Lou Ferrigno is a former Mr Universe bodybuilding champion best known for his role as the bright green superhero The Incredible Hulk in the classic late seventies TV series of the same name. We caught up with him to talk about Liberator, a superhero comic book that started out as a short movie...
Tell us all about the Liberator movie, and its jump to comics?
I play an aging superhero who was once leader of a superhero team who worked for the government. But something goes wrong, and they need a fall guy. My character loses everything - his wife, his family, the respect of the people. He goes to prison. The person he cares most for, his daughter, believes the official line too. So the movie starts with this guy who was once a hero and now literally is a zero. How does he come back from that? Well, he has had enough and he writes a book, a tell-all book. And that book names names, and there are people, Liberator’s former boss for one, who do not want this material coming out. But really he’s only doing it because of his daughter, so she can see him as a human being and finally tell the truth. It’s a very compelling role. It’s very parallel to my life, especially dealing with my rejection in life, my anger, and trying to convince people that I’m a different kind of person than I am.
The comic I think is a natural extension because they used comic art in the movie and my character is very much like what would happen if you put a superhero in the real world.
What was it about Liberator? It does seem to be about sticking it to the man.
When I read the script I knew I had to do this movie. I’ve known Jim for years and I was really excited as an actor by the role. His back is against the wall and he feels he has no choice but to speak out about some of the questionable activities he was involved in. It has echoes of what’s going on right now with the whistleblowers like Snowden, and there are shades of gray there which is very interesting. It provokes discussion, which is good. The film has something to say. I feel Snowden committed a crime, but it’s a flip coin. It is important that we know the truth. So these are themes in the movie as well. The role had a lot of depth for a short film and I was very pleased with what they were able to do with so little money. We are shopping the project now and the short has won awards and now there’s the comic book series, so I’m hoping we will find interest in taking this to a series. It would be great to do this right with a real budget.
What makes Liberator different from other superhero stories?
I think there is a real humanity and vulnerability to this character. There is a little more depth maybe than in some films, you know, the character and the angst he goes through, it feels realistic even though it is a movie world. But also there is the whistleblower aspect. I play a character who is a whistleblower against the government, and that is very timely, and I don’t think we have ever seen that before.
What advice would you give to someone trying to change their own life?
Believe and trust yourself. Everybody has fears, but trust your own instinct. If you want to make a choice for yourself, listen to other people’s advice, but you have to trust your own feelings, your own instinct. You can’t go wrong with that. Especially if you have a limitation, some people want to keep you down, to put you in a box. I believe there is nothing you cannot overcome. I refused to listen to the negativity anymore. It became my fuel for personal empowerment. I realized that my limitations come from me, from insecurity. We all have the power to rebuild our self confidence. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. It will be hard. Everything worthwhile is, and you will have many setbacks. But if you believe in yourself others will see it too, it’s contagious. And they will believe and then you are unstoppable.
If you could be known as another superhero, who would it be?
Superman! No, I am very fortunate to have played The Hulk as well as Hercules, and now an aging superhero in Liberator. That is pretty great I think. But I do love Superman of course!
What do you make of superhero movies, Incredible Hulk in particular?
I believe The Avengers was the greatest superhero movie, the best ever made. The only thing that bothers me is the CGI basically dominates many of these movies and even the characters. I don’t like everything being dominated by special effects. In my opinion, that’s why Liberator is so fantastic, because you have an aging superhero and it’s all real. As for The Hulk, of course I prefer the live-action version!
What drew you to comic books?
I was a big Superman fan growing up. As a kid I was small and I had severe hearing loss. I had a severe speech impediment. Growing up certainly had challenges. Superman represented everything I wanted to be. Strong, noble, a hero. Superman always did the right thing. Growing up with these heroic influences are part of what inspired me to start bodybuilding. I became obsessed with it as a way of empowering myself. Now I know you’re going to ask about The Hulk. Of course I was a Hulk fan too! The Hulk is one of those characters that you can definitely empathize with when you are feeling put down, angry. It’s very therapeutic. The Hulk has rage and fights and is unstoppable, and yet like Frankenstein he’s misunderstood and has a strong heart and is a hero.
What are your other ‘dream’ projects?
I would love to see Liberator become a feature or a series. There is nothing else out there like it, that realistically depicts an aging superhero in a world that is very much like our own and has something to say, much like our Hulk series did. Every episode had something to say. Just like Twilight Zone, because every show has a message, and it always has a good ending where you feel like you’ve learned something. You really sympathise with the character. Every one of us has a Hulk inside of us. That’s why the show will be ageless, like Star Trek and Twilight Zone. I’m also very excited, I’m currently working on Scorpion King IV. I play an evil king.
The Simpsons or Futurama?
Hercules or Thor?
Hercules of course, love Steve Reeves, and of course I played the character as well.
Truth or Beauty?
And truth, because a lot of times you see beauty, but you never know what evil is on the inside. The inside is truth, but beauty, a lot of times what’s on the outside can be fake. That’s the slogan for Liberator too, truth is worth fighting for.
The 1978 version of THE INCREDIBLE HULK is out now on DVD, Blu-ray and Netflix. LIBERATOR is out now via Kindle or from comics publisher Bluewater.