Lou Ferrigno recalls getting the call from the casting people at The Hulk.
“It was 1977 and I was training for the upcoming Mr. Olympia. I met with the director and producer and they offered me the role. I knew that I couldn't take the job or train for the Olympics. So I asked Joe Weider for advice. He told me that the TV role was once in a lifetime, but there would be another Olympics next year. "
The original first choice to play The Hulk was Richard Kiel, the 7 & # 39; 2 & # 39; actor who played Jaws in the James Bond films. But one day the director's son, who was a fan of the Hulk comics, came on the set and told his father that Kiel didn't look like the hyper-muscular Hulk in the comics. So the production started with the casting and eventually settled on Lou.
It's hard to remember that in the 1970s action heroes didn't have body shapes similar to bodybuilders. In the 1950s, Steve Reeves introduced the bodybuilder physique to international film audiences as Hercules. In the 1960s, many other bodybuilders made their way to the Cinecitta film studios in Italy and the largest film studio in Europe – including Mickey Hargitay, Brad Harris, Reg Park, Franco Columbu, Earl Maynard and many others. Gordon Scott played as Tarzan. And of course there was Arnold in Hercules Goes Bananas, also known as Hercules in New York.
But in big mainstream Hollywood films and on television you sometimes see very good mesomorphic athletes like Clint Walker as Cheyenne, baseball player Chuck Connors as The Rifleman, or soccer player Jim Brown in many different films. ne of them had the type of muscle we associate with bodybuilding.
Then came Arnold in Pumping Iron and Conan, Sylvester Stallone in Rocky and Lou Ferrigno as The Hulk, followed by Jean-Claude Van Damme in the 1980s, and that was the beginning of the current trend: actors playing in Marvel and other superheroes All the movies look like they spend a lot of time in the gym.
"It's not just in the movies," says Lou. “When I was a young man, most athletes didn't work out much in the gym. Almost everyone does it these days. t only for sports like soccer, but also for tennis, golf and baseball. t just men, but women too. Just look at the size and strength of someone like Serena Williams. "
When athletes withdraw from competition, they sometimes gain weight and fall out of shape because they stop training. But it doesn't have to be like that, says Lou. “I never stopped training and I always tried to stay in pretty good shape. Arnold and Sly Stallone are still making films. I saw Jean-Claude in the gym. And Robby Robinson is in his 70s and still amazingly muscular. I wouldn't stop exercising more than brushing my teeth. I think more athletes feel this way these days than before, before fitness became such a central idea in touring culture. "
Interestingly, while female athletes work hard to build muscle in many sports – and we've had decades of female bodybuilding, fitness, and figure – Hollywood for the most part doesn't consider muscular women to be superheroes. Gal Gadot, who plays Wonder Woman in the DC Extended Universe, is in great shape – but you would never mistake her for a bodybuilder.
One difference that usually exists between movie stars and TV stars is that the stars in the movies are more international, while those on TV are usually local or national in nature. When the IFBB Amateur World Championship took place in Egypt in 1981, Lou was invited as a guest poser. The bodybuilding group stayed at the Holiday Inn Pyramids, and Egyptian TV was just starting to air The Hulk. Before he showed up, the hotel staff were excited and awaiting his arrival. “The green man is coming; The green man is coming ”, they kept saying.
During the week Lou and I attended some kind of narrated light show in the pyramids. Traffic went from bumper to bumper to get a taxi. (The traffic in Cairo is the worst I've seen in the whole world.) Lou was from California and got off the curb. He expected cars to stop.
You didn't do it.
One came right up to him and he had to jump out of the way. He tried again and when the next car came towards him, Lou hit the hood hard and yelled, "I'm going here!" The look on the driver's face was a total shock. Here "the green man" was brought to life right in front of him. He could have expected Lou to get so mad that he reached down and turned his car over.
I wonder what he said to his family and friends when he got home.
So it turns out that Lou Ferrigno has an international reputation, an international fan base, and a following equal to many A-list movie stars, as The Hulk is still aired on TV channels around the world.