George Butler, 'Pumping Iron' Director,' Dead at 78

Documentarian George Butler passed away this month at the age of 78. According to a report by Deadline, the Pumping Iron director died at his home in New Hampshire due to complications with pneumonia. His son, Desmond Butler, confirmed the sad news.

Butler directed more than 10 films over the course of 40 years in the film industry, most notably Pumping Iron. The 1977 film put bodybuilder Arnold Schwanzenegger on the road to Hollywood stardom thanks to Butler and co-director Robert Fiore. Butler's most recent project is called Tiger Tiger, and is scheduled to be released next year. It is about the work of big cat conservationists in India and Bangladesh.

Butler was the son of a British Army officer, so he spent his childhood in Somalia and Jamaica. He went on to a career in journalism which led him into the world of bodybuilding. After covering the niche sport and its accompanying subculture for some time, he began raising money for the film that would become Pumping Iron.

Pumping Iron depicted Schwarzenegger and other legends like Lou Ferrigno training at Gold's Gym in Venice, California. During the filming, Schwarzenegger was preparing to defend his title as Mr. Olympia in South Africa. At the time, Schwazenegger had had a few small roles in TV and film, but the success of Pumping Iron set him on the course to become an A-list action star.

"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," Schwarzenegger wrote on Twitter after news of Butler's death began to circulate.

Ferrigno, too, gained a lot of notoriety for his appearance in Pumping Iron. It helped him secure the role of The Incredible Hulk a few years later. Meanwhile, Butler went on to direct Pumping Iron II: The Women in 1985, bringing even more public interest to the sport.

Another of Butler's acclaimed films is the 2004 documentary Going Upriver, which is about U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. It traces his life from his service in the Vietnam War to his run for the presidency at the time. He also directed Roving Mars in 2006, which is about the Mars Exploration Rovers, and The Endurance in 2000, which is about Ernest Shackleton's expedition to the Antarctic in 1914.


Butler is survived by his partner Caroline Alexander, his sons Desmond and Tyssen and six grandchildren. So far, there has been no word on any public memorial services for the director.