Culture Q&A: An interview with Lou Ferrigno
Whether he’s picking up a car in a fit of green rage, or picking up some weights just to keep fit, Lou Ferrigno still has the inspiration of comic books close to his heart.
Lou Ferrigno, an internationally famous and respected body builder, is best known for his portrayal of the Incredible Hulk in the 1977-1981 T.V series of the same name. He beat Arnold Schwarzenegger out for the role and since then many have identified him as an action hero even though it has been many years since he wore the green paint.
Here is a Q & A session with the famous muscled icon.
Daily Lobo: Tell me about Ferrignofit.com.
Ferrigno: “This is a website that teaches you how to become your own personal trainer. You get customized meal plans. This is for anybody in any shape… you can become incredibly fit. It teaches you how to train yourself, like in a hotel room you can work out like you’re in a gym. I’ve been a personal trainer for over 30 years, and I can’t train everyone so this is their opportunity for them to learn from me. This will build a routine on how to lose weight, gain weight and how to build muscle.”
DL: CGI vs. Live action Hulk, Which do you prefer?
Ferrigno: “In my opinion there is no comparison. On the big screen people want to see CGI because of all of the other superheroes. The original Hulk had a lot more to do with vulnerability and the story plot; it’s a different time era. I would say more the human Hulk because of the fact that I play the character. There are more people affected by my character than there are from the CGI character you see today. I also lent my voice to the CGI character so there’s a connection with that, which I am happy about.”
DL: I learned through research that you were a reserve deputy for almost a decade. What was that like?
Ferrigno: “Full-time and reserve. I worked reserve in Los Angeles, San Louis Obispo county. One time I was doing a search and rescue and I had to descend from a helicopter. There was a woman who had broken her leg in a motorcycle accident. So when I went to try to rescue her to put her in the basket that came from the helicopter, she opened her eyes and when she saw me she fainted. I thought to myself, this is great — now she fainted, now what do I do? It was great because she was honored to be saved by the Hulk. I do a lot. I teach, I speak for the department, I teach weapons shooting, and I do a lot of search and rescue.”
DL: Are comic books a salvation for kids who feel like they don’t fit in?
Ferrigno: “Yeah. I mean, that’s why we have this convention (Albuquerque Comic Expo) for the fact they are making that connection. There is so much now with so many stories and heroes comics. “
DL: How did reading comic books when you were growing up make you feel?
Ferrigno: “I was a real-life Walter Mitty when I was young. I was introverted and had low self esteem. After reading the comic books, it gave me a lot of hope and self respect. So I identified with the Hulk and Superman because of the power thing. I felt a connection because it made me feel good about myself. I wanted to be the Hulk. I wanted to be the Hulk my whole life, and that led me to fitness and body building and that lead me to the film business.
DL: Having no prior experience in acting, how did you prepare for the role of the Hulk?
Ferrigno: “I went down for the screen test and they were shooting the pilot. They had someone out there they were using, but the person didn’t look like the Hulk. They realized that they had to re-shoot the pilot because they wanted to find somebody that would fit the part. So they had a nationwide casting call… I went down for the screen test and it came natural for me, because they wanted me to show different moves of the Hulk and the growl, the sound. Because I loved the character so much, I won the part, because I knew what they wanted,.I knew that nobody could’ve played the part but me. I owned the part, and I won the audition and the next day I was filming.”
DL: How does it feel to have beaten Arnold Schwarzenegger for the part?
Ferrigno: “Well, it felt great because of the fact that there is only one Hulk. I’ve made my way on TV; he does his thing with the movies. They wanted that look because I was 6 foot, 5 inches and 280 pounds. So I was able to do all the physical stuff like running and jumping.”
DL: What does the Albuquerque Comic Expo and other similar events mean to you?
Ferrigno: “I think it’s great because now it’s pop culture and not just the comic book convention. It has to do with connecting to celebrities; you can bring your family. It’s a place to have a good time and you don’t have to worry about dealing with a crime situation. You know like going to a game and people are fighting in line and dealing with that situation. This is something that children can share with their parents.It’s like a family thing. Myself the legacy of the Hulk spans 40 years so now you have every generation embracing the Hulk. They bring the grandkids;they have their grandkids watch my TV series and they feel excited because they see me in person like seeing a real superhero because of the way I look. I’m not just a phony costume.”
DL: Why do you think cosplay is more accepted now?
Ferrigno: “I remember years ago when people would see someone in a costume they would think they were ridiculous. Like being silly, being stupid or mocking himself, but the truth is they really identify with the show. You got people from all walks of life like lawyers and doctors wearing costumes because they get to be someone else in their imagination. They dress up because it’s exhilarating. Its fun. They get to share how much they love the character and their connection with the character.
Stephen Montoya is culture editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or @StephenMontoya9