Lou Ferrigno beat the bullies and torment from his father by becoming The Incredible Hulk.
“Body-building saved my life,” Ferrigno told KNPR’s State of Nevada Friday.
The man who played The Incredible Hulk on the TV show of the same name in the late 1970s is in Las Vegas to meet fans at Wizard World ComicCon at the Las Vegs Convention Center.
To get the role that propelled his career, Ferrigno said he made a casting call one day, and the next day he was already in the famous green makeup shooting scenes with the late actor Bill Bixby.
“I’m looking in the mirror and saying, ‘What am I doing?’” he said. “I was training for the 1977 Mr. Olympia and here I am playing this green creature. I was shaking my head.”
Sure, Ferrigno had the bulk from years of body-building. But he also said he was born to be The Hulk. “I’ve been The Hulk my whole life.”
“I knew how he thought and felt; I fantasized about being The Hulk as a kid,” Ferrigno said. “He was my hero. I had all those comic books. Because I just knew what he was like, I made him a creature instead of just a hideous beast.”
As a kid who suffered from a hearing impediment and speech issues, he was often bullied. “I constantly got beaten,” he said. And when he got home and told his dad, a New York City cop, he got another beating.
“’Don’t you ever come home saying you can’t defend yourself,’” he recalled his father’s words. “I had to overcome a lot of adversity.”
He was humiliated and hurt. Even today, he feels both love and resentment for his father, who died years ago.
“My father wanted … he tried to live his life through me,” he said. “I just wanted to run way … I carry his anger and his pain.”
In the 1977 documentary, “Pumping Iron,” Ferrigno is filmed in a Brooklyn gym lifting weights. He wants to unseat the reigning Mr. Olympia, Arnold Schwarzenegger. In that scene, he strains to pump barbells over his head, yelling “Arnold, Arnold, Arnold, Arnold!” as he finishes.
That was part of scripted set-up, he admitted, to build tension in the movie. And the lifting, he said, had to be shot five or six times because of camera problems. In addition, it was about 100 degrees in the gym.
Even so, the passion and commitment was genuine. As a result, Ferrigno believes no film about body-building has ever, or will ever stand up to “Pumping Iron.”
“You know, it can never be duplicated again,” he said. “They captured that intensity.”
At age 63, Ferrigno works out six or seven days a week – 45 minutes of weights, 30 minutes of cardio.
“If it wasn’t for bodybuilding, who knows what I’d be doing,” he said. “It changed my life and opened a lot of doors and opportunities for me.”
The best actor to portray The Hulk/Dr. Bruce Banner since he did it--Mark Ruffalo, Edward Norton or Eric Bana: “It’s tough because I loved Bill Bixby. Mark Ruffalo is a very sensitive guy. I would say everybody’s happy with Mark as along as he stays with the character.”
Michael Jackson, who he trained for 20 years: “He was a very close friend of mine and such a genuine human being. I admired his passion for music; he admired my passion for fitness. We both didn’t have a childhood. He was a fun guy, a brilliant guy. He was a huge fan of Marvel (comics)…He was very damaged. He was a sweet soul and never had a bad word to say about anybody, but he lived his life through his music.”
His father, Matty Ferrigno: “When I was little, my father had to go qualify (on the shooting range as a police officer). I was nine or 10. And he had a target and he’s firing five shots. He brings (the target) close, you see two holes in the head an three in the bottom and he said, “If you ever misbehave, the same thing will happen to you.”
Schwarzenegger: “I see Arnold from time to time at the gym. He’s doing pretty well for himself. He’s made a few bucks.”
Lou Ferrigno, actor, "Incredible Hulk"
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