Lou Ferrigno, the apologetic Hulk
Pop culture icon and Wizard World guest makes amends to interviewer he tormented as a child
Most people probably know Lou Ferrigno from his ’70s starring roles in the body-building doc Pumping Iron or The Incredible Hulk TV series. But not me. I know Lou Ferrigno from my nightmares. As a child with chronic ear infections, I was visited by Lou Ferrigno almost nightly. The fever dream goes like this: I’m fleeing through a cobwebbed Victorian mansion with Medusa (in all her snake-locked glory) hot on my trail. I cast a frantic glance in front of me just in time for Lou Freaking Ferrigno—wearing green body paint, cloudy contact lenses, that Tina Turner fright wig—to bellow that unmistakable Hulk roar and crush me between monstrous biceps. The dream tormented me as a child. I was a bed wetter until I was 7 and a virgin until I was—scratch that. The point is, Lou Ferrigno scarred me. So when my coworkers learned that he would be appearing at this weekend’s Wizard World Comic Con, they urged me to confront my childhood monster. Mostly, I think they just wanted to see me pee my pants.
I’m going to get right to it. You scared the hell out of me as a kid.
Oh, my God. I’m sorry about that.
Have you heard that before?
Many, many times. I’ve heard kids getting scared. Or they’re ripping up carpets, clothes, wearing green makeup, their mothers all hating me for it.
[I describe recurring nightmare in obnoxious detail.]
Oh, my God. Well, I hope you don’t have any more of those. (laughs.)
No, but I saw you at a comic book convention a few years back and couldn’t approach you. My legs wouldn’t let me.
Wow. Are you going to come down to the show?
I think so.
Well, come over and say hi. I won’t bite ya.
OK. Glad we got that out of the way. What are you up to these days?
Well, I got four films coming out. My movie just came out two weeks ago from Sony Pictures—and can also be available online at Amazon.com—called Instant Death. It’s a British film, kind of like a remake of Death Wish.
Are you in the Charles Bronson role?
Kind of. I’m the lead. … It’s a great film. So I’ve been busy with that. I have my competition called the Ferrigno Legacy, in Palm Springs. And also I’m involved with a company my daughter and I call FerrignoFit.com.
Do you still work with various sheriff’s departments?
Yeah, I’m a certified deputy in Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo [counties]. I went through the academy. I’m the real deal.
You get to do that still?
Oh, yeah. I do a lot of search and rescue.
Any hairy situations?
One time I went down from the helicopter to help this woman because I think she broke her leg. When she saw me she fainted. When she found out who I was, she cried and [screamed]. And I said to myself, “Now I got another problem.”
Have you ever thought of running for office? We’ve had a body builder as governor and now we have a big scary guy as president, and you’ve done both.
You know, to be honest with you, I’d rather stick with the sheriff’s department. I have no interest in politics. I don’t want to have to put a suit on and get stabbed in the back all the time. I’ll let somebody else do that.
You were the first hearing-impaired celebrity that I remember as a kid. What did that mean to you?
Well, growing up, my life was about overcoming adversity. I see a lot of people come over to me, a lot of young, deaf people, so I show my support. … Because of what I’ve done, they feel like they have a chance in life, too.
At the convention next weekend, are you doing signings?
Yeah, I’m in the booth. I’ll have my beautiful posters. I take pictures. I do autograph signings. We have a professional photo op, a meet and greet, Q&A. So basically, all the people come to my table, they leave with a smile on their face. … I love connecting with my fans.
Any crazy fan encounters?
One time a girl came up to me, said she wanted to take a picture with me. She had two Hulk pictures and my signature tattooed on each one of her thighs.
Yeah, that’s a real fan.
Also, I do the voice of the Hulk for The Avengers [movies and animated series] so I’m still involved with the Hulk franchise.
I can totally tell.
Yeah, I’m still involved with the Hulk. … I’m in the new Thor movie and there will be some surprises. … I know how the Hulk thinks and feels. … Basically I know how to bring the sensitivity to the Hulk.
Did the green paint stain?
No. … It had to be retouched [over] 13 hours, 14 hours a day. I was the first one on the set, the last one to leave. It was brutal after 90 episodes. The character’s beautiful—I love playing the Hulk—but the makeup was a bitch.
What about the contacts?
Today you can wear contacts like that for 11 hours. Back in my time it was only 15 minutes. So periodically, we had to take them in and out because it’s very painful. No wonder I was so pissed.