A Kid’s Complaint Got Lou Ferrigno Hired (And Richard Kiel Fired) As The Incredible Hulk

David Banner, cursed by his monsterism, lived on the road as a vagabond. He was alone. The show’s closing theme song — a piano tune by Joe Harnell called “The Lonely Man” — wasn’t about his ability to transform or commit acts of comic mayhem, but his isolation. Whenever David stopped in a small town on his travels, he would inevitably use his Hulk powers to help someone in need. Revealed, he could no longer settle down and took the road once more. 

Why was the Hulk green? It seems that, in the 1960s, green was a much more exciting color to see on the comic book page than the Hulk’s original grey. The Hulk’s verdure became strongly associated with the character, and it was important to the makers of the “Hulk” TV series that he retain his recognizable shade. Less important to the showrunners was the Hulk’s muscular physique. Given that he was a monster, someone in production felt that any outsize actor could play the role, and they initially hired Richard Kiel to play the Hulk. Kiel was the 7’2″ star of films like “Moonraker,” “Cannonball Run II,” and “Happy Gilmore.” 

In a 2022 interview with the Guardian, Ferrigno tells a story that a little kid (and “Incredible Hulk” reader) supposedly visited the “Hulk” set early in its production and reacted negatively to Kiel. While the “Eegah” actor would have likely made a fine Hulk, he didn’t look the part. These days, one can create an over-muscled giant via CGI, and a normal-sized actor like Mark Ruffalo can play the Hulk in motion capture. In 1978, they needed a muscled human being. Luckily, a documentary called “Pumping Iron” had been released the year before, and Lou Ferrigno was now a recognizable face. 

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