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Bigger - A Movie About Joe And Ben Weider
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Bigger - A Movie About Joe And Ben Weider - 10-02-2017, 03:41 PM

Why Hollywood came to Birmingham to film new bodybuilding movie | AL.com

Why Hollywood came to Birmingham to film new bodybuilding movie


"Bigger," which is scheduled to begin filming in Birmingham, Ala., on Oct. 9, 2017, stars Calum Von Moger (with Arnold Schwarzenegger in left photo), Tyler Hoechlin (top right) and Aneurin Barnard (bottom right). (Photos courtesy of Calum Von Moger and IMDB.com)

If writer-director George Gallo didn't hate flying so much, a new movie about the pioneers of the bodybuilding movement might be filming in Montreal instead of Birmingham.

But now that they're here, the filmmakers like it so much they're already talking about sticking around.

"Bigger" -- a period drama about Joe and Ben Weider, the "Brothers of Iron" who overcame a life of poverty to build a global fitness empire -- begins filming in the Birmingham area on Oct. 9.

Steve Lee Jones, one of the producers of the movie, said in an interview with AL.com that "Bigger" might be just the first of several productions he and his partners will film in Alabama.

"You can start by saying that Steve Lee Jones says he loves the place, and I didn't expect it," he said. "That's the truth.

"We originally were going to shoot this in Montreal because the Weider brothers are from Montreal," Jones said. "We actually went up there and did location scouting, but we ended up choosing Birmingham because our director (Gallo) does not like to fly. It's a quirky situation.

"He has driven this country more than most because he doesn't like to fly and he said, you know, 'Birmingham has got a lot of wonderful old buildings that could look like Montreal in the '20s.' So that is why we came here, and I was very reticent to do so."

Jones, who lives in Beverly Hills, said his concerns were allayed soon after he came to Birmingham to check it out a couple of months ago,

"I didn't think it would be production friendly enough, and I didn't think our cast would enjoy it here," he said "I didn't think I would enjoy it here, but I've been very, very surprised -- so much so that we are talking about doing other productions here, several next year.

"It is very film-friendly," Jones added. "The film board has been great. The government has been great. The city has been great. The people have been great. We've been welcomed with open arms -- Southern hospitality at its finest."

The movie, which spans the 1920s to the 1970s, is adapted from the Weider brothers' book "Brothers of Iron," and it stars Tyler Hoechlin from Richard Linklater's "Everybody Wants Some!!" and MTV's "Teen Wolf" as Joe Weider and Aneurin Barnard from Christopher Nolan's World War II epic "Dunkirk" as Ben Weider.

"It's the story of two poor, young immigrant boys who grew up in a Montreal ghetto, and they experienced anti-Semitism, they experienced extreme poverty, (and) they cobbled together eight dollars to launch what became a multibillion-dollar empire," Jones said.

"It's a story about relentlessness," he added. "It's a story about self-empowerment. It's a story about brotherhood. And it's a rags-to-riches story about beating the odds."

"Bigger" director Gallo, who previously wrote the screenplay for the Robert De Niro-Charles Grodin road comedy "Midnight Run" and who wrote and directed the crime saga "Middle Men" with Luke Wilson and James Caan, co-wrote the movie's screenplay with Brad Furman, whose credits include directing "The Lincoln Lawyer" with Matthew McConaughey and "The Infiltrator" with Bryan Cranston.

Birmingham locations will double for Montreal, New Jersey and Los Angeles, Jones said. Near the end of the filming, the "Bigger" crew will film in the Mobile area, which will double for the beaches of California, he said.

Among the Birmingham locations will be the Alabama Theatre, the Lyric Theatre, Temple Emanu-El and serveral others, he said.

"It's my goal in the future to bring more films and television to Alabama and particularly to Birmingham," Jones, who was an executive producer on the Jack Kevorkian biopic "You Don't Know Jack" with Al Pacino, said. "I think Birmingham has the most to offer with these wonderful old buildings and the city skyline and the wonderful churches and the scenic hills that can double for Los Angeles.

"I live in Beverly Hills currently, and there are homes up in Mountain Brook that are very, very similar to Beverly Hills because they were built in the '20s and they have big, manicured lawns, and it's hilly and they have views of the city. So it's very Beverly Hills-like -- remarkably so."

The Weider brothers founded the International Federation of Body Builders, which sponsored the Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe competitions, and in the late 1960s, Joe Weider groomed a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had moved to America from his native Austria and began training under Weider in Los Angeles.

Calum Von Moger, a native of Victoria, Australia, and the winner of the World Fitness Federation's 2015 Mr. Universe title, will play Schwarzenegger as a young man in the movie.

"He's in in his 20s, and he's going to play Arnold in his 20s," Jones said. "He has a shocking resemblance to him, both face and body. So that should be interesting. It's his acting debut."

Other cast members include Robert Forster, an Oscar nominee for his supporting role in Quentin Tarantino's "Jackie Brown," as Joe Weider in the latter stages of his life; Julianne Hough of "Dancing with the Stars'' as Joe Weider's wife and pin-up model, Betty; Victoria Justice of Nickelodeon's "Victorious" as Ben Weider's wife, Kathy; Colton Haynes of the FX anthology series "American Horror Story: Cult" as fitness guru Jack LaLanne; and Tom Arnold from James Cameron's "True Lies" and the ABC sitcom "Roseanne" as publisher Roy Hawkins.

"And we've got a bunch of local actors playing many different roles," Jones said. "We've tried to engage the Alabama film community as much as we can."

In addition to Jones, the other "Bigger" producers are Camila Castro (TV's "Redwood") and Scott LaStaiti (HBO's "The Infiltrator").

"Bigger" will film in the Birmingham area and later in Mobile until about Thanksgiving, Jones said.

The filmmakers are aiming for a late 2018 release.


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10-03-2017, 08:56 AM

Interesting. It actually has a really good cast. Probably straight to video though.


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