As the phone rings in my ear, the sound echoing back to me from a time zone away in LA, a warning pops into my head: Don’t meet your heroes.
At the mental flash of those words, I’m suddenly flooded with nerves. My chest gets tight and I wonder if requesting this interview was such a good idea. Before I can talk myself out of the phone call, a voice rises up to answer me. It’s tremendous and friendly and familiar, as warm and as embracing as May sunshine after a long Chicago winter. “Hi, this is Lou.”
A wave of relief hits me as I realize there’s nothing to be worried about. This is, indeed, the same Lou Ferrigno I’ve seen on television and in movies: The happy-go-lucky Colossus. The paragon of drive and endless enthusiasm who cheers me up every time I see him on screen.
Lou will be in town this weekend for Wizard World, one of the largest comic book and pop culture conventions in the nation, and the first thing he wants me to know is how much he’s looking forward to being in Chicago. Back in the mid 80s, Lou spent time in Chicago flexing his acting chops as the lead in Drury Lane Theatre’s production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” and it’s become his second favorite city after his hometown, “I’m from New York but I feel like Chicago’s my second home. I used to live in Chicago many years ago so I’m very excited to go back.”
This weekend, Lou will spend his nights catching up with old friends and his days meeting his fans at Wizard World. “This is the first time in awhile I’ve been to Chicago and I’m really looking forward to getting back there because those are my favorite fans! ”
Lou’s die-hard fans have been with him throughout his long career. He began as a professional bodybuilder. He won his first Mr. Universe title at 21 years old becoming the youngest winner in the franchise’s history (a record that still stands today). The next year, he nabbed the title for a second time. It was the first time anyone had ever won two consecutive Mr. Universe titles. He parlayed his professional bodybuilding into an acting career where he portrayed such icons as Hercules, Sinbad, and his most famous role to date, the Incredible Hulk.
In recent years, Lou Ferrigno has become a hugely recognizable figure, surpassing even the Incredible Hulk in terms of iconography. Lately, Lou has played himself more often than fictional characters. “People enjoy seeing me because I love being funny, I love doing comedy.”
His recent roles as himself include 2009’s I Love You, Man and a seven year stint on King of Queens and have earned him a whole new cast of fans. “It’s funny because every day I go through the same thing, every day people get excited when they find out I’m in the neighborhood. Yesterday, I walked across the street and a guy was jogging. He looked at me and he said, ‘You know people told me that the Incredible Hulk lived across the street.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I heard the same thing.’ He started to scream and freak out and jump up and down. I told him, ‘Take it easy!’”
It’s good to be Lou Ferrigno.
“Yeah, it is.” He agrees chuckling.
And it seems like it’s only getting better. After making cameos in both recent Hulk movies (2008’s The Incredible Hulk and 2003’s Hulk), he’s set to contribute to the upcoming Avenger’s movie. “They’re still filming, but I’m going to do a voice in it.”
Lou has a few more upcoming projects that his fans can look forward to. “I just finished another action movie called The Liberator. That’ll be coming out in about 6 months,” he says modestly. The short film is a gritty, realistic drama where he plays a washed up superhero (the titular Liberator) striving for redemption. Early buzz on the film claims that this is the performance of Lou Ferrigno’s career.
There’s also a good chance Lou will be returning to the small screen in the near future. “I’m meeting this week about a TV series- an action/drama. I can’t say anything more about it but I’m really excited!”
More than anything else, what I really wanted to know was what’s been the best part of being Lou Ferrigno? His decades long career has spanned acting, bodybuilding, personal training, writing, and working as a motivational speaker, but what’s been his proudest accomplishment?
Lou takes a moment to gather his thoughts. I picture him flipping through the defining moments in his life- winning his first major title, putting on the Hulk makeup for the very first time, and the endless stream of fans that greet him daily. After much thought, he answers, “I would say my proudest accomplishment is having my family: my three kids and my wife of 31 years.”
And, just like that, I realize that sometimes you should meet your heroes.
Ready to meet the Hulk? Stop by Wizard World this weekend from Thursday August 11th thorough Sunday August 14th. Lou Ferrigno will be hosting a Q&A session on Friday August 12th from 1:00 until 1:45pm in Room B. Visit Wizard World’s website for more information and to buy tickets. Visit Lou Ferrigno’s website to continue hero worshipping.