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Profile: Mike O’Hearn, Renaissance Man

All-around Talent Pushes O’Hearn to A-List Status.


To say that Michael O'Hearn has a full plate would be akin to saying that Halle Berry is decent looking. A quick glance at his r'sum' calls for two Motrins, due to eyestrain. Bodybuilding champion. Powerlifting champion. Martial arts champion. Personal trainer. Cover model supreme, with his worldwide total reaching 463 at last count, including 12 IRONMAN covers. Writer. Professional wrestler. Actor. And he hopes to soon be adding the job title Hollywood star to the list.

O'Hearn's first film, 'Barbarian,' a Roger Corman production, is due out in August. His second, 'The Keeper of Time,' is scheduled for a 2004 release. And the 6'2', 235-pounder is excited about his upcoming trip to Russia, where he will star in a flick he wrote, titled 'Plot.'

In an article that ran in the Los Angeles Times' Health section back in April, Jeannine Stein referred to O'Hearn as a guy 'who walks with the confidence of a man who knows he's won the DNA lottery.' Nice description.

His road to fame began at the '90 Mr. Olympia, which was held in Chicago, when he caught the attention of Marty Demirjian, a Mark Geragos look-alike who used to manage bodybuilders before going AWOL from the scene in the mid-'90s.

'I flew myself out to the show to watch it, and that's when I first got noticed by a few people'Marty and Joe Weider, for the most part,' says O'Hearn, who was born and raised in Kirkland, Washington, 33 years ago. 'Marty told me I had a good look and asked if I was involved in the sport. I told him I had competed and was a personal trainer, and I wanted to get more involved in the industry.

'Marty suggested that I come down to California to meet people. I came down for the '91 Nationals. That's when I met you and Ruth Silverman at The Pantry [a famous downtown Los Angeles eatery].

'Marty introduced me to a lot of photographers too. Wasn't more than two weeks later I got a phone call from Muscle & Fitness. They sent me a plane ticket and flew me to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for my first photo shoot. That ended up being two covers. So there I was, living in Kirkland, and my face is on the cover of a major magazine. That was it, I said. I'm heading south.'

The second youngest of 10 children'and the youngest son'the former high school football and wrestling standout got more assistance, this time from Gold's Gym partner Ed Connors, who set him up at Gold's, Venice, where he began training clients at four a.m. 'I'd go till eight at night, and in between training my clients, I would get in my own workouts,' O'Hearn recalls. 'About a year later I started competing. I did shows like the USA Natural, the Mr. International Natural, the Mr. Natural America and won all of them, which helped me get more magazine exposure.'

Eventually, the drug-free athlete decided to kick things up a notch. 'In 2000, after winning the Natural Universe three times, I decided it was time to go up against people who were better than I was,' he said. O'Hearn jumped into the NPC California Championships and, at 235 pounds, the lightest of the Superheavyweights, he won his class and was third in the balloting for the Overall.

Although it may be hard to believe, Michael was competing in martial arts and powerlifing meets as well. 'When I first came down to California, I met people involved in judo, and within a year I won the Mr. California Judo Championships. I had won four powerlifting titles in Washington; I eventually won the California Powerlifting Championships three times.'

O'Hearn's best competitive lifts include a 505-pound bench press, a 760 squat and a 733 deadlift at a bodyweight of 242. Why the overloaded schedule, Michael? 'I was taught from early on to be an all-around athlete,' O'Hearn says. 'It's nice that you might be a great martial artist, but if I put you up against another great martial artist who is much stronger than you, he's gonna win. Same thing for powerlifting'it's great to be strong, but if you don't look good as well, you won't make much of a living from it. That's where the bodybuilding comes in.'

His success led to exposure on the talkshow circuit, and then television came calling. 'I was approached by the people who were putting together the 'American Gladiators.' I would say that was late in 1993.' O'Hearn earned a slot on the show as 'Thor,' the god of thunder, and was a regular for three years. 'It was a great show,' he says. 'You had to be both quick and strong'it was athletics.'

Eventually, he moved on to another television series, 'Battledome,' where, as Michael O'Dell, he continued to display his talents.

Along the way O'Hearn turned into Fabio, Part 2, posing for approximately 160 Topaz romance book covers between 1995 and '98. Not only was he getting more exposure, but his pocketbook was benefiting big time as well. No more $500 magazine shoots'$10,000 a day suddenly made Michael's day. Much better than getting your choice of three pictures from the photo shoot, huh, guy?

'That was really fun,' O'Hearn says. 'Doing shows like 'Entertainment Tonight,' and 'Extra' played a major role in me getting the contract with Topaz. I'd be flown, first class, to New York for three-day shoots. They had one main photographer, and I'd shoot with six, seven different women'lots of different costumes, like from medieval times. The girls would come in; we'd shoot each one for about 15 to 20 minutes. It was almost like a love scene. I'd kiss their neck, kiss their chest. They would take the pictures and give them to an artist, who would draw the cover from them.'

ALLAt the end of that run came the 'Battledome' opportunity. 'I was one of only two guys who did the pilot who stayed on the show,' O'Hearn recalls. 'Battledome' was similar to 'American Gladiators,' in the sense that there was violence, but it was a little different. Five thousand people tried out in Venice Beach for the first pilot; I was the only person who carried over from 'Gladiators.'

'We did the pilot, then traveled around the country to promote it and get it sold. We went to New Orleans, and I got to party with Howard Stern for three days. It's silly what women will do for that man!

'They eventually did a recasting, wanting to go with men only, and 15,000 guys showed up in Venice Beach for that. They also did tryouts in New York and Florida. They took the best athletes, gave them a character. It lasted two seasons, and now there are reruns. Which is nice [financially].' So, how did all of that lead into film work?

'You know what's funny?' he says. 'Everybody says it's about getting out there, doing the auditions. It's about who you know, who you meet'it really is. I know some very talented actors, and they don't get any work. If somebody likes you'that's how you get the gigs.

'I met Kenny Kassell [New Jersey-based promoter and talent agent] at the USA in Las Vegas about two, three years ago. I was signing pictures, when he came up to me and asked me what I was doing. He said he wanted me to meet somebody'24 hours later I met this agent, who introduced me to Roger Corman, who owns the New Concord/New Horizon film company. They were looking for somebody they could sign to a three-movie deal. There were about 30 of us at the first reading.

'I got a callback, and it came down to me and [bodybuilder-turned-actor] Andy Bryniarski, who has had great success in film and has a new thing coming out on TNT. I got lucky, and I was chosen.'

How did Andy, no shrinking violet, take the decision?

'He was happy for me,' O'Hearn says. 'Friends are happy for friends, and he's a good friend. He said if it wasn't him, he was glad it was me.' There may have been moments when O'Hearn wasn't so happy he got the deal. 'I'm glad I was into this 150 percent because things got really insane when I went to the Ukraine to shoot the first film, 'Barbarian,' he recounts. 'We went through four directors. I wasn't there more than two weeks before they fired the first director. The cast was great, but dealing with a lot of the Russian-speaking people was difficult. I had a translator.

'The second director was a Russian who spoke no English. I was there for four months, but we had to go back and reshoot it about six months later to finish the film. We had a new director, a young kid right out of USC. In two weeks we shot 30 percent of the movie.'

Eight months after completing 'Barbarian,' in mid-2002, O'Hearn took off for Lithuania to begin shooting 'The Keeper of Time,' which he describes as a 'Lord of the Rings' type of story. 'I was there for 10 weeks, and the country was beautiful, very Americanized,' he says. 'I think it should be ready for release by March 2004.'

He has one picture left on the original deal, but that will take place down the road 'because I've got some other deals in the works that are moving in front of it,' he says. 'I never thought I'd want to write or direct, but now that I've been there and have seen how it's done, I've really gotten into it. You get your own opinion about how things should be shot.

'When I came back, I started writing, which I thought I never would because I have dyslexia [a reading disability]. I thought it was pretty decent and began shopping it. I took it to a company called Powerhouse Entertainment in Beverly Hills in March. The people there, including a guy named Jim Valdez, loved the script and were impressed with me, and it's a go. I will be heading for Russia at the end of the summer to star in a film that I wrote. What's better than that?'

O'Hearn plays an American actor who goes to Russia to make a movie and falls in love with the wife of a Russian Mafia leader. Look for it to find out how Michael gets out of that mess.

In the meantime his hectic schedule continues. 'When I come back from shooting 'Plot,' I'll begin work on the third Corman film,' he says. 'It will be a Western, and Marty Kove ['Karate Kid,' 'Rambo'] will be starring in it with me.'

Everyone in bodybuilding wants to be the next Arnold. Have we finally found a legitimate contender?

'What Arnold did'coming from a foreign country, with a thick accent and an unusual name, and achieving great film success'is unparalleled,' says O'Hearn. 'But like Arnold I respect and appreciate the opportunities that America has given me.

'And, with the help of my manager, Daniel Paul, as well as Missy Halperin, Adam Vetri and John Weisner, I see no end to my future. As Daniel says, it's time for me to go to the A-list.'

O'Hearn still hits Gold's, Venice, at 4 a.m., but now he trains himself, not others. And you'll often see him working out with another cat who hasn't done too shabbily outside of the bodybuilding arena, Lou Ferrigno. O'Hearn also trains at Powerhouse Gym in West Los Angeles, down the street from his home.

'I'm still mental in the gym,' he says. 'When Louie and I get together, we hit one bodypart per day, five days a week. We normally take the weekends off.

'You know what I love about training with Louie? He doesn't give up. He kills me on biceps'at 51 he can still do 100-pound seated dumbbell curls. I also train with Tito Raymond. He's like Louie, very intense.'

If that wasn't enough, O'Hearn is also currently in wrestling school, tossing and flopping three evenings per week. 'Back in 1994 Shane McMahon [son of World Wrestling Federation owner Vince McMahon] flew out to California and took me and Achim Albrecht [former IFBB bodybuilder] to dinner. Then he flew me back to Connecticut and signed me, but 'American Gladiators' put a stop to it,' O'Hearn relates. 'When I was doing 'Battledome,' the WCW contacted me. They put me on TV with their wrestlers. They wanted to sign me, but 'Battledome' put a stop to that.

'This is the first time I don't have a TV show to prevent me from doing wrestling,' he says. 'Now I'm back in talks with Johnny Ace of WWE. I may be a pro wrestler within the next six months.

'I'm trying to juggle so many things! It's like high school, with six periods. I'm even still training a couple of buddies. There's not enough time in this life!'

I have a feeling you'll find a way, big guy. You seem to be fitting it all in quite nicely up till now.

Michael O'Hearn: A Quick Look

Full Name: Michael Patrick O'Hearn
Born: Kirkland, Washington
Current Residence: Beverly Hills, California
Bodybuilding Highlights: NPC California Superheavyweight champion, three-time Natural Universe champion. But the titles haven't been the highlight of my career'it was being able to travel the world, meet new people and learn new things from all walks of life.
Powerlifting Highlights: Making my best lifts of an 815-pound squat, 505-pound bench press and a 760-pound deadlift.
Biggest Disappointment: Finding out how many people do steroids and the amount of abuse that exists.
Role Models: Mom and Dad
Favorite Bodypart: Abs
Favorite Exercise: Squats
Least-favorite Exercise: Bent-over rows
Traits You Admire Most in Other People: Sincerity and honesty
Favorite Actor: Sean Connery
Favorite Actress: Sofia Vergara
Favorite Food: Steak burrito
Favorite Off-season Foods: Vanilla ice cream with strawberries and Nutella.
What You Like the Most About Bodybuilding and Powerlifting: What they teach you. Consistency, dedication, persistence, courage, the will to never give up and so much more.
Five Most Important Things in Life: 1) Mom, 2) family 3) health 4) security 5) sex
Favorite Word: Paradoxical
Least-favorite Word: Racism
When You Go to Heaven and Meet God at the Pearly Gates, What Would You like Him to Say to You? You were fun to watch.
Favorite Color: Close between green and blue
Favorite Movie: 'Old School,' 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,' 'North by Northwest,' 'The Ring' and 'Shrek.'

Editor's note: Visit Michael O'Hearn's Web site at www.mikeohearn.com. To contact him, send e-mail to mike@mikeohearn.com. IM

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