TV URBAN LEGEND: Gabrielle Reece was cast as the She-Hulk in a failed She-Hulk TV pilot.
The creation of the She-Hulk came as a direct result of the success of the late-1970s Incredible Hulk television series. Marvel was afraid the show would eventually introduce a female version of the Hulk, so the publisher made sure it invented one first. I covered it in an old Comic Book Legends revealed here (Spider-Woman owes her creation to a similar scenario). Reader Stephonie asked:
There’s a legend where the late Bill Bixby developed and filmed a TV pilot spinoff based upon The Incredible Hulk. It was supposed to star Gabrielle Reece as She-Hulk. I’ve tried to find photo evidence of this but couldn’t find anything. Could you investigate this?
Sure thing, Stephonie! Read on for the answer!
In 1990, Marvel was owned by New World Pictures, which hired writer/producer Jill Sherman Donner (who had penned a number of episodes of The Incredible Hulk with writing partner Karen Harris) to develop a She-Hulk pilot. Despite David Banner’s death in the television film The Death of the Incredible Hulk, actor Bill Bixby was set reprise his role in the pilot (along with Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk). In fact, Bixby basically got Sherman Donner the job, as he had rejected all the previous script attempts for the She-Hulk pilot.
In the script, assistant district attorney Jennifer Walters is haunted by the murder of her parents when she was a child (this pilot DID come out a year after Tim Burton’s Batman, after all), and she dedicates her career to proving that a respected businessman is actually a criminal mastermind. Forced to take a vacation, Jennifer heads to the Caribbean, where she runs into David Banner, who presumably faked his death and is living as a pool boy, with only a doctor friend knowing his secret (the doctor has been helping Banner control his transformation into the Hulk with herbs). Banner and Walters flirt — they aren’t cousins in this version — but then she’s shot by a hit man sent by the businessman. Banner’s doctor friend convinces him to give Jennifer a blood transfusion, and she’s transformed into the She-Hulk! This is similar to a plot in The Death of the Incredible Hulk, in which Banner gives a Russian spy a blood transfusion.
Volleyball player Gabrielle Reece was, indeed, cast as She-Hulk. This She-Hulk, however, would be like the Ferrigno version of the Hulk and wouldn’t have Jennifer Walters’ intelligence. Former Baywatch actress Mitzki Kapture was cast as Jennifer. That proved to be the downfall of the entire project, though, as the studio was never happy with the actress as the lead. Executives kept looking for a bigger name to play Jennifer Walters; they originally wanted Melissa Gilbert, who wasn’t interested. Filming began in the Virgin Islands with Kapture and Bixby, but the whole time the studio kept going back and forth behind the scenes over whether she was a big enough name and whether it was still possible to find someone else. Eventually executives decided she wasn’t, and the project was canceled.
Reece never even got a chance to be filmed as She-Hulk. There’s another aspect to the story involving Reece that I’ll address in this week’s Comic Book Legends Revealed, so be sure to check that out on Friday (and don’t spoil it in the comments if you happen to know what it is)!
Ironically enough, Mitzi Kapture was then cast as the lead on the TV series Silk Stockings, which lasted four seasons. So Kapture ultimately could handle being the lead in a series! Too late for the She-Hulk, though.
The legend is …
Thanks to Stephonie for the question!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com.
Be sure to check out my Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the worlds of TV, Movies and Music!
UPDATE 11/28/2014 1:05 PM PT: A previous version of this article included a photo of Misty May rather than Gabrielle Reece.
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