Lou Ferrigno is an American actor best known for his work as the menacing Hulk in the original 1977 TV show, The Incredible Hulk. Alongside actor Bill Bixby, Ferrigno was one-half of David Banner (aka Bruce Banner), who turns into the menacing green Hulk when angry. He has since starred in shows such as Sinbad of the Seven Seas, Hercules, and The King of Queens. Ferrigno has continued his portrayal of the Hulk, supplying his voice for the character in recent Marvel films such as The Incredible Hulk and The Avengers.
Back when you began as the Hulk, superheroes were escapist characters for comic book readers and now they’re a huge mainstream enterprise. How have superheroes changed since your early days? Are you shocked or impressed by this?
Well, I’m very impressed. When I began the Hulk series, I remember filming the two pilots and I was hoping it would get picked up for a series so I would be very happy. Of course, the show went five years and the legacy 40 years. And now we have all these superheroes! When I was a kid, I used to read all these Marvel comic books, I loved the Fantastic Four and I said, “Boy, if they ever made a movie out of these guys…” And that happened and it started with the Hulk, who is still the most popular one of all.
You’ve been to a lot of conventions over the years. What is it about Wizard World that makes it so special?
It’s about the fans connecting with the celebrities. When you go to this kind of convention, they make an exception for the fans. You can find a celebrity, take pictures with them, photo-ops, Q&A panels, and know that they can make a connection with their favorite celebrity.
Why do you think Marvel superheroes, especially, have endured for so long?
I think it’s because of the storylines because the fact that you have the Hulk, you have the Thing, they’re good characters because of all of our powers.
As opposed to DC superheroes like Superman and Batman?
Every nationality loves the Hulk. You take this weekend, the Ninja Turtles wiping out everybody, they’re green, they’re powerful, they’re fast, the Hulk is the same thing. It’s all about releasing that little anger we have inside of us. I mean, every nationality loves the Hulk.
What do you think of the new Marvel movies that have come out recently?
I think it’s great because I’m excited for them breaking box-office records because I like the fact that they dominate over negativity, you walk away knowing that you shared your life with these superheroes. The power is that you see something beyond just shooting and violence, that you see a great form of entertainment.
Making a Hulk movie has always been a little tricky. You had the 2003 one directed by Ang Lee and the 2008 one starring Edward Norton. What do you think are the ingredients to making a good standalone Hulk film?
Well, I think with Mark Ruffalo, he shows a sensitivity and a warmth, that I think he nailed him. And the fact that in the last Avengers, the Hulk saves the day. But now, Disney got all fired up so now they’re going to make another Hulk solo movie, because before the last Avengers, they had less adulation for the Hulk, but now, they know that the Hulk is a bigger franchise.
I saw you did the ALS ice bucket challenge. What was that like?
Well, I’ve never had ice water dumped over my head! You know you do it yourself, but it’s still a shock because I was challenged to do it. And I’m not a big fan of cold water! So I did it because I wanted to do it for ALS, especially raising attention and educating people what ALS is.
You called out Mark Ruffalo in your challenge. Are you good friends with him?
I met him for the first time at San Diego Comic Con. I’ve always been a fan of his, I love his movies. He got excited meeting me because he told me that when he was a kid, he watched every episode of The Hulk, he worshipped the Hulk, so it was a great way to meet each other and pour water on him.
You did the voice of the Hulk for the Marvel Studios movies. Are you involved in The Avengers: Age of Ultron?
That’s what I’m planning on. I’m pretty sure I’ll be involved at a later date.
Can you give us any sort of knowledge?
I’ll probably know in two months. They keep it a huge secret.
It’s a really big secret, huh?
Oh yeah, ‘cus I know how the Hulk thinks and feels.
Have you met with Joss Whedon or any of the cast or crew yet?
Not yet, they’re still filming in post-production next month.
Are you friends with any of the cast? Robert Downey Jr.?
I met Robert Downey Jr. about 27 years ago on a plane because when he was a kid, him and Sean Penn would go to the running track and watch me go running. They came to my motor home one time as I was getting made up as the Hulk so we go way back.
So they’re fans of the Hulk?
They all are!
Going back to the original Hulk TV show, it was probably one of the very first superhero shows that was acclaimed, critically and dramatically, at a time when superheroes were thought of as childish commodities. What do think made the original TV show so unique, in terms of its writing and performance?
Well, every show had a message. It had nothing to do with drugs, sex, or violence. It was very positive because of the fact that you learned something when you watched the show, about yourself and other people.
Do you have any interesting memories from filming the show?
I remember one time Cary Grant, the famous actor, came to my motor home with his nephew to take a picture and he said to me, “I love your show”. I was speechless.
What’s next for you?
Scorpion King 4, coming out next month.
Lou, it’s been a pleasure.
Good talking to you!