Tucked away under "Thanks to" in the end credits of "Marvel's The Avengers," you will find an otherwise unsung Long Islander who, along with Mark Ruffalo, played the Hulk: "Steve Romm, aka Green Steve."
Romm, 37 -- born in Manhasset and raised mostly in Franklin Square, where he graduated from H. Frank Carey High School in 1993 -- is the bodybuilder, bouncer and male stripper painted green on the movie's Albuquerque set and filmed running, jumping and slamming Loki around for a computer program that helped create the Hulk on-screen. In fact, he says proudly, "They called it the Green Steve Program!"
How he got the job sounds like a Marvel Comics origin story itself -- down to the secret identity, at least until after the movie was released. As a youngster, Romm idolized bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno, who'd played the title character in the 1978-82 TV series "The Incredible Hulk."
"My grandfather knew him when he and Lou were sheet-metal workers in Brooklyn," Romm says. "I grew up hearing all these stories about him."
It sparked his interest in bodybuilding and something else: "It was always my dream to play the Hulk."
He got his wish after moving to Albuquerque, where his parents now live. An open call for "Avengers" extras led to a role as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. "I did one day, and when we were done, they asked me if I could stay longer. One of the casting directors said, 'You're going to be painted green. You know what that means, right?' "
It meant about 30 days in body paint, being shot "with these special cameras taking pictures from every angle so they can see every nuance of how the muscles bounce and flex," Romm says. For the CGI on-screen Hulk, "They ended up taking Mark Ruffalo's face and superimposing that on my body" for the most part, though the filmmakers also had Ruffalo "do motion-capture [filming] for some things."
Ol' Greenskin, however, hasn't seen much green. Not a SAG member and in between agents at the time, Romm says he "never signed a contract for the Hulk, just [one] as a S.H.I.E.L.D. soldier." He received about $300 a day -- more than an extra but much less than union scale for roles requiring full body paint, let alone body paint and stunt work, of which he did some.
"When the Hulk's jumping from building to building, they had me jumping from particle board to particle board," he says.
Still, what price can you put on a dream come true? "I'm trying to put on a lot of muscle," he says, "because I want them to have me do more Hulk stuff."