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The Real Reason Arnold Schwarzenegger Didn't Get The Incredible Hulk Role

Before action film star Arnold Schwarzenegger became "The Terminator," battled a "Predator," and told "True Lies" under the auspices of director James Cameron, he starred as himself in the 1977 documentary "Pumping Iron." On a quest to be a full-time actor at the time, Schwarzenegger took his hulking, muscular frame to studios to audition for such roles as the titular character in the superhero series "The Incredible Hulk" — but the role ultimately went to his fellow bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno.

Beginning as a TV movie in 1977, "The Incredible Hulk" starred Bill Bixby as Dr. David Banner, a scientist who, after purposefully exposing himself to gamma radiation, transforms into a massive, green monster (Ferrigno) when he experiences extreme stress and anger. After the TV movies, the series produced 80 episodes over five seasons from 1978 to 1982 on CBS, and made Ferrigno a cultural icon. The actor reprised the role for three more "Incredible Hulk" sequels on NBC in 1988, 1989, and 1990, and provided the voice for the character in UPN's "The Incredible Hulk" animated series from 1996 to 1998. He even made a cameo in the MCU, playing a security guard (and voicing the Hulk, once again) in the 2008 version of "The Incredible Hulk."

Schwarzenegger — who dabbled in acting in such films as 1970's "Hercules in New York" (under the name Arnold Strong— "Mr. Universe") — had to wait a bit longer for his screen career to materialize. Things started to kick into high gear in 1982, though, when Schwarzenegger starred as the titular character in "Conan the Barbarian." And while "The Incredible Hulk" TV series came to an end the same year, it's interesting to think about how much the role would have changed Schwarzenegger's career trajectory if he were cast instead of Ferrigno.

Schwarzenegger was passed over to play the Hulk because he wasn't tall enough

According to the book "American Comic Book Chronicles," Schwarzenegger was considered to star as Bixby's monstrous alter-ego in "The Incredible Hulk" TV series, but at his 6'2" height, writer-producer Kenneth Johnson deemed the actor to be too short for the role. Instead, James Bond "Jaws" actor Richard Kiel, who was 7'2", was offered the role, but eventually producers replaced him with 6'5" Ferrigno because Kiel didn't quite have the muscular frame required for the character. However, as the YouTube mini-documentary "The History of The Incredible Hulk" shows, Kiel made it into 18 frames of the pilot movie-episode for "The Incredible Hulk" in an overhead shot of the character.

The irony of Ferrigno beating out Schwarzenegger for the role, as "The History of the Hulk" points out, was that Ferrigno placed second behind his rival in the 1974 Mr. Olympia contest (via Old School Labs). But while the two bodybuilders were competitors, Ferrigno looked at Schwarzenegger in admiration. In a 2016 post on his official Facebook page, Ferrigno posted side-by-side photos of him and Schwarzenegger from the 1974 Mr. Olympia contest — which was also documented in "Pumping Iron" — and wrote, "I looked up to Arnold and I was very excited to be on stage with him. In 1 year I went from Mr. America to then compete in the Mr. Olympia. I knew I wasn't in my best shape but this competition really raised the bar in my career."