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Mr. Incredible—Lou Ferrigno—is Pumped for Chicago Comic-Con

By Tony Peregrin in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 11, 2011 4:00PM

2011_8_11_ferrigno.jpg Everyone’s favorite gamma-ray giant, Lou Ferrigno, best known for his role as the mean, green Goliath in the popular late 70’s television series “The Incredible Hulk” stomps into town this weekend as part of the Wizard World Chicago Comic-Con, a pantheon of action stars, comic book legends, and sci-fi royalty (“Star Trek TNG’s” Patrick Stewart, natch).

In addition to Stewart’s rare Q&A session ("Engage!", "Computer. Prep - Tea. Earl Grey. Hot."), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future, Taxi), Anthony Michael Hall (Sixteen Candles, The Dark Knight, The Dead Zone), Pam Grier (Smallville) and Felicia Day (“The Guild”) will be featured panelists at Comic-Con, as will a selection of some 500 celebrity guests and comic book artists and creators. (Special programming note: “V’s” Morena Baccarin, a top-tier guest for the Con, had to back out due to a filming conflict.)

Also on the docket: Hometown alt-rock hero Billy Corgan. No, he hasn’t been bitten by a radioactive spider or granted a special power ring (at least, as far as we know). Corgan, a two-time Grammy Award winner, is the “creative director” for a new wrestling promotion, Resistance Pro, which will make its debut at the Con on Saturday.

Lou Ferrigno squeezed us into his hectic schedule to chat about the Chicago Comic-Con and how these shows have evolved over the years; his advice for teen victims of bullying; and his voice-over role in the upcoming film “The Avengers.”

Chicagoist: What is the most bizarre thing a fan has ever done at a show?

Lou Ferrigno: I was at a comic-con and someone came up to me in costume and they didn’t say a word. They just kind of made a “hmmm, hmmm” noise. They kept coming up to me and I kept trying to get them to speak—but they wouldn’t. I later found out it was Michael Jackson playing a joke on me. Another time, a woman threw her leg on the table and asked me to sign between her legs.

Chicagoist: Reveal something about yourself that might surprise your fans.

Lou Ferrigno: That I’m not living in CGI. That I’m not who you see on screen, and I don’t live in costume. But my physical presence is a big part of who I am, I work out a lot, and I am in shape, and I think that motivates people.

Chicagoist: A departure from your Hulk persona was your turn in the comedy “ I Love You Man”— although you happen to play yourself in that role, you played it for comedic effect. What is your favorite memory of shooting your cameo in that film?

Lou Ferrigno: John Hamburg, the director, approached me and said he wrote the part with me in mind. I love comedy! It was a lot of fun and I really like the audience to see another side of me. I had a lot of fun putting Jason Segel in a headlock [laughs]. People ask me to put them in a headlock all the time. I don’t mind. If they are buying a headshot—why not?

Chicagoist: You’ve been to many shows and comic-cons over the years. How have these gatherings evolved?

Lou Ferrigno: The comic-cons have evolved tremendously. [Pause] They are more family-oriented, but really, you see all generations of people at these shows, and I really enjoy that. I get very positive feedback from people at these shows, especially people from the heartland. It’s amazing that so many people come out to Comic-Cons— especially in this bad economy. I think the shows provide an escape to what is going on in the world right now. Comic-cons are like Disneyland for comic book and science-fiction fans!

Chicagoist: Patrick Stewart will be at the show in Chicago, as will a whole galaxy of other stars. Is there anyone at the Chicago show that you might be excited to see or meet in passing?

Lou Ferrigno: I get to meet my fellow celebrities all the time. I know Patrick Stewart. He is a great actor and a great human being, and I am looking forward to seeing him in Chicago. I am a big fan of "Star Trek."

Chicagoist: What are some of your favorite things about Chicago?

Lou Ferrigno: Chicago is my second favorite city—New York City is my first. I did a play at the Drury Lane Theatre once, “Arsenic and Old Lace,” so it always has a special place in my heart.

Chicagoist: How has the Hulk changed your life?

Lou Ferrigno: Who?

Chicagoist: The Hulk.

Lou Ferrigno: It made me a household name all over the world and in every culture, and that legacy continues today. The Hulk is very likeable, and I think people identify with him. Looking back, I think I always thought that the character would be perfect for me to play. It was something I realized when I was reading Hulk comic books.

Chicagoist: I’m sure you get asked about the green makeup all the time.

Lou Ferrigno: It took three and half hours to apply and it had to be retouched constantly because of the heat and perspiration. It was awful. [Laughs]. Today it’s so much easier because they can spray it on.

Chicagoist: You’ve said that bodybuilding was an escape for you growing up. As you know, teen bullying, especially bullying of gay teens, is at epidemic proportions right now. What are your words of advice for a gay teen who is a victim of bullying?

Lou Ferrigno: It was my way to survive. I was always fascinated with power and strength. I am a deputy sheriff, and I do a lot of commercials on the dangers of bullying. My advice? I think if you are being bullied you should work out. Fight back. Go to a professional and learn how to protect yourself and to take action.

Chicagoist: Has anyone ever kicked sand in your face at the beach?

Lou Ferrigno: No, not really.

Chicagoist: You’ve said that the “charisma and camaraderie” are missing from bodybuilding today—why?

Lou Ferrigno: Well, pumping iron is not what it used to be, in my opinion. It doesn’t have the same energy it used to have. There is so much money involved with the sport now, but back then, we did it for the love of the sport. I’d like to see more of an emphasis on posing, too.

Chicagoist: You’re going to be 60 years old in November. How do you keep in shape today?

Lou Ferrigno: I work out 5-6 days a week, an hour and a half a day. No fried food, no junk food. I eat clean. Everything in moderation. Live a good, balanced life—that’s the secret.

Chicagoist: You are a true hero for people living with hearing loss. What is your advice to fans who meet someone living with hearing loss for the first time?

Lou Ferrigno: Don’t be afraid to talk to people with hearing loss. And if you have hearing loss, don’t hide it. If you don’t hear something, ask someone to repeat it—you only shoot yourself in the foot if you don’t. Everyone has a handicap whether it is physical, mental, or emotional.

Chicagoist: I understand that you are going to be the voice of The Hulk for the “The Avengers” movie. Have you done any recording yet?

Lou Ferrigno: Not yet, they’re still filming, I think. The plan is that I will come in and do the voice [of The Hulk] in post-production.

Chicagoist: Superheroes are more popular now than ever before. What is it about the superhero mythology that is a such a draw for people?

Lou Ferrigno: Well, the movies are entertaining. And we are all fascinated with power. We can relate to superheros, to their flaws and struggles. Their insecurities are often our insecurities.

The Lou Ferrigno Q&A session is Friday, August 12, from 1:00-1:45, at the Donald E. Stephen Convention Center, Rosemont, Room B. For more information, go to: the Wizard World Chicago Comic-Con website.