As Marvel prepares to debut a brand new Hulk to the world via the big screen in June, fans of the old school version from the classic television series The Incredible Hulk got to bask in some nostalgia Friday at Wizard World: Philadelphia. Actor/bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno, who embodied the cranky, green guy for five seasons on the series, hit the stage with Wizard’s Kevin Mahadeo to take a Gamma Ray-inspired walk down memory lane.
Right off the bat, Mahadeo introduced Ferrigno and asked his thoughts on the new The Incredible Hulk film which opens June 13th. “For the new movie, I do the voice. I’ve saw about 15 – 20 minutes of it. It’s much faster paced than the first film [Ang Lee’s Hulk]…I think this one will do very well because it’s more like the TV series. The other movie was the comic’s version but this film the Hulk is very sympathetic. I’m very excited about doing the voice of the Hulk too.”
Mahadeo put together a video and slideshow program for the panel and he started with a clip from the television series where actor Bill Bixby’s David Banner is grilled on the witness stand during a trial. Banner hulks out to the shock of the judge and jury.
At clip’s end, Ferrigno quipped “That’s why you should never have Hulk go to trial.”
Ferrigno commented that episode was directed by Bixby in 1988 and really expressed David Banner’s frustrations well.
“That shows why the last movie didn’t do well,” Ferrigno remembered. “The new film is like the TV series and has the same kind of chemistry as the series. Once you start changing that formula that causes problems.
Mahadeo asked Ferrigno about the makeup and he lamented: “The makeup was hell and took about three or four hours. Sometimes I would have to be made up at four or five in the morning and I would have to mentally prepare to go back to makeup. When you are sitting in a chair for three hours, first with spirit gum and then the grease makeup…I had to keep thinking of my paycheck – that kept me motivated. I loved becoming the character and it was so much fun but those three hours were the tough part.”
The actor related how he would have to be in the makeup anywhere from 13 – 14 hours a day. Wearing a bathrobe, he would have to lay down gingerly on his back in attempt to take naps in between scenes without messing up the application.
“The hardest thing for me was sitting in the motor home,” he recalled. “I couldn’t hang out with the crew because of the makeup. And if weather conditions were bad, they would send me home. It was frustrating…I’d have to just come back the next day. After 86 episodes, you are talking about me getting made up over 400 times!”
Mahadeo then broke down the rest of the panel into subsections revolving around certain aspects of the series: special effects, fight scenes, and working with Bill Bixby. Each section featured a clip from the series and then Ferrigno gave some anecdotes about the material.
Ferrigno said his favorite fight in the series was when he got to duke it out with the other Hulk – not only because of the cool factor but also because the clone Hulk was played by a stuntman “and with a professional stuntman you can do anything!”
In a more somber remembrance, the actor said that his human counterpart on the show, actor Bill Bixby was never the same again after the tragic death of his nine year old son. “His son died and he came back on set two days later. I was mortified seeing him cover his pain…but Bill would never talk much about it. Professionally he was very smart and witty and a talented director and producer – but he isolated himself [after the death].”
Rounding out the panel, Mahadeo showed Ferrigno’s cameo appearance in Ang Lee’s Hulk, where he and Stan Lee walk by actor Eric Bana.
Ferrigno said he told Lee on the set of the Hulk TV series that Lee’s comics inspired him to get into bodybuilding.
“I was a fan of the Hulk comics. I lost 75% of my hearing as a child so I was very introverted. I fantasized about fighting evil…and I was so frustrated about getting beat up as a kid that I started bodybuilding so I could be so strong I would never get picked on again.”
In The Incredible Hulk, Ferrigno will appear again in a new cameo and his voice will play an important part of the performance. He takes over vocally from Edward Norton when Banner transitions into the Hulk.
“I didn’t get to do the Hulk’s voice on the TV series, but I did voice the animated Hulk series. For the new film, they wanted me to speak deep from my chest and project outwards…so I got to scream and yell in a room for three hours!”
Lastly, he gave the modest audience a taste with a dramatic explosion of: “Puny human – HULK SMASH!”