As a little boy Lou Ferrigno put on a hearing aid every morning. Other kids teased him, which led to schoolyard fights that Ferrigno lost. For comfort he would read “The Incredible Hulk” comic book, one of his favorites. “ I felt devastated and emotionally insecure. I would just read the comics and it would give me inspiration and hope,” Ferrigno said. Ferrigno didn’t stop there. He began to lift weights and body build to gain the super strength his comic book hero had. By the age of 22, Ferrigno had won the “Mr. Universe” title twice.
“The Incredible Hulk” series went in to production in 1977 and the producers needed a muscular type for the title role that played opposite the diminutive Dr. David Banner. At first they turned to Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he wasn’t tall enough, so, the producers signed on the seasoned actor Richard Kiel, who would become most recognizable for his part of “Jaws” in James Bond movies. But, as Ferrigno explained, “He (Kiel) was too big. He didn’t have the muscles and he didn’t have the look.” Even one of the director’s sons complained that Kiel didn’t look like the Hulk from the comic book.
Though shooting was well underway, the producers recast the part with the only person in Hollywood with the height and the build to play the Hulk: Lou Ferrigno. The most difficult challenges of playing the Hulk were putting on six layers of green makeup and the 16-hour work days. In one episode, a scene called for Ferrigno to flip a car with the aid of a steel cable lift, but it broke. Ferrigno, exhausted and annoyed from still being on the set at 4 a.m., was not going to wait for a new cable. Instead, he took matters in to his own hands–literally. “Do you think I am not going to turn that car over? I think I really became the Hulk,” Ferrigno said about his feat of tilting the car up off a road and pushing it down an embankment. Ferrigno was surely the right man for the part.
Living a Childhood Dream
Prior to being cast as The Hulk, Lou Ferrigno had no experience as an actor but he knew the character of the Hulk very well. “I got beat up a lot as a kid and I wanted to be so strong, so invincible so I could command the same power the Hulk does… and that’s how that connection began,” Ferrigno said. He thought of the Hulk as “the green Santa Claus,” because of his instinct to protect the good. “The Incredible Hulk” TV series lasted five seasons, but it didn’t mark the end for Ferrigno’s role as the Hulk. Ferrigno was called upon to provide the voice of the new Hulk in “The Avengers” (2012).