Lou Ferrigno is an American actor, fitness trainer, fitness consultant, and retired professional bodybuilder. As a bodybuilder, Ferrigno won an IFBB Mr. America title and two consecutive IFBB Mr. Universe titles and appeared in the bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron. As an actor, he is best known for his title role in the CBS television series The Incredible Hulk and vocally reprising the role in subsequent animated and computer-generated incarnations. He has also appeared in European-produced fantasy-adventures such as Sinbad of the Seven Seas and Hercules, and as himself in the sitcom The King of Queen sand the 2009 comedy I Love You, Man.
Lou Ferrigno was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Victoria and Matt Ferrigno, a police lieutenant. He is of Italian descent. Soon after he was born, Ferrigno says he believes he suffered a series of ear infections and lost 75 to 80% of his hearing, though his condition was not diagnosed until he was three years old. Hearing loss caused Ferrigno to be bullied by peers during his childhood: “They used to call me ‘deaf Louie, deaf-mute’, because of my hearing and because of the way I sounded.”
Ferrigno started weight training at age 13, citing body builder and Hercules star Steve Reeves as one of his role models. Because he could not afford to buy weights, he made his own using a broomstick and pails which he partially filled with cement. He was also a fan of the Hercules films that starred Reeves. Ferrigno’s other personal heroes as a child were Spider-Man and the Hulk.
Ferrigno attended St. Athanasius Grammar School and Brooklyn Technical High School, where he learned metalworking.
After graduating from high school in 1969, Ferrigno won his first major title, IFBB Mr. America. Four years later, he won the title IFBB Mr. Universe. Early in his career he lived in Columbus, Ohio and trained with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 1974, he came in second on his first attempt at the Mr. Olympia competition. He came in third the following year, and his attempt to beat Arnold Schwarzenegger was the subject of the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron. The documentary made Ferrigno famous.
These victories, however, did not provide enough income for him to earn a living. His first paying job was as a $10-an-hour sheet metal worker in a Brooklyn factory, where he worked for three years. He did not enjoy the dangerous work and left after a friend and co-worker accidentally cut off his own hand one day.
Following this, Ferrigno left the competition circuit for many years, a period that included a brief stint as a defensive lineman for the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League. He had never played football and was cut after two games. Ferrigno left the world of Canadian football after he broke the legs of a fellow player during a scrimmage.
During the competition, Ferrigno at 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) weighed 268 lb (130 kg) in 1975, and 315 lb (142 kg) in 1992.
Ferrigno competed in the first annual World’s Strongest Man competition in 1977, where he finished fourth in a field of eight competitors.
In the early 1990s, Ferrigno returned to bodybuilding, competing for the 1992 and 1993 Mr. Olympia titles. Finishing 12th and 10th, respectively, he then turned to the 1994 Masters Olympia, where his attempt to beat Robbie Robinson and Boyer Coe was the subject of the 1996 documentary Stand Tall. After this, he retired from competition.