When the muscle movie boom in Europe petered out several years ago,
most of the bodybuilders went the way of Steve Reeves, retiring from
the screen, although with considerably less money. Of those muscle men
who have stayed with acting, only two have achieved notable success;
Brad Harris, who is involved in European spy and adventure movies now;
and Peter Lupus, co-star of the top CBS-TV show, "Mission: Impossible".
Big Pete, one of the best-liked,
quietest and pleasantest muscle or movie men to be around in some time,
has parlayed his impressive, title-winning physique, his acting ability
and a long string of TV and screen credits into one of the most promising
careers in Hollywood. An established regular on one of the biggest of
TV's hit shows, Pete has a secure and highly promising career ahead
How did he get to the eviable spot
he's now in? Here's Pete to tell you, and our MTI interviewer, just
how he...and you too, possibly can...hit the Hollywood heights.
OUR INQUIRING REPORTER
GIVES BIG PETE THE THIRD DEGREE
Q: First of all, Pete, how are you?
A: Fine, just fine. Busy as the
devil, of course, with the show, personal appearances, keeping up with
my training, and working to improve my acting.
How is the show doing?
A: Great...we were initially 17th
in the 30-city Nielsons (Editor: They ranked 17th of all TV shows in
a survey of the top 30 market cities in the U.S.). This is our second
year, and we're not shooting for a four to five year run. Our new CBS
time-slot, Sunday nights at 10-11, eastern time, has helped our ratings
too, I think.
Q: And how is working on the show?
excellent. We all really work together well...Martin Landau, Barbara
Bain, Greg Morris, new man Peter Graves...and I think if we didn't the
show just couldn't go. They're so involved and complicated.
who stepped into the show this season, is doing an excellent job in
problem is the intricateness of the shows which makes them long and
involved to film. We average 7 to 10 working days, two full weeks including
weekends, to do a single week's show. Our 26 shows last year, took almost
10 months to film.
This is much
longer than usual TV shows, and cuts down on personal appearances and
the like. For me, it meant I had to turn down two Italian film offers.
This year we hope to cut this time a bit, and I hope to do one European
film during our summer hiatus.
work, but we've been rewarded with a hit show.
You certainly look impressive on the show, with your height, size, thick
powerful-looking neck and all. How's your weight these days?
I weigh about 218, try to stay 218-200 at all times. At my height of
6 feet 4 inches, this is a bit light in bodybuilding terms but just
right for the show.
quite a weight loss for me. At the time of the "Goliath" movies
I weighed 238, and my top bodybuilding weight was 252. I weighed 185
as a beginner, by the way.
about my neck is funny to me, for I've lost a lot of it...it's around
17 inches now.
Q: How did
you get started in bodybuilding?
in my native Indianapolis I engaged in a multitude of sports while I
was at Butler University. I played basketball, football, and during
the summers I was a lifeguard. The weight training just naturally developed.
When I started
I weighed 185, as mentioned, and had 13-1/2 inch arms, which have since
gone up to 18-1/2 inches.
I won the
Mr. Indianapolis title, and Mr. Indiana, plus Mr. International Health
and Mr. Hercules. The last one I'm particularly proud of, for I went
through three elimination heats and won over a total of 100 contestants.
It was in conjunction with the first Mr. Hercules picture with Steve
Q: How did
you get into the acting thing?
A: At Butler
University I was studying to be a teacher, but then got interested in
acting and switched over to radio-TV. I played in summer stock there
for two years, did a wide variety of plays and parts, and when I graduated
I came on out to California.
knew Mickey Hargitay, who also came from Indianapolis, and Jayne Mansfield
too, and they helped. It was a great shock and tragedy when she was
the Mr. Hercules title and your big break in "Muscle Beach Party"...were
you working much?
A: Yes, I
had a long succession of minor parts in many TV shows. I was on the
Jack Benny Show, Dobie Gillis, Danny Kaye Show, I'm Dickens, He's Fenster,
the Red Skelton Show twice, and the Joey Bishop Show.
How did you get the lead muscleman part in "Muscle Beach Party"?
A: I was
very lucky. I was visiting my good friend Jody McRea on the set of one
of his pictures when I was introduced to Mr. Nicholson of American International
Pictures, and Jack Gillardi, an AIP casting man who's Annette Funicello's
me, and six months later I got a call to try for the film. I made it
on height, as well as muscle and acting ability, and it was an honor
to work with bodybuilders like Larry Scott, Chet Yorton, Gene Shuey
and the others. I enjoyed the picture a lot.
Q: You used
the name "Rock Stevens" in that, didn't you?
A: Yes, there
and in the Italian muscle pics I made after that. I did several Hercules-Goliath
type of muscle movies, then a costume-pirate thing.
were starting to die off, so I came back to the States and invested
in some gyms in the Midwest, turning down another Italian movie in the
process. I went out to the coast to make the "Mission: Impossible"
pilot, stuck tight for a while, and it all came through for me.
Q: How did
you get the "Mission: Impossible" part as regular Willy Armitage?
I was very lucky. The vice president of production at Desilu, which
makes the series, is the first agent I had in California. He gave me
a call. I was interviewed along with 70 other prospects, and I got the
Q: I'm sure
acting ability and experience had more to do with it than luck, Pete,
after all you beat out 70 other eager guys.
Q: Tell us
about your training Pete, what are you doing now?
I've been training for 9-10 years now, and aim to keep it up another
30! Due to the time and show requirements, I now train for one hour,
three times a week. I go basically for pump, handling no heavy weights
at all. I try to maintain the status quo, feel good, and keep in top
use less weight but speed up my routine, resting little between sets,
this means I don't have to work as hard to pump up.
on doing one exercise per bodypart, with speed but in correct form.
I try to work each and every bodypart hard. For my biceps, triceps and
shoulders, I do 5 sets of 10 reps, pectoral, back and thighs, 3 sets
of 10, to keep them trimmer; calves 3 sets of 20 to 30 reps; and for
the abs, sets of 50 reps.
exercises are usually specialized movements for particular bodyparts.
I train at Vince Gironda's Gym in Studio City, which is the real Mecca
for the top bodybuilders, and they and Vince are a great bunch of guys.
We were particularly glad to see Don Howorth take the Mr. America title
this year...he really deserved it.
for the specialized movements is, of course, Vince and his teachings.
He's developed stars like Don, Larry Scott, Bill McArdle and many others.
I'm just following their lead and using really effective exercises.
For the triceps,
my favorites are Lat Machine Pushdowns, or the Lying Pushdowns done
with a rope, 5 sets of 10.
do either Barbell Curls, Incline Dumbell Curls, or use the Scott Machine
for Curls, again 5 sets of 10.
the shoulders, I use either Laterals or Seated Presses on the special
Press apparatus at Vince's, for 5 sets of 10 correct reps.
prefer the Decline Laterals with Pulleys, a special rig at Vince's or
the basic Bench Press, and I do 3 sets of 10. This is one area I have
to keep trim for TV.
For the lats,
I do Lat Machine Pulldowns or Chins, another 3 sets of 10, and the legs
also get 3 sets of 10, either Machine Squats or Leg Extensions.
I work for 3 sets of 20 to 30 on the Calf Machine, and I finish off
sets of 50 doing Situps or Leg Thrusts, to keep my abdominals trim.
Q: What about
your diet, Pete?
My main nutritional item is protein, which I take three times a day.
It gives me a lot of energy in addition to keeping my muscular weight
to his I have one or two simple meals a day, usually consisting of broiled
ground meat, plus cottage cheese and tomato or fruit. I especially watch
my starch and sweets consumption, to keep my weight steady.
I eat out from time to time. I prefer Japanese and Chinese foods, which
are both tasty and nutritious.
Q: How is
your personal role in "Mission: Impossible: coming along? It seems
as if you're on more this year.
A: Yes, while
last year there were some episodes I wasn't in, this year I'm a regular
every week and also have more dialog. The studio got quite a bit of
fan mail about me, so they have worked to beef up my part. It's more
of a "straight" role now, with less emphasis on the pure muscle
end of it. I enjoy the image change, and it allows more to be written
into the script for me.
Q: What about
the show's future?
in our second year now, and the studio sees about a four or five-year
run. Beyond this would get to be a drag.
Q: What are
your personal plans for the future?
and foremost, stick with the show, of course and then I would like a
series of my own. Some promising ideas might work out in this direction.
As I said,
I had to turn down two European films due to lack of time this past
season, but hope to do one on location in Europe this summer. Beyond
this, I just want to work at learning the acting craft and doing a good
job at it.
your parting advice for would-be actor/bodybuilders?
A: Work hard,
I guess, and make friends wherever you go. Train hard, work to understand
acting and be truthful in your acting...be yourself. And keep plugging.
Q: That advice
has certainly worked for you, Pete, making you one of the biggest physique
acting stars around. Do you have any messages for Dan Lurie and Muscle
you for your kind compliments and yes I do. Tell Dan I remember him
from the Sealtest "Big Top" TV circus show as "muscle
Dan". He used to tout Sealtest ice cream, and I ate an awful lot
of it trying to get strong, when I was younger. And tell MTI to keep
up the good work for bodybuilding. You've got a fine magazine.
again, Pete, for sharing your time and comments with us, and you keep
up the good work in Hollywood.
Muscle Training Illustrated, July 1968
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Peter Lupus Shrine and are for exclusive use on this website.