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Q&A: Why Was James Bond Actor Richard Kiel Fired From Hulk?

The Incredible Hulk (1977) - Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) ( Source:IGN.com)

Find out why the late Richard Kiel was fired from the 1970s Hulk TV series.

Q: On Twitter @PaulTheBookGuy asked, "Why was he replaced with ...Ferrigno?"
A: They decided he wasn't muscular enough.

Last week Richard Kiel, who played "Jaws" in the James Bond movies as well as other memorable roles, died at 75. One little known fact was that he was the original actor to play the Hulk creature in the 1977 TV movies.

The series ran on CBS from 1978 to 1982, and ran an incredible 82 episodes over five seasons. It all started with a two-hour pilot origin movie that aired on November 4, 1977. Kenneth Johnson was approached to make the show by Marvel and he also wrote and directed some episodes. When casting the role of Dr. David "Bruce" Banner, Bill Bixby was Johnson's "first and only choice for the lead." But casting the role of "The Creature" was more difficult.

Kiel and Arnold Schwarzenegger were both considered for the role of the Hulk, but they decided Schwarzenegger was too short while Kiel was over 7-foot tall. The big guy was in. They hired him to do two movies of the week specials that would serve as a pilot if it was picked up. Why did they hire Kiel? "He had been a working actor for a lot of years and he was the size of Shaquille and an actor." director Kenneth Johnson told Den of Geek,  "I wanted somebody that I felt could be an actor and Richard had done very good acting jobs, whereas Lou Ferrigno - although he looked mighty - had not really done any acting. I was concerned about him being able to perform the necessary drama that we needed. After a week of filming with Dick, we all felt that Lou was going to look better for what we were trying to do."

According to Ferrigno, a director (most likely Kenneth Johnson) came on the set of the "Incredible Hulk" TV movie with his son. The former Hulk actor remembered, "His son said this is not the Hulk. It has to be like the comic book -- big muscles, big shoulders. So they did a nationwide search and I was called into audition for it." The 25-year-old bodybuilder took over the role and made television history. 

Kiel wasn't too upset about it. He had the same problem with the makeup that Lou Ferrigno had. Only worse.

The James Bond actor was blind in one eye since birth and they had a hard time getting the contact lens in. When he was driving home for the day the lenses made him see halos around the lights and started messing with his vision. Plus, the green make up was getting on everything. He insisted on getting a driver and having someone scrub off the makeup every day. Kiel told his wife he didn't think he could do it for much longer. He remembered, "I didn’t work for a couple of days and then the producer called me and said, 'Richard, I hired you because you were a good actor but the Marvel Comics people really wanted to have a body builder muscle man. How would you feel if we paid you for the two movies of the week and substituted somebody else?' Of course, I was delighted!"

He went on to have a long and fruitful career and Ferrigno, who was born with a hearing problem and overcame a speech impediment, went on to live his dream of being the Hulk and an actor. Ferrigno reshot most of the scenes, but there's one scene left in the pilot as the Hulk encountered a little girl fishing by the lake and he ends up using a nearby tree to save her from drowning.  Here's a clip of the scene highlighting Kiel's brief appearance.

You can read more articles about the Hulk by clicking on the links below.

What do you think of the casting change? Do you think Lou Ferrigno made a better Hulk?

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  1. If Kiel was having problems with his vision, it's probably a good thing he didn't do it. Ferrigno did make a really good Hulk though.

  2. Interesting. I've always thought I'd hate to do anything where the make-up was this heavy and ooky.

  3. I liked Kiel as Jaws and Ferrigno as Hulk. Glad they made the change.

  4. I like Kiel as a villain more than a hero.
    Ferrigno was the HULK, just as Bixby was Baner.

  5. i never knew! this is cool! and i love hearing how they changed their minds and it sounds like it was a win win! great article!

  6. Yeah, that Schwarzenegger dude was clearly too small.

  7. I didn't know about the alternatives for choosing an actor for that role. Interesting.

  8. He did Alex. It's hard to imagine anyone else.

  9. The path to a show often has different actors and possibilities Medeia.

  10. While his official height is 6' 2" some have speculated his actual height is 5' 10" without lifts.


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