The star of "The Incredible Hulk" television show stays in shape 30 years later.
The incarnation of The Hulk that appeared in Joss Whedon's The Avengers was the one comic book fans have been waiting for. CGI made the comic book character’s combination of size, power and speed possible. The least probable version was The Incredible Hulk, the television series that ran from 1977 to 1981.
Technological and budgetary constraints limited how physically awesome the Hulk could be, but the show had its own soul. Like many westerns, a stranger—Bill Bixby’s David Banner—would come to a town, get involved in someone’s problem, and help resolve it with the aid of his gamma-irradiated alter ego, The Hulk, played by Lou Ferrigno. Their combined plight was a lonely one as they couldn’t stay in any one place too long or connect to others. It was a feeling Ferrigno understood, and it affected his conception of the character.
“I was the Hulk my whole life and realized he was a sensitive creature,” he said Thursday at a party at the Eiffel Society.
Ferrigno remains an imposing figure at age 63, and is taller than he seemed in the show. He has been on the comic convention circuit for 10 years and is in town for the Wizard World Comic Con this weekend at the Morial Convention Center. He last was in New Orleans to attend the Wizard World Comic Con three years ago. “I’m happy to be back because it has grown so much,” he says, but after 40 years in Santa Monica, he’s less happy about the cold weather.
The Brooklyn-born Ferrigno experienced infections as a boy that affected his hearing, and that impaired his speech. He was introverted, and when he experienced a growth spurt as a high school senior and shot up to six feet, two and a half inches while still only 175 pounds, he started lifting weights.
“I wanted to work out because it gave me a sense of security because it had to do with power,” he said. “I wanted to be powerful.”
He became a competitive body builder and appeared in Pumping Iron, the body building documentary that also introduced the world to Arnold Schwarzenegger. “After Pumping Iron I came to California to train for the 1976 Mr. Olympia, which I was slated to win,” Ferrigno said, but before that could happen, he was asked to audition for The Hulk. and 24 hours later he was in show biz, and didn’t compete again until he returned to body building at age 42.
“I knew I had to give up something to get something,” he said. “You can’t have both, but it was the best decision I made.”
Working on The Incredible Hulk was physically demanding for Ferrigno because there was no CGI to create some of the larger than life sequences. If something heroic had to happen, he had to do it. “All the breaking windows, the jumping, the wall-breaking, 99 percent of the stunts I did, and it was tough,” he said. “Back then, there was no one who could double me.”
At 63, Ferrigno doesn’t look like The Hulk, but he’s obviously in very good shape. He still trains five to six days a week, but he works with lighter weights and eats lighter as well. He maintains a regimen of 45 minutes of weights with a minute between reps, and 30 minutes of cardio.
“I get a good pump,” he said.
As for The Incredible Hulk, he glad to see that it continues to find an audience that appreciates it, particularly now when CGI has drastically changed the nature of comic book-related movies and television. Social media has helped fans of the show connect and keep it alive. “After 40 years, there’s still the same excitement,” Ferrigno said. “It’s very exciting for me because most actors’ TV series fade away.”