“You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” might have been the character of David Banner’s motto, but audiences loved it when he got angry because he would turn into The Incredible Hulk!
For five seasons, audiences loved watching Bill Bixby’s David Banner walk across America trying to find a cure for his own Jekyll and Hyde situation. While The Hulk these days is done with computers and motion capture the technology wasn’t available for the show that started production in 1978. For the transformation into the big green Hulk, Bill Bixby would start the change with some contact lenses and then usually fall behind a couch. Then world champion bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno would pop up in green paint!
The effect worked so well that it scared an entire generation of children, and some adults. Bixby wanted to maintain the illusion off camera as well so would go to great lengths to never be at a place where Ferrigno was so they were never photographed together. Also, because the character of David Banner didn’t remember what he did when he was The Hulk, Bixby would never be on set when The Hulk scenes were shot, and Ferrigno never was on set when the Banner scenes were shot.
Ferrigno was the second actor that was chosen to play The Hulk. Initially, the actor Richard Kiel, who played Jaws in the James Bond Film The Spy who Loved Me and Moonraker, was hired to play him. While Kiel is tall, he wasn’t as bulky as the Hulk needed to be so Ferrigno was brought in. Ferrigno showed his own incredible strength as well. In the opening credits of each show, there is a shot of The Hulk lifting a car. Ferrigno actually lifted the car. It was at the end of a long day of shooting and the cable that was supposed to lift the car broke. Frustrated and wanting to go home, Ferrigno told them to start shooting and lifted the car himself.
A classic show that became the template for comic book television shows that is still used today.