When Lou Ferrigno was bullied as a child for being too frail and deaf, he took refuge in comic books where he saw The Hulk and idolized the character. He never dreamed that he would one day be cast as the Hulk but his persistence to become powerful led to him becoming a renowned bodybuilder. His son is following in his footsteps, and Ferrigno became his first training partner. Since bodybuilding is what led to Lou Ferrigno’s net worth growing to $12 million, let’s take you through his journey.
The Quest for Power
Ferrigno got an ear infection as a child, which resulted in him losing 80% of his hearing. By the age of four, he had to wear a hearing aid. His woes were made worse by his abusive father. Therefore, as he told Tulsa World, he took solace in reading comic books where he would fantasize about being as powerful as Superman or The Hulk. The thirst for power was so much that one day, Ferrigno thought he had supernatural powers; thus, he attempted to fly thinking he was Superman and broke his leg.
While the situation at home made him feel powerless, it was no better at school. As a kid with a hearing problem, his speech was also impaired, and other children taunted him. The thin Ferrigno became a loner, avoiding the bullies because he knew he could not fight them, and if he did, he would only hurt himself. The only solution was to become strong, and the moment he came across a muscle and fitness magazine, he knew he had found his way out of being bullied. He started collecting weights and barbells, and at 12, Ferrigno began his bodybuilding journey. He used to do chin-ups because his weak body could not lift weights. It took a few years before he could have the strength to lift weights, and by the time he turned 17, Ferrigno was convinced that he wanted to become a bodybuilder. His efforts began paying off, and at 20, he weighed 300 pounds, thanks to eating seven meals a day. Still, he wanted to push himself further to see how much his body could bulk up, so he trained harder and increased his daily calorie intake to ten thousand.
Bodybuilding Leads to Fame
According to Bodybuilding, Ferrigno was 20 when he went to the Academy of Music to watch the Mr. Olympia competition. There, he met Joe Weider, who told the actor that he could become the fourth bodybuilding superstar. At the time, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, and Franco Columbu were the only three superstars, and Weider thought that Ferrigno had what it takes judging by his physique and persona. He won his first IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness) competition, giving him the courage to continue in the chosen profession. His first attempt at Mr. Olympia was in 1974, but he lost to Schwarzenegger, who had held the title since 1970. In 1975, he tried his luck again and came in third, Schwarzenegger taking up the prize, which was $2,500. Since the runners-up get paid currently, it is safe to assume that Ferrigno also got paid, although it is not clear how much he received. Still, compared to the $10 an hour he used to earn in his first job as a sheet metal worker, it was lucrative enough to keep him persisting and aiming for the ultimate prize.
The rivalry between Schwarzenegger and Ferrigno resulted in a film “Pumping Iron” that would forever change the bodybuilding industry. The film is credited with giving rise to the $75 billion fitness industry because it encouraged gym memberships and the opening up of health and fitness clubs. Still, most do not know that Ferrigno was not even interested in competing for the 1975 Mr. Olympia title. According to Elite Fitness, in “Lou Ferrigno’s Guide to Personal Power, Bodybuilding and Fitness,” the bodybuilder revealed that he only entered the contest because his father did not give him a choice. Ferrigno said that his father viewed the film as a means to achieve fame. Therefore, after the actor failed to win the title, his father saw him as worthless and kicked him out to get a real job.
Fame Leads to Fortune
The film was released in 1977, and it instantly made Schwarzenegger famous, but Ferrigno was not left behind. As he told Saratoga Living, he was getting ready for the 1977 Mr. Olympia, which he was sure he would win since Schwarzenegger had retired. However, a few weeks before the competition, the actor was told about the audition for “The Incredible Hulk.” He did not want to miss out on that opportunity. He ended up bagging the role of The Hulk, and although he hated the hours of make-up application, the series became his vehicle to fortune. He played the role of The Hulk till 1981 and has made appearances in other Hulk films. However, Mark Ruffalo replaced him in 2012 in “The Avengers,” and Ruffalo earned $2 million for that film alone. By the third installment of the movie, Ruffalo was making $6 million, showing that Ferrigno was taking home a huge paycheck playing Hulk.
Besides landing other film roles, Ferrigno’s expertise in fitness training got him a job as a personal trainer for Michael Jackson in the early 1990s. Therefore, on Exercise, he is listed as one of the top ten highest-paid personal trainers in America and the only one with a fan club. Although it is not disclosed how much he charges per session, others like Gunnar Peterson charge $15,000 for a six-week training program. With so many people embracing fitness, the actor has accumulated an impressive amount from helping them work out. Apart from acting, writing, and training, Ferrigno is still passionate about law enforcement and, in 2020, was sworn in as the deputy sheriff for New Mexico. In that role, he will earn an average of $52,000 annually. It is not much money to a millionaire, but it will ensure that he has spare change to keep his net worth intact.