Lou Ferrigno, actor
I grew up in a rough neighborhood in Brooklyn. I had 80% hearing loss due to an ear infection that I developed soon after birth and a severe speech disability. I had to wear an earphone and relied heavily on lip reading. The kids called me Deaf Louis and I became very introverted. Comics like Superman and The Hulk helped me escape. They gave me the sense of luxury I needed. My dad rejected me because I wasn’t the perfect son, so I fantasized about being like The Hulk and that led to bodybuilding.
I got a role in Pumping Iron with Arnold Schwarzenegger but I’ve never acted before. I moved to California and was training for the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding competition in 1977 when I got auditioned for The Incredible Hulk. They started shooting the pilot with Richard Keel, who played Jaws in the James Bond movies, but a boy on the set said he wasn’t right and that he needed big muscles like in the comics. I went to the screen test, was painted green and asked to show emotion. It came naturally – I knew how Hulk felt – and I was set.
You are the first to leave. The contact lenses I had to wear had a hard white crust that numbed my eyeball. I took them out immediately after the scene to keep my eyes from getting sore. The make-up took about three and a half hours. They applied four coats of paint and I stood there in green underwear, my arms outstretched in a rigid position. In hot weather, I had to sit in my RV in my bathrobe with the air conditioner on. It was very uncomfortable – but when I looked in the mirror I thought I looked beautiful.
The show was an overnight success and brought me incredible fame. David Banner, The Hulk’s alternate human ego, faces a different obstacle every week, which is why people relate to him. You can see he was running away from something, and we all have those feelings. Each of us has a little structure inside.
Kenny Johnson, Producer
I studied classical theater but I had movies on my mind. She moved to California, produced The Six Million Dollar Man and created The Bionic Woman. Suddenly I was one of the workers at Universal, the youngest manager in the entire country. Frank Price, the president, called me into his office and said, “We’ve got the rights to five Marvel Comics superheroes. Which one do you want?” I thought, “None of them!” I just can’t recognize primary colors and spandex.
I sat at home that night trying to figure out how to politely say no. I read Les Misérables and I had its hero Jean Valjean and the whole concept of refugees in my head. I wondered if I could take a little Victor Hugo and Jekyll and Hyde, and that funny thing called The Hulk and turn it into an adult psychological drama about an arrogant man who brings a curse upon himself, in the classical Greek tradition having to live with the consequences.
I wrote The Pilot in Seven Days. When I sent the script to Stan Lee, one of the Marvel authors, he indicated that the main character’s real name is Bruce Banner. But I wanted to walk away from Peter Parkers, Lois Lanes, and Lex Luthors with a name that didn’t smell like a comic book. So I made it David Bruce Banner. I also wanted The Hulk to be red. I asked Stan, “Why is he green? Is he the Jealous of the Hulk? The Jealous Hulk? The color of anger is red!” I got nowhere.
The pilot began with the sentence “There is often a strong and raging rage within each one of us.” I wanted to set the tone. Banner’s quest was to find restraint and not be intimidated by demons. For him it was anger – but perhaps also obsession, greed, sex and drugs. I also gave the banner white piercing eyes like The Hulk when it was turned on, so the audience knew we were at the point of no return. When we were shooting the pilot, Bill Bixby, who played Banner, came back from contact lenses wearing makeup. I said out loud, “Oh shit! This show is a hit.”