George Butler was born in Chester, England in 1943. He was raised in Wales, Somalia, Kenya, and Jamaica. He was educated at Groton, University of North Carolina, and received an M.A. in Creative Writing from Hollins College in Virginia. In 1968, while working as a reporter for Newsweek, he was drafted. Objecting to the war in Vietnam, he joined VISTA (the domestic Peace Corps) and was sent to the inner city of Detroit where he founded a successful community newspaper, The Oakland Lion.
Continuing his activities in the peace movement, in 1971 Butler co-edited, (with David Thorne and US Senator John Kerry) The New Soldier, a highly praised book about the Vietnam Veterans Against War.
In 1972, a photo assignment for Life magazine to cover the Mr. Universe Contest in Baghdad led to the publication of Pumping Iron: The Art and Sport of Bodybuilding (Simon and Schuster, 1974), a book that proved to be an unlikely bestseller, eventually running through over 15 printings. Butler felt the main character in his book could be a movie star. After an incredibly difficult saga, a movie called Pumping Iron launched Arnold Schwarzenegger, put bodybuilding and the gym business on the map and became a classic film.
In 1985, Butler produced and directed Pumping Iron II: The Women. The film, according to Gloria Steinem, redefined the boundaries of femininity.
In 1990, Butler released In the Blood. This film took the controversial position that hunting is an important part of game conservation and that the countries in Africa with the best hunting programs have the most game. The film was shot on location in Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana. It played at Sundance, Leningrad, Denver, Toronto and many other film festivals. It was also a finalist in the IDA award as one of the ten best documentaries of 1990.
Between films, Butler has published a number of books and his photographs have appeared in most of the major magazines of the world, a one-man show at the International Center of Photography in New York and other galleries around the country.
In 2000, Butler completed a trilogy of films based on Caroline Alexander’s bestselling book, The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition. The trilogy included an IMAX®, a two-hour TV special and The Endurance, a 92-minute theatrical feature. The latter was selected for over 30 international film festivals and was one of the most commercially successful documentaries ever made.
Recently, Butler completed a feature documentary about longtime friend John Kerry and his experiences with the Vietnam War and Peace Movement. Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry premiered in 2004 at The Toronto Film Festival and was distributed by TH!NK Film. It has earned high praise across the country and is a selection for the 2006 Whitney Biennial.
Butler’s latest film, Roving Mars, is an IMAX® that was produced by Frank Marshall and is now being distributed by Disney around the world. The New York Times called it “the best IMAX ever made.” Future film projects on Butler’s list are: The Lord God Bird (a film made in association with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The Nature Conservancy), The Good Fight (the Bobby Bowden story), Gorilla (an IMAX® in association with the World Wildlife Fund), and Tiger, Tiger (an IMAX® about Bengal Tigers).