Best known to fans for his role as “The Incredible Hulk” in the iconic television series, actor, bodybuilder and entrepreneur Lou Ferrigno turns 65 on November 9, but retirement from the public stage is not at all in his plans.
Ferrigno has made a full life out of beating the odds. A series of infections left him with more than 80% hearing loss as an infant, also rendering the youngster painfully shy in the face of bullying in school and at home. Bolstered by reading the “Hulk” comics, he dreamed of being as powerful as the green creature in its pages.
Bodybuilding became young Lou’s passion, and the basis for everything he has achieved in more than five decades since. By age 21, he had won Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe and his second attempt was filmed as part of the breakthrough documentary film Pumping Iron, alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. This led to his portrayal of his childhood hero in the acclaimed 1978-82 series starring Bill Bixby. He has served as the voice of the Hulk in many other projects, including the Avengers films, and has had memorable roles in “The King of Queens” and I Love You Man, among many others.
And while Ferrigno has kept the legacy of the Hulk alive through dozens of appearances at pop culture events like Wizard World Comic Con, being out there in the public eye is just one part of the Ferrigno business juggernaut. In his frequent media interviews promoting the shows, Ferrigno is quick to drop in references to his related businesses that reflect his commitment to training and fitness and his still-impressive and imposing physique.
“ It’s all about that connection,” Ferrigno told SmallBizStar during the recent Wizard World event in Tulsa, Okla. “As a kid I didn’t have a show like this to attend. It keeps the legacy and spirit of the Hulk alive, 40 years later. When fans come to the table and they have such a big smile, they’ve been waiting their whole life to see me, that’s special.”
In addition to touring the world at those events, his most prominent day-to-day business is Ferrigno FIT, which he co-founded with his daughter Shanna. The lifestyle brand, according to its website, celebrates positive, healthy living to help individuals achieve their fitness goals.
“ Ferrigno FIT lets you be your own personal trainer,” he added. “From anywhere in the world, you can get fitness tips and advice from me and our other trainers on exercise, nutrition, everything to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
Another big initiative for Ferrigno is the return of Ferrigno Legacy , the annual powerlifting competition set for Oct. 28-31 in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The event attracts hundreds of competitors (men and women) and thousands of fans in a celebration of the sport that began it all for him.
And the latest addition is the Ferrigno FIT Box , an extension of the training brand, which is a subscription service featuring health and lifestyle goods delivered every two weeks. Launched this month, the Box has already been a hit, and, like with the other parts of the Ferrigno empire, the superhero is never far behind.
“ I’ve done 40 films; I could do 500 films, everybody still identifies me with ‘The Hulk,’ and I couldn’t be prouder,” said Ferrigno, who works out five to six times a week with an intense regimen that he says now features more reps at lower weights, and lots of cardio. “Every person on this planet knows who the Hulk is.”
Truly a “gentle giant,” the common thread in all of these businesses is Ferrigno’s personal touch. Technology may have changed how movies and TV shows are made these days, but Ferrigno sums it up in one quick phrase.
“ The CGI Hulk can’t sign an autograph, but I can.”