How a young boy overcame challenges and realized his dream of becoming a superhero.
A few weeks ago I attended a Wizard World kick-off party for exhibitors and media in San Antonio, Texas. This marked the first time that the convention would be opening their doors in the Alamo City. Initially just there to pick up my press pass, I found myself face to face with Lou Ferrigno, the former Mr. Universe and actor, unquestionably best known in the comic book world for his title role in ‘The Incredible Hulk’, the 1978 television series. I could not pass up the opportunity to sit down with him.
For those who may not know, Ferrigno was born in 1951 and as a toddler, suffered from multiple ear infections that resulted in a seventy-five percent hearing loss by the age of three. This created many challenges early on his life, including being made fun of and bullied because of this disability. As a result, Lou was very introverted as a child, and found his escape in the form of comic books. Later as an adolescent, he discovered yet another distraction with weight lifting and body building, which became his passion. This led to numerous competitions where he would later become, at the age of 21, the youngest man to win Mr. Universe. All of this success paved the way for film roles and his eventual casting as the Incredible Hulk, something that he often dreamed about as a child.
Peter – You seem to be a mainstay with Wizard World Comic Con, how long have you been doing this now?
Lou – With Wizard World for a long time, I’ve never done a Wizard show in San Antonio. I’m excited because it’s so much more popular now with social media, like the comic convention, as much as the comic conventions, people want it for entertainment, and that’s been great for Hollywood because it’s becoming a great pop culture now.
Peter – This is the first Wizard World in San Antonio, is this your first time in San Antonio?
Lou – No I’ve been here before but just the first time doing the Wizard show in San Antonio. I love the people here, today I visited the police department and I hadn’t been here in ten years, people are really nice here.
Peter – Talk briefly about your early days, and doing the Incredible Hulk, the original series from the 1980’s for television.
Lou – Well, when I began in 1977, they put that green paint on me and I became the character, and that’s when I realized forty years later, signing thousands of autographs and meeting so many people all over the world, and The Hulk became the biggest franchise, and when I first began I said to myself, where are we going to go with this character, well we’re going to make this on television because it was a pilot, and then the pilot became a hit and got picked up as a series, so it took a lot of different steps to be what I am now.
Peter – Now you mentioned just a while ago about how the culture has evolved over the last twenty years or so. Talk about the last ten to fifteen years and what it’s meant for you.
Lou – Well it opened a lot of doors for me because I made over thirty films, and I’ve done theater training in Africa, and I would go back to The Hulk, because of the business I learned a lot about filming doing The Hulk because about the lighting and the script, about the scene before, how to act, how to be relaxed in front of the camera, it was a great training base for me, it gave me tremendous publicity, especially in every country in the world compares to The Hulk.
Peter – One last question before I let you go, as far as comic books are concerned, what were the first comic books you read? Did you read comic books at all?
Lou – Superman and the Hulk, I loved them because they had power. When I was seven I wanted to be the Hulk because I was introverted and got made fun of, I was bullied. When I use to read the Hulk comic it was like a real exit for me, I would fantasize I would be so powerful like nobody was ever going to beat me up again, and my dream came true, (rubbing hand) like a genie rubbing a lamp and saying, okay here’s your work…..you become the Hulk. That’s what happened.
Peter – That’s great. Hey I look forward to seeing you this weekend.
Lou – Yeah me too, it’s going to have a lot of fun. I’m going to have my pictures, my posters, memorabilia for people to sign, and photo ops to.
Peter – Thank you sir.
Because the interview took place in a bar with loud music and background noise, I transcribed the interview the best I could (above) and apologize for the difficulty anyone may have in making out exactly what Lou Ferrigno is saying. I intentionally did not edit out the first part of the video, to first show what Lou has had to deal with on a daily basis since he was a young child. Second, I wanted to show how easy it was for him to understand exactly what I was asking once he could see my face and read my lips (despite my poor interviewing skills). It took me over two weeks to transcribe the interview which I know is not completely accurate. It took Lou like ten seconds to figure out what I was saying. Advantage Hulk.