In the lead up to Rhode Island Comic Con, which takes place November 6-8, I got a chance to talk to the original Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno!
Graphic Policy: Thank you for taking time out do this interview Lou. It is greatly appreciated.
Lou Ferrigno: Sure, my pleasure.
Graphic Policy: So I know growing up as a kid in Brooklyn, you had a tough time because of your disability and I think it’s really empowering how you’ve overcome all the adversity that includes. I identify with the Hulk also because I wasn’t the biggest or strongest kid growing up and being picked on. So I’m actually a big fan of the show with you and Bill Bixby, I grew up on it and my dad did too.
Lou Ferrigno: Is that so?
Graphic Policy: Oh yes. I’ve always been intrigued by the Hulk in general because at his core he’s a man who’s very smart and not physically imposing but has this massive power lurking inside him waiting to come out. So what I wanted to do here is ask you a few questions about yourself and the Hulk as well as the comic book genre in general if you don’t mind?
Lou Ferrigno: Yeah, go ahead.
Graphic Policy: Great, so to start off, how did you decide to make the transition from body building and fitness to acting?
Lou Ferrigno: So I was training in the 1977 Mr. Olympia competition in California. So maybe about 6:54 in the morning I received a phone call there was a casting call for the Hulk. They were using this other actor named Richard Kiel, had been cast as the Hulk but he did not fit the role at all, so they had to re shoot the pilot as they had a problem. I went down and shot a screen test, and they wanted to re shoot the pilot quickly so it could be successful, and that’s how quick it happened. Less than 24 hours.
I was looking in the mirror the next day, having been on the set for five or six hours, and I’m looking in the mirror thinking to myself “What am I doing?” I see the Hulk character all finished and I’m like “Wow, I can’t believe I’m doing a movie for television.” It was like a dream come true.
Graphic Policy: I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be in those shoes, so cool. So do you think that because you won the previous body building titles and also the documentary you did called “Pumping Iron” gave you an in, for the Hulk or was it just like you were on equal footing with everybody?
Lou Ferrigno: No, it gave me an in because when “Pumping Iron” came out it gave me a lot of recognition, so I was ahead of a lot of the actors in the physical department.
Graphic Policy: Now speaking of that, to my knowledge you are the only one to ever portray the role of the Hulk physically on-screen. You also do the voice over acting for the character in the current Marvel films.
Lou Ferrigno: Correct.
Graphic Policy: So my question to you is, what is it like preparing for the role and is it just the same or is it more relaxed like you go in your sweatpants and just able to lay back?
Lou Ferrigno: Well it’s still good, but it’s a challenge. When I go in and do the voice over, I can’t read the script. So they tell me with those movies, I have to improvise. They have my voice in a library that they can transfer scene to scene when needed. I definitely wanted to do the voice because, even though it’s shot in CGI, I still know how the Hulk looks and feels. It’s just as much to the character as before.
Graphic Policy: Yeah I mean, it comes out great on film. The voices that emanate from him, are so real for the CGI part. It’s great. You also played a security guard in the Incredible Hulk alongside Edward Norton, that was awesome too.
Lou Ferrigno: Thanks.
Graphic Policy: Now I’ve read that two of your favorite comics growing up were Spider-Man and The Hulk, with The Hulk edging it out. Do you still read any comics today?
Lou Ferrigno: Not like I used to. No, because they changed it with the Red Hulk and the stories are off the trend. If I happen across an older Hulk comic book though, of course I will look through it as it brings back those childhood memories. I like the old comics compared to the newer ones.
Graphic Policy: I do too. They were genius back then.
Lou Ferrigno: Yup.
Graphic Policy: Tell me, do you have a personal favorite episode of The Incredible Hulk TV show?
Lou Ferrigno: Yes. It’s called “King of the Beach”. It was my first real acting role where you get to see me and The Hulk together. It was the highest rated show over its five years. That is my favorite because it was my first acting role.
Graphic Policy: That’s got to be pretty cool.
Just a few more questions here. So as a kid growing up reading comics did you ever think that a character you are now so closely tied to would have, pardon the pun such incredible success?
Lou Ferrigno: I had no idea. There was no way to know that it would have such a uge impact with every country in the world. So because of the success of the television series I’ve had a chance to travel the world. I’ve been to Egypt, South America, and one time I went into a stadium of like 60,000 people and everyone immediately recognized me. Right there I realized there was something there with this character being so beloved, especially being green, it’s really something.
Graphic Policy: To that point if I may say so, I think that it’s your portrayal that sticks in everyone’s minds as the Hulk. Now you can read the comics but it’s that on-screen portrayal that really stays with them. I mean everywhere you go now there’s comics. It’s a great time.
Lou Ferrigno: Well they changed The Hulk’s design because of my physicality. Even 40 years later people still come to comic conventions and even little children who are say 5 or 6 years old, immediately identify me as The Hulk even though they weren’t around for the TV show but it’s such a beloved character.
Graphic Policy: Sure is. Switching gears here, I have a personal question for you. What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into acting or another profession that may have to overcome a disability of their own?
Lou Ferrigno: I believe that as long as you are passionate about something, whether it’s a toothbrush or a doorknob or something, as long you feel good about yourself that will connect to your mind and connect to the body, just realize that you have it. Don’t listen to other people. Pursue it.
Graphic Policy: Ok, to wrap it up You’ve done so much in your career. From fitness and body building to acting in TV and movies, owning your own fitness company even becoming a deputy sheriff..
Lou Ferrigno: 12 years.
Graphic Policy: With that being said, what does the future hold for Lou Ferrigno?
Lou Ferrigno: Well I filmed a great movie in England over the summer called “Instant Death.” It’s about a guy who was in special forces and readjusts back into society. He attempts to repair a relationship with his daughter and granddaughter as he had a British wife. Then this drug gang they go after my daughter and granddaughter so I seek revenge, it’s action, fast paced. Go see it. It’s a lot of fun.
Graphic Policy: I will absolutely see it. Sounds great. This was fantastic and I appreciate your time.
Lou Ferrigno: Thank you. No problem.
Graphic Policy: Have a great day and I will see you at the con.