Mark Ruffalo gets it easy. The guy dons a “really tight leotard” and paints a few dots on his face and then, through the power of magic and an overworked special effects team, he becomes the Hulk. Okay, so maybe it isn’t necessarily an easy process for everyone. The point is, a lot of the heavy lifting is done after principal photography is over and Ruffalo is back home eating tacos.
That wasn’t always the case, though. Way back in 1977, before the age of CGI, Lou Ferrigno was cast to portray the Incredible Hulk. Not Bruce Banner, the scientist who decided that a gamma radiation bath would shake up his monotonous lab hours, mind you, just his more aggressive alter ego. As a bodybuilder, Ferrigno possessed the bulk, it was just that signature color scheme that he lacked. So, the makeup department did what you had to back then — they dipped the dude in a bucket of paint, slapped a funny wig on his head, and pointed him toward the camera. (Ferrigno has noted, by way of re-posting a meme, how “honored” he was to get the chance to do it all on set.)
Well, there was one other thing that Ferrigno had to deal with: contacts. Yep, this one’s going to mildly stray into eye-horror territory. If you’re okay with that, here’s what Ferrigno had to say about his experience.
Lou Ferrigno’s Hulk contacts were a breeding ground for disaster
In an interview last May, Lou Ferrigno discussed the gratuitous lengths he endured to transform from a human bodybuilder to the Incredible Hulk. As he describes it, the process wasn’t fun, nor was it particularly sanitary — but the results were worth it. Ferrigno told The Guardian:
“I was the first on set and the last to leave. The contact lenses I had to wear had a hard white shell that numbed the eyeball. I’d take them out immediately after a scene so my eyes didn’t get infected. Makeup took about three and a half hours. They applied four coats of paint and I’d stand there in green underwear, arms out in [a] crucifixion pose. If the weather was hot, I had to sit in a bathrobe in my motorhome with the air conditioning on. It was very uncomfortable –- but when I glanced in the mirror, I thought I looked beautiful.”
While spending hours in the makeup chair is still a routinely common story for performers today, it still sounds like a genuinely wretched thing to endure, so the fact that Ferrigno at least enjoyed the final product is a breath of fresh air.