The gargantuan green computer-generated Hulk that smashes cities in cinemas and Coke commercials is an impressive display of modern technology, but it is unnecessary. Lou Ferrigno is a living Hulk, and he still looks the part.
The bodybuilder turned actor burst onto the scene and out of his shirts in 1978, when The Incredible Hulk took the athlete from the gym to the red carpet, so let's honor this American Hercules.
He won the Mr. America and Mr. Universe contest in 1973.
Four years out of high school, the Brooklyn-raised Adonis came in first in the IFBB's Mr. America and Mr. Universe bodybuilding contest. He won the latter again, in the Tall category, in '74 and then jumped to the Mr. Olympia contest. There he placed second, and third the following year. He quest to best rival Arnold Schwarzenegger in the '75 competition was the subject of the documentary Pumping Iron, which put Ferrigno in the public eye.
He played two games in the Canadian Football League with no experience.
Around that same time, bodybuilding was not paying the bills, so Ferrigno worked in a sheet metal factory until given the opportunity to suit up as a defensive lineman for the Toronto Argonauts. Just one minor hitch — he had never played football. Still, at 6' 5", 285 lbs., why not have a shot? He never saw game action and was cut after two games. "I had a great time but I didn't like the hitting," he said in 2011.
He placed fourth in the inaugural World's Strongest Man competition in 1977.
Now a staple of late-night programming on ESPN backchannels, "The World's Strongest Men," as it was first called, was originally developed for CBS in 1977. Ferrigno placed fourth out of eight, but he did bend a metal bar over his head to win the Bar Bend event. Watch a clip.
He played tug of war against Scott Baio, Billy Crystal and Dick Van Patten.
Battle of the Network Stars was one of the more brilliant slices of television entertainment dreamt up in the 1970s. Actors from ABC, CBS and NBC formed teams to compete in a celebrity field day. The CBS roster in '78 and '79 seems particularly unfair, pitting the Hulk against Chachi. In the tug of war, Ferrigno hardly needed the additional biceps of Leif Garrett and Catherine "Daisy Duke" Bach to rip the rope from Crystal, Baio and Van Patten.
Image: Battle of the Network Stars, May, 1979
He was Michael Jackson's personal trainer.
In the early 1990s, Ferrigno put MJ through a fitness regimen. In 2009, the Hulk would again help the King of Pop, prepping him for a rigorous series of concerts in London, which never came to fruition due to the star's death.
Image: Michael Forever
He has continued to provide the voice for the Hulk in modern Marvel movies.
Acclaimed actors like Ed Norton and Mark Ruffalo may have slipped into Bruce Banner's lab coat in recent cinematic adaptations, but nobody roars like the original Hulk. Ferrigno's voiced the green beast in 2008's The Incredible Hulk and his voice was again utilized in the two blockbuster Avengers movies.
Image: AP Photo/Nick Ut
He is in a volunteer sheriff posse with Steven Seagal.
The strongman has been sworn in a deputy for several police forces around the country — San Luis Obispo, California; Delaware County, Ohio; Los Angeles. In November of 2010, Ferrigno was dubbed a member of the sheriff's posse in Maricopa County, Arizona, to police the border along the Phoenix Valley. Former limb-snapping action hero Seagal is part of the immigration patrol as well.
He recently donned green body paint once again for an unofficial Star Trek movie.
The fan-made Star Trek Continues online series utilizes strikingly replicated sets and props of the Original Series to continue the adventures of Kirk and crew. As Ferrigno is painted green in the 2014 episode "Lolani," Trekkies might be able to surmise that he's playing an Orion slave trader. He'd make a pretty convincing Jesse Ventura impersonator, too.
Image: Star Trek Continues