"No Pain, No Gain," is more than just another feel-good, zero-to-hero underdog movie centred on good overcoming evil. The bodybuilding-focused feature-length film delves into many important issues associated with the iron game as it shows what can be accomplished if one chooses to meet their challenges head on, rather than take the easy way out. However, it accomplishes this in a fun, engaging manner and doesn't take itself too seriously.
The story is centred on a former Mr. Ohio, Mike Zorillo (played by bodybuilder Gus Malliarodakis who won the Masters North American this past weekend). Zorillo decides to journey out of his comfort zone to Los Angeles to make a bodybuilding comeback and prove he has what it takes, mentally and physically, to overcome adversity and unfairness, to become the West Coast Champion.
A shy, unsure man, Zorillo initially doubts his ability to win anything more than a small town championship. However, as the film evolves he becomes motivated by his own desire for success, as well as by the inspirational words and deeds of those he meets along the way. Zorillo finds himself determined to prove what can be accomplished with intellect and self-belief, in addition to painful training sessions, where the maxim "No Pain, No Gain" is used to great effect.
Zorillo learns he can program his mind for success, and sets about formulating the perfect training approach, an approach intelligent and sophisticated enough to counter the drug-induced physique of his arch nemesis, Jake Steel (Mr. USA and former IFBB Pro Dennis Newman).
"Your mind is in charge of your body and you are in charge of your mind", says Zorillo as he begins to progress physically, at which point his awareness of the transformational power of the mind has begun to produce tangible results in the form of a magnificent physique.
Addressing The Stereotypes
One issue this film attempts to address is the public perception that bodybuilders are essentially ignorant "muscle heads" and reliant upon excessive supplementation, as well as steroids and other anabolic drugs to build their physiques. Zorillo's opponent, the narcissistic face of amoral nutritional company ANC, Jake Steel, serves as the stereotypical hot-headed drug user who will stop at nothing to secure victory. However, to some extent he is portrayed as a victim of the system rather than just a typical bad guy.
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Jake Steel (Dennis Newman) Confronts Mike Zorillo (Gus Malliarodakis) In The Locker Room At The Mekka Gym.
Zorillo, on the other hand, works hard to understand bodybuilding's underpinning science and aesthetics. "Bodybuilding is both a science and an art, it is not just physical", he explains throughout this film. It is in this context the film helps to dispel the myth that bodybuilders are unintelligent, inarticulate beings, and that bodybuilding is a sport premised on building huge amounts of mass at the expense of all else.
Indeed, the lessons imparted in "No Pain, No Gain" are crucial life lessons to be used in any realm. Typical of the type of message conveyed in the film is Zorillo's post-contest statement, where he explains the process that helped him to achieve physical greatness: "In any human activity worth achieving, there are always sacrifices, but it is through meeting challenges head-on that one builds character and achieves results".
Throughout "No Pain, No Gain," Zorillo is faced with many choices: some good, some bad. It is through his ability to decide on what is the best course of action for him -- the choices he makes are ultimately the right ones -- that he is able to succeed in overcoming the many obstacles that stand in his way. These challenges include the ruthless supplement company that wants to sign him up, the professor who seeks to destroy his credibility, the Los Angeles bodybuilding drug culture that threatens to engulf him, and others who seek, through their belittling comments and sabotaging ways, to dissuade him from achieving his goals.
A Writers Dream Realized
Writer, producer and director of "No Pain, No Gain," Samuel Turcotte, a man who has an intimate understanding of the discipline and self-sacrifice needed to attain bodybuilding success, has portrayed perfectly the mindset necessary to become a champion. The attitude and lifestyle requirements needed to become a winner are heavily reinforced throughout this film, and it is obvious his detailed knowledge of the sport, as well as that of the many bodybuilding insiders he consulted with, has heavily influenced the script.
Turcotte also wanted to deal with negative stereotypes associated with bodybuilding. "I have been involved in the world of bodybuilding since I was 15 and for years have wanted to create a film about this fascinating and misunderstood sport" he says. "Bodybuilders have long been grossly misrepresented in the media and my film gives a more balanced and realistic portrayal."
Turcotte's first feature film is historic in the sense that it is the first time bodybuilding has been the subject of a feature length dramatic fiction film. The documentary, Pumping Iron, publicized bodybuilding in the 70s, but since then the sport has taken many turns and has attracted controversy perhaps like no other.
"I think the movie "No Pain, No Gain" was necessary because no one else was telling a positive story of bodybuilders in a regular dramatic feature film. Other than "Pumping Iron" there really hasn't been a film set in the world of bodybuilding, and certainly not a Hollywood-style dramatic movie," says Turcotte.
To present bodybuilding in a positive light, while highlighting certain undesirable realities such as drug use and obsessional thinking, Turcotte featured in his film several physique stars that, in their combined roles, gave a broad glimpse into the fragmented world of physical culture.
Among the main stars, Gus Malliarodakis (Mike Zorillo) highlights the positive side of bodybuilding with his intellect, calm demeanour and healthy attitude toward the sport. On the other hand, Dennis Newman (Jake Steel) demonstrates the arrogant, obsessed attitude the general public often associates with bodybuilders, and shows that the consequences of making the wrong choices are likely to be disastrous.
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Gus Malliarodakis Just Recently Earned His Pro Card
At The 2006 North American Championships.
Photos By Bill Comstock At Graphicmucles.com.
The dichotomous nature of these two pivotal characters demonstrates two sides to bodybuilding that often escape public consciousness. In reality, the masses that participate in bodybuilding do so in a manner similar to that of Zorillo - they adopt healthy, balanced approach, one that Turcotte attempts to convey in "No Pain, No Gain."
Although not a complete expose on all aspects of the bodybuilding lifestyle, "No Pain, No Gain" through humour, a dramatic plot and convincing actors who are in many respects playing the kind of roles they live daily, provides an excellent insight into, and realistic portrayal of, the heart and desire needed to reach the very top.
An Interview With No Pain No Gain
Writer, Director & Producer
With an extensive marketing background in the computer industry, which includes seven years working at Sun Microsystems and ten years in Silicon Valley, as well as a production and creative background, where he, among many things, produced and hosted over 150 technical and market focused web-cast segments for Sun E-media and gained eight years entertainment industry experience in film production, No Pain No Gain writer, director and producer Samuel Turcotte has shown he is a man of many talents.
In the following interview he talks specifically about his motivations for developing No Pain No Gain and discusses the processes involved in making available to the public a movie about a world very few, up until now, have had the opportunity to glimpse.
[ Q ] What was your initial motivation for directing No Pain No Gain? Why was a film like this necessary?
My personal motivation for directing "No Pain, No Gain" was simple: To prove to myself that I could do it. That is, to write, produce and direct a feature film. Talk is cheap. Just as a bodybuilder trains in the gym for years to get up onstage for few minutes to show the results, I wanted to do the same, but on film.
I think the movie "No Pain, No Gain" was necessary because no one else was telling a positive the story of bodybuilders in regular dramatic feature film. Other than "Pumping Iron" there really hasn't been a film made set in the world of bodybuilding, and certainly not a Hollywood-style dramatic movie.
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Mr. Romania And IFBB Pro Bodybuilder Emeric Delczeg (As Himself) Explains His "No Pain, No Gain" Training Theory To Mike Zorillo (Gus Malliarodakis) As The Iconic Charles Atlas Approvingly Hovers In The Background.
[ Q ] Bodybuilding is often seen as a cult sport with many negative connotations. Did you have any concerns regarding the marketability of this film, given the existing perception among many, of bodybuilding and bodybuilders?
I do not think bodybuilding is a fringe sport. I think it's very mainstream - it's just that few people realize it. There are certainly subcultures within the sport that are cultish, but in general I think bodybuilding is mainstream.
Gold's Gym has over 650 locations and over 2.2 million members, Bodybuilding.com has fulfilled over two million orders, over 100,000 people attend the Arnold Classic each year (in Columbus, Ohio in the winter), Muscle & Fitness is read by over seven million people a month. These are not the numbers of a fringe, but of the mainstream. What would have been seen as freakish in the 1970s is now common.
In terms of the marketability of the film, I felt the challenge was to position the movie as a "story set in the world of bodybuilding" rather than the movie being "About bodybuilding." It's the difference between "Rocky" and "When We Were Kings." Both are excellent, but unless you're a boxer or serious boxing fan it's unlikely you'd watch "When We Were Kings." Even still, it is impossible to predict the success of any movie, so instead I focused on trying to tell a good story.
[ Q ] At the initial stages of development, did you have a target audience in mind for this film?
The most important audience to me for the movie is non-bodybuilders. I've been a bodybuilder since I was fifteen, and while I certainly hope bodybuilders like the movie, the true measure of the success of the film is the reaction from people who don't know a hack squat from a computer hacker.
[ Q ] What are the main messages you wanted to get across in the film?
Although I don't consider my film to be a "message" movie, the main message of the film is to believe in yourself and live for your dream. The second message is that bodybuilders are intelligent athletes.
[ Q ] What were some of the main issues concerning bodybuilding, that were dealt with in this movie? Do you feel they were addressed?
While my film is not an expose on bodybuilding, it's impossible not to deal with certain issues of the sport. The issue of performance enhancing drugs is dealt with a little, but mostly as a plot device. The movie is not a treatise on the dangers of steroids. It's more about honesty. I think the main thing that is lacking in the sport today is honesty. It's a shame, because I think most people are honest by nature, but many things about the sport result in fundamental dishonesty. I think the film deals with that issue very well.
[ Q ] To your knowledge, what kind of an impact has this film had in terms of changing pubic opinion regarding bodybuilding?
The lifecycle of a movie is very long. It take years for it to get through all the distribution channels (including theatrical, cable, DVD, broadcast, PPV), plus for an independent film like this one, film festival exposure was also important and we did very well there.
I don't expect my film to single-handedly change the decades of bad press the mainstream media has given the sport. I hope it has a positive impact on the sport of bodybuilding, but it will be years before we will know.
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Jake Steel (Dennis Newman) Strikes A Classic Greek Pose During The West Coast Championships.
[ Q ] Describe some key experiences you had directing this film? What were the main actors like to work with?
I had the privilege to work with a lot of talented people in making this movie. Some of them I have worked with many times, such as cinematographer Mike King. The unsung heroes of filmmaking are the people behind the camera, especially the folks in the post-production aspects, such as the editors and sound mixers. It is these areas that really separate a production shine.
The actors in "No Pain, No Gain" were talented professionals. We used a lot of seasoned theatre and television actors, along with movie veterans. We cast bodybuilders as bodybuilders. There is really no other choice, as you can't fake bodybuilding like you can fake baseball or boxing. I did not know Gus or Dennis before I wrote the script. They were both auditioned and cast in their roles. Some of the supporting bodybuilders were friends of friends (and my brother Michael Turcotte) or others we picked up along the way.
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Michael Turcotte (As Himself) Gets Sprayed With Pam Before The West Coast Championships.
[ Q ] What were some of the key aspects of the production process, and how did they combine to create the final product?
All films are challenging to complete, and this one was no exception. Many things went extremely smoothly, others went horribly awry. The challenge of physically shooting a movie is trying to capture everything you need to tell the story within the briefest time possible. This is because in filmmaking time is money. When you bring together over fifty crew members, dozens of actors and hundreds of extras, it is both expensive and logistically complicated.
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Nikki (Crystal Calderoni) Flirts With Mike Zorillo (Gus Malliarodakis)
At The Mekka Gym.
We shot the movie in basically two steps: principal photography and re-shoots. "Principal photography" is when we shot most of the film. We had scheduled a certain amount of time and because of my inexperience in directing a feature length film we ran out of time. In our case we did not "re-shoot" much, but rather used our re-shoots time to shoot the part of the movie that we didn't finish during principal photography and also some new stuff I wrote afterward.
We spent a very long time in post-production (editing, music, sound mix, etc.) and I think it really paid off. I think we shot a good film, but my post-production team gave me a much better one.
[ Q ] The movie itself is based on events that take place in Los Angeles and Ohio, yet it was shot in Texas. Why did you choose Texas as the shooting location?
For most films the shooting location is irrelevant to the story being told. It is easy to make things appear to be somewhere else with good art direction, location selection and lighting. We also did shoot a few opening shots for key scenes in LA, but that was less than one percent of the movie.
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Nikki (Crystal Calderoni) Tells Mike Zorillo (Gus Malliarodakis) About Life In "Hollywood" At The Mekka Gym.
Shooting in LA is difficult (some might say a pain in the @ss) for many reasons. First, it's more expensive for everything from crew and equipment rental to food and hotels. Second, there are permits required for everything, which is both time-consuming and expensive (I can tell you some outrageous LA film permit stories from when we shot the Venice Beach scene. Third, although LA has an excellent talent pool for crew and actors, the people there (both the public and the film industry people) are very jaded and few have any enthusiasm for filmmaking.
Texas, and in fact pretty much any place else in the world, still sees making movies as a magical experience. Don't get me wrong. I love LA. It's a great place to visit. I just don't want to make movies there.
[ Q ] Due to existing stereotypes of bodybuilders being pre-occupied building their bodies at the expense of all else, some might feel these athletes would experience difficulties acting. What was it really like working with bodybuilders such as Dennis Newman, Gus Malliarodrakis and Emeric Delczeg? What unique strengths do you feel bodybuilders might have in terms of acting ability?
Gus Malliarodakis and Dennis Newman are both extremely talented actors. The entire cast and crew was impressed with their dedication and professionalism. They always knew their lines, were on time and took direction well. I think bodybuilders are natural actors because they are used to showing off.
I am really proud of the subtle acting work Gus achieved. All acting is difficult, but being an empathetic good guy is the hardest job in the world, especially in the cynical, jaded world in which we live. Watching Gus' character evolve as you watch the movie is a testament to his brilliance as an actor.
[ Q ] Women of strength and beauty also have a key role in this film. Did you want to address any perceptions people might have about women strength athletes?
I wanted to have strong women in key roles in the movie. Sure, we have some women that are eye candy, but our two female leads embody characters that are strong and independent, but also feminine. Personally, I really admire female bodybuilders, power-lifters and fitness athletes.
Anything that takes hard work, dedication and intense training is admirable. However, more importantly, I think women and men both need heroes and role models. Hollywood and the mainstream media are certainly not providing this, so we have to do it for ourselves. If I were a women I would much rather aspire to be Lenda Murray than Brittany Spears.
[ Q ] Was this movie based on fact? Were there any particular bodybuilders, or situations that inspired the movies characters or events?
I'm a firm believer that fiction is truer than fact. However, many aspects of the film were based on fact, but much is fiction. The lead character of Mike Zorillo (Gus Malliarodakis) is an amalgam of several people. The Jake Steel (Dennis Newman) character is based on three people. I can't tell you who, but I bet you can guess the first one and probably the second one. However, it's important to remember that the Jake Steel character is not a bad guy, he just makes bad choices which results in bad behavior.
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"F-You Zorillo, You Just Made This Personal!!!," Shouts Jake Steel (Dennis Newman).
[ Q ] Why do you think people should see No Pain No Gain? What are its key strengths as a film?
Well, first and foremost I think it's a fun drama. It's a fun movie with a good heart. Second, the movie overall has an extremely positive view of bodybuilding and bodybuilders. Third, I hope the movie in some way will inspire viewers to believe in themselves and live for their dreams, not just building their muscles, but their minds and their character.
[ Q ] Would you consider doing a sequel? Why/Why not?
I have already written the story for two sequels, but they're not sequels so much other stories set in the world of bodybuilding. One focuses on female strength athletes (bodybuilders, power-lifters) and other focuses on professional bodybuilders. And like "No Pain, No Gain" they are not documentaries but dramatic fiction films.
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(From No Pain No Gain Official Promotional Information)
Gus Malliarodakis As Mike Zorillo:
The California native has been involved in the sport of bodybuilding from an early age and has won many competitions. In 2001, the year he filmed the competition scenes in "No Pain, No Gain," he won 1st place overall at the Sacramento Championships. In 2005, he won 1st place overall at the Masters California Championships and 2nd place at the North American Championships.
Malliarodakis' first screen role was as a submarine officer in the Paramount Television mini-series "War and Remembrance." He has also appeared in television commercials, music videos and print advertisements. Malliarodakis has appeared on the covers of Muscle & Fitness and Iron Man magazines and is regularly featured in many other bodybuilding magazines around the world. As a native-born American, Malliarodakis is eligible to run for president. For more on Malliarodakis go to: gusmuscle.com.
Dennis Newman As Jake Steel:
An IFBB Pro bodybuilder, Newman has won the Teen USA, Mr. California and the USA bodybuilding competitions. Born in Austin, Texas, Newman was diagnosed with leukemia ten days after winning the USA bodybuilding competition in 1994. As a testament to his positive attitude and winning spirit, he resolved not to give into this potentially deadly disease.
He underwent chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant that successfully sent the leukaemia into remission. Newman has appeared on the cover of every major bodybuilding magazine, including Muscle & Fitness, Iron Man, Musclemag and Flex.
The two-time "World's Strongest Woman" shown on ESPN makes a special cameo appearance in "No Pain, No Gain" where she portrays an over-the-top power lifter and bodybuilding competition judge in several memorable scenes, including one that demonstrates her immense strength and ability to "motivate" a less than enthusiastic training partner. Seen frequently on ESPN, the 30-year-old, 5'-3 1/2'," 170 lb. Mills was undefeated in 22 strength competitions and can squat 518 lbs., bench press 325 lbs. and deadlift 523 lbs.
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"Who's Your Daddy?!?!" Growls Ann Saxon (Jill Mills, Two-Time ESPN "World's Strongest Woman") After A Typical Workout At The Mekka Gym.
The 50-year-old IFBB Pro bodybuilder and former Mr. Romania has competed in the Mr. Olympia Masters several times and placed in the Top 10 three times. Delczeg appears as himself in the film and delivers the famous "No Pain, No Gain" advice to Mike Zorillo in the Mekka Gym.
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Mr. Romania And IFBB Pro Bodybuilder Emeric Delczeg (As Himself) Trains Mike Zorillo (Gus Malliarodakis) At The Mekka Gym.
With credits on more than 100 movies and videotapes, Julie Strain has been called "Queen of the B Movies" by Premiere Magazine and others. This six-foot, one-inch, statuesque actress has been Penthouse "Pet of the Year" and stars as Judge Julie on Playboy TV's Sex Court. She has appeared in fashion publications from Vogue to Cosmopolitan, has been photographed by Helmut Newton and even teaches a fine art and photography class at UCLA. She is currently the lead character in Columbia/Tri-Star's animated feature, Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K.2. Her latest book entitled "Six Foot One and Worth The Climb" is an illustrated autobiography.
Chicago-based personal trainer and fitness model, Ferrari currently appears on E!'s "Kill Reality" and was on FOX's popular reality series "Paradise Hotel" and "Love Cruise: The Maiden Voyage." The straight-talking Ferrari shocked and amazed audiences week after week with her no-nonsense "In-your-face" attitude. In "No Pain, No Gain" she plays a loud reality TV show contestant.
An "All American Amazon," Lauren Powers is a champion bodybuilder, wrestler and former firefighter. She graduated Valedictorian from Huntington Beach High School and earned a business degree from the University of Hawaii. Lauren has won many bodybuilding competitions, including the 2002 California State Championships. Lauren has appeared on the "Jenny Jones Show" and many sports-related shows on Fox, NBC, HBO and BBC. She has appeared in music videos and in magazines, such as Muscle & Fitness, Flex and Muscle Elegance.
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