By Jason Harris
Lou Ferrigno, the original Incredible Hulk, is in town for the fourth Rhode Island Comic Con, which starts this afternoon and runs until Sunday, November 8. We sat down at the Dunkin Donuts Center to talk about bodybuilding, the Incredible Hulk, and being the personal trainer for Michael Jackson.
Ferrigno discovered weight training 52 years ago at the age of 12, he said.
“When I was a kid, I was really skinny. I was just obsessed with power. I wanted to be powerful. I discovered weight training and I knew it would make me feel good about myself.”
Ferrigno wanted to be a hero like Hercules. He would watch old Hercules movies, then want to be a modern day gladiator or some other heroic character from the movies or comic books.
“I would fantasize about being the Hulk because of the way I was built.”
One day, he received a phone call about auditioning for the role, which at the time was being played by Richard Kiel. Kiel played the character of Jaws in two James Bond movies. The reason behind the switch was because director Kenneth Johnson’s son was on set one day and said Kiel didn’t look like the Hulk in the comic books, Ferrigno said. They contacted hundreds of people, including him, to audition.
“They called me, I went down for the screen test and immediately they hired me. And the next day, I was filming. In 48 hours, I went from bodybuilding to show business.”
Everything he did for the role came naturally to him, Ferrigno said.
“When I did the pilot, I used a lot of the animalistic behavior the way the character should be.”
One of his favorite moments on The Incredible Hulk was meeting Cary Grant, who came to the set with his nephew to get a picture taken with him.
“I was excited because he was one of the top movie stars in the world. That was one of my exciting moments because of the fact I was well respected.”
Ferrigno enjoyed working with Bill Bixby, who he considered “a very talented actor.” He was a fan of Bixby’s television shows The Courtship of Eddie’s Father and The Magician.
“I learned a lot from him. He was an icon. I was excited to learn from him and watch him.”
Ferrigno’s portrayal of the Incredible Hulk ended in 1990 with television movie, The Death of the Incredible Hulk, but he has continued with the character by voicing him in the UPN cartoon and in the current Marvel movies that started with The Incredible Hulk in 2008. The job was given to him after the director heard him say “Hulk crash” and “Hulk smash” at New York Comic Con seven to nine years ago, he said.
In the last few years, Ferrigno has been on Celebrity Apprentice and in an episode of Star Trek Continues.
“It was great because you’re on a show with a bunch of egos, celebrities,” Ferrigno said about Celebrity Apprentice. “I’m glad I raised 100,000 for my charity [the Muscular Dystrophy Association]. It taught me what it’s like to be with other celebrities. It was fun, but the hardest thing was no one wanted to be fired so you’re forced to look at other people’s faults. That was tough.”
Ferrigno did mention that “Donald Trump is a loose cannon.”
“I was very tense because you’re in the boardroom three times a week. You have to be careful how you conduct yourself. So with me, they were afraid of me, because when we were in the boardroom I just spoke my mind.”
Ferrigno has always been a fan of the original Star Trek so he was happy to play slave trader Zaminhon on Star Trek Continues when Vic Mignogna asked him. He wasn’t happy with the makeup, which took five hours to apply, he said.
“I knew I wanted to play [the character] because it was against type. I enjoyed playing that character.”
His upcoming movie Instant Death will be released next April. You will see him do things in the movie that audiences have never seen him do before, he said.
“I would say it’s my best work ever.”
Along with his acting, he continues giving advice about being a person’s own personal trainer at his website here or being a personal trainer to stars like Chuck Norris and Mickey Rourke. He was also Michael Jackson’s personal trainer for 20 years, which came about because he was a good friend of Jackson’s doctor.
“He learned a lot from me and I learned a lot from him,” Ferrigno said about Jackson.
You can meet Ferrigno at Rhode Island Comic Con this weekend. Find out more about the convention here.