If you followed bodybuilding online in the second half of the 2010s, you know who Calum von Moger is. The Australian-born bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-influencer soared to the top of fitness pop culture for his well-developed physique, carefree attitude, and striking resemblance to that of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger.
After a series of unfortunate mishaps, including several debilitating injuries and entanglements with law enforcement, von Moger retreated from social media entirely. But on Aug. 23, 2023, influencer and coach Zack Telander published a candid one-on-one interview with von Moger, wherein von Moger detailed the nature of his comeback, his ongoing struggles with mental health, and how he’s fighting for his future:
Editor’s Note: This article discusses addiction, self-harm, and suicidal ideation.
Calum von Moger | Then to Now
Telander tells BarBend over text that he caught von Moger on Aug. 19 at the 2023 Austin Fit Fest in Austin, TX, where von Moger was making appearances on behalf of one of his sponsors, Bucked Up Nutrition. The two found some time and spoke.
“[Lifting] played a huge role in my life and was the backbone of my entire career,” von Moger told Telander when asked to paint a picture of what he’s been up to over the last few years. At 24 years of age, aspirant physique athlete von Moger packed up and moved from his home in Australia to Los Angeles to pursue a career in Hollywood.
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von Moger’s path was reminiscent of Schwarzenegger’s, who emigrated from Austria in the 1960s to continue his burgeoning bodybuilding career.
I didn’t have any form of mentorship, or anyone to guide me.
“The lifestyle I lived in America was very unique, but I didn’t have any form of mentorship or anyone to guide me,” von Moger says — he went on to discuss some consequences of his rapid rise to fame and the temptations of nightlife in L.A. “It all tested me. The party eventually ends, though, and when it does, you’re back in the real world.”
A reckless lifestyle coupled with several severe injuries — von Moger tore his biceps during a workout with Classic Physique Mr. Olympia Chris Bumstead in 2017 — and legal troubles in Australia forced von Moger to retreat almost entirely from the public eye until as recently as the 2023 Arnold Sports Festival in March.
Calum von Moger | On Mental Health
Telander shifted the conversation to von Moger’s ongoing struggles with mental health, prompting von Moger to get candid about his public perception and reality:
“I went through a lot of shit that I didn’t know how to handle. I did my best at the time, but I was painted as the bad guy … the biggest wake-up call was getting arrested and waking up in the hospital last year,” von Moger says.
I needed to disappear from social media to find out who I was again.
In 2022, von Moger appeared in a Melbourne court on charges related to road rage. According to reporting by the New York Post, von Moger was comatose during an 11-day hospital stay after a near-fatal fall through a window.
“I needed to disappear off social media, go to rehab, and find out who I was again,” von Moger says. “I needed to peel off the labels. I think part of my purpose now is to help bring awareness to people struggling with their mental health.”
Fighting for a Future
“He was very energized by the opportunity to tell his story. It seems to me like he desperately wants to have this conversation,” Telander tells BarBend. He notes that von Moger didn’t specify whether or not he’d make a return to competitive bodybuilding. von Moger last appeared on stage at the 2020 NPC Mr. Universe, where he won his Classic Physique pro card.
For now, it appears that the four-time Mr. Universe is interested more in mental growth than muscle growth. Time will tell where von Moger’s story goes, but Telander believes he’s on the right path.
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Featured Image courtesy of Zack Telander.