1977 American docudrama that stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, and focuses on the world of professional bodybuilding, including the 1975 IFBB Mr. Universe and 1975 Mr. Olympia competitions. Terry revealed that “It was very cool and motivational for me to watch Arnold back in the day when he was competing.
“It wasn’t very long ago that the first ‘Generation Iron’ came out, and I thought it was cool that it was sort of a spin-off of (‘Pumping Iron’). You’ve got these cool, modern guys, andsome of the same principles” from the Schwarzenegger film, the bodybuilder noted. “Obviously, I watched the first three ‘Generation Iron’ films, and I got to see a lot of these guys who I was a big fan of while I was growing up. Some of these guys even influenced me in my training, so it was really cool to see them.”
In addition to Terry, ‘Generation Iron: Natty 4 Life’ also features Michael O’Hearn, Alondra Chatman, Adrian Petriariu, Micha Ryan And Philip Ricardo. Yudin discussed what the process of deciding who he would include in, and interview for, the documentary. “It was an interesting process. I had many conversations with different people about it in the fitness industry.
“I had a long conversation with Michael O’Hearn, who’s a legend in the industry, and has been a natural bodybuilder his whole life. I asked him to be a part of this film” during their discussion about the franchise’s fourth installment, the director shared. “He’s very controversial, as many people doubt if he’s actually natural. So I thought it would be interesting to see what happens” when people watch the movie.”
O’Hearn “suggested that we target the INBA and PNBA, which are natural (bodybuilding) organizations. They have a competition once a year called the Natural Olympia, and it’s the biggest competition in the world. So we started communicating with everyone at the organizations, and studied the athletes. We then went through an internal casting process, and started going through all the athletes who were competing, and looked at their stories,” Yudin continued.
“We found some great characters for this film, who were really able to open up and showcase their lives. They weren’t afraid of the cameras being around them, and felt comfortable presenting their stories to the mass audiences,” the filmmaker added.
In addition to helming and casting the sequel, Yudin also cherished the opportunity to once again serve as one of the producers on the series. He discussed why he decided to also produce the franchise’s latest entry. “Producing this film was such a great experience. I feel like natural bodybuilders don’t get the spotlight they want, or the respect they deserve, for whatever reason. So they were all very excited to be in this film,” he shared.
“The most challenging part (of the production) was to make sure that every time we filmed at a competition, we followed the athletes’ individual storylines, even though there were a lot of athletes at each event,” the producer admitted. “As a producer, I had to make sure that everything in that sense was planned correctly; we had to make sure that there were crew members and cameras on everybody. So as a producer, I had to plan a lot, and as the director, I had to follow the cameramen, and made sure they got all of the special footage we needed to make this film.”
Terry praised Yudin’s work on the ‘Generation Iron’ franchise, and described his experience of working with the filmmaker as “awesome and cool. Like I said, I’ve seen all of the ‘Generation Iron’ movies, and he’s obviously a big part of the series. It was really cool for him to lock into my world of natural bodybuilding, and put this subject out there” to general movie audiences.
One aspect of Yudin’s work on ‘Generation Iron 3’ that Terry enjoyed was “that he started to cover natural athletes. So for me, to hear that (‘Generation Iron: Natty 4 Life’) was going to be about, and follow, all-natural athletes, and I was going to be one of the athletes who was going to be featured in it, was a huge deal for me. It’s a huge deal to elevate natural body-building, and to include my story, in the film.”
Terry decided to pursue natural bodybuilding because he was “born in the ’80s. During that era, there were a lot of influences, and emphasis, on physique. All the action movie stars were in shape. I’m British, so we had British ‘Gladiators,’ as well as the WWF (which is now the WWE), which was a huge deal. Everyone on TV had one thing in common-they were larger than life, and had huge physiques,” he pointed out. “Even the toys I had as a kid, like the He-Man, were like pro bodybuilders.
“I came to Florida when I was 13-years-old, and I started training with my dad in a gym,” the bodybuilder shared. “We did a leg workout, and my legs started swelling up, and that was the only thing that I could correlate to looking like these guys while I was watching them. So that really started my bodybuilding journey,” Terry further revealed.
“Like I mention in the documentary, I lost a kidney when I was 8, and I didn’t have a transplant, because I was too young. So I still only have one kidney now. So when my parents saw that I started getting into bodybuilding, they knew that if I started doing it at an enhanced level, I wouldn’t last very long in that world, and may not even live that long,” the bodybuilder also shared.
“When I first started training, I fell in love with the notion of seeing my body progress in the way that it did. It was really important for me to be true to my family, but also be true to myself,” Terry divulged.
“As I started to progress, people started telling me that it wasn’t possible for me to do what I was doing at the level I was doing it,” the bodybuilder admitted. “I wanted to prove them wrong, so I kept doing it. I’ve had so many opportunities through the natural realm of bodybuilding.”
In addition to showcasing the bodybuilders’ training, Yudin chose several events that the subjects participated in to showcase throughout the franchise’s fourth installment. “The bodybuilders live in different cities and states, like Florida, Utah, California and Washington, D.C., and sometimes even in different countries; we have a character who lives in Qatar. So just like the first film, we followed each person’s journey, and then we followed them to (Las) Vegas for the Natural Olympia competition,” Yudin shared. “Everyone trained during their everyday lives, and we followed them. We then all met in one location for the competition.”
‘Generation Iron: Natty 4 Life’ raises the question of whether or not any bodybuilder could remain completely natural throughout their training and events. Terry quickly debunked that disbelief. “Natural bodybuilding absolutely exists. I believe that this documentary will bring that forward into the light,” he declared.
“The organization that I compete with are the INBA and the PNBA. The reason why I work with that organization is because it puts so much money into the highest levels of testing out there,” the bodybuilder shared. “You’ll see that in this movie. Hopefully, that will continue with organizations showing that being natural is the real deal.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic spreading around the world this year, the world of bodybuilding has ultimately changed, and affected the way professionals like Terry have been able to work. “It’s been extremely challenging. When they started shutting all the gyms down here in Florida, it became a tricky thing to even train, let alone compete,” he admitted. “Certain places are starting to open gyms up again now, but in some places, they’re still closed. We were without the gyms here in Florida for almost three months.
“I’m also a firefighter for the city that I live in, and pretty much every fire station that I go to has fitness equipment, because fitness is a big part of the firefighter’s lifestyle,” Terry revealed. “So I was able to get my fitness in at these fire stations.
“But overall, it’s been tough for bodybuilders to train during COVID, and I hope it doesn’t regress” Terry noted. “It’s definitely a challenge for all the natural bodybuilding shows, too, because a lot of them are being cancelled. But we’ll see how the rest of the year plays out, and go from there.”
With ‘Generation Iron: Natty 4 Life’ now being available On Digital and On Demand, Yudin feels the digital release is beneficial for this type of documentary. “This (distribution) is interesting, because this year has been crazy. (COVID-19) has affected bodybuilding in a huge way,” he noted, echoing Terry’s sentiment. “Many of the shows were cancelled. I think they just started coming back a little bit, but some of the states are shutting down again, so the competitions are being cancelled again.
“So I feel this film is a great way to showcase the competitions…and some hope to people who are home. Hopefully the competitions will come back soon, but it’s great to also showcase them” in anyway possible, the director added. “People to see new content, and we can bring this film to the right audience. Natural bodybuilding hasn’t really been showcased before, so I feel like this film is a breath of fresh air to the fitness industry, and people who want to see a cool documentary.”