David Hasselhoff’s Road to ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’? ‘It All Started with “Knight Rider!”’

David Hasselhoff at “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”” world premiere in Hollywood. (Photo: Rich Polk/Getty Images for Disney)
David Hasselhoff at the “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”” world premiere in Hollywood. (Photo: Rich Polk/Getty Images for Disney)

This year at the movies, David Hasselhoff showed up where we least expected him: in Marvel’s blockbuster superhero action-comedy Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. (Don’t read any further if you’re avoiding spoilers.)

In a hilarious and oddly touching cameo, Hasselhoff played himself — or rather, the image of himself, as worn by the powerful shape-shifter Ego (Kurt Russell) in an attempt to make his son, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), love him more. As we learn in the film, Peter grew up telling other kids that his father was Hasselhoff because he didn’t know his real father and loved the actor’s ’80s TV hit Knight Rider.

The idea for Hasselhoff’s cameo came from Guardians writer-director James Gunn, who also grew up idolizing the Knight Rider star as did many people around the world, according to the stories Hasselhoff hears from fans on a near-daily basis. With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 coming to 4K Ultra HD digital (Aug. 8) and Blu-Ray (Aug. 22), Yahoo Movies spoke with Hasselhoff about his big Guardians moment (which included rapping the theme song — a video for it is on the Blu-Ray), the legacy of Knight Rider, and whether he plans to shape-shift his way into future Marvel films.

Yahoo Movies: I’m dying to find out what you said when James Gunn called and asked you to be in this movie.
David Hasselhoff:
When I first got the call that “you have an offer to do a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy 2,” I said, “Great! What’s Guardians of the Galaxy?” [laughs]. So I told my daughters, and they went, “Omigod, Dad, it’s incredible!” And I talked to my assistant, who’s a young guy; my nephew. They all said, “Well, you gotta go see the movie.” So we watched the movie, and I thought, “Oh, wow, this is cool; I’m happy to do a cameo.” They said, “Come on down to Atlanta, and you’re going to morph from the father, into David Hasselhoff, back into the father.” I said, “I really don’t understand.” And they basically said, “Just go down to Atlanta, and you’ll figure it out when you meet James Gunn!”

So I go to Atlanta, where I’m from, and I met James Gunn. And James Gunn and I had some mutual friends; actually, he was really good friends with my first ex-wife’s brother, who I love dearly, and I said, “You know Bobby!” And we hugged each other. And then he said, “You know, you’re not going to believe this, but we refer to David Hasselhoff in the movie a lot, and Peter Quill thinks David Hasselhoff is his father.” And I said, “Oh, okay.” And it still didn’t register until we had lunch. And we had lunch, and I said, “Why did you choose me?” And he said, “Because when I was 8 years old, I saw Knight Rider, and it really affected me.”

And when I saw the movie, it was a bit emotional, because it was so cool to hear the word “Hasselhoff” mentioned. All I could think of was my father, who passed away a couple years ago — he would have loved it. He would have gone, “That’s so cool, Hasselhoff’s in the movie!” And then things just snowballed into doing the theme song and then the video. So it’s just great to be a part of the family over here, and they’re really cool guys. And it all started with Knight Rider!

Do you have people telling you that a lot that you were a father figure to them because of Knight Rider?
Almost every day, a man comes up to me and says, “I need to tell you my Knight Rider story.” Or a man will tell me that he loves me. Or a person from Thailand will say, “You are my mentor.” Or a person from Afghanistan who’s driving a cab says, “You’re my hero.” I say, “Where are you from?” And he goes, “Afghanistan.” I say, “Oh my God.” Iraq. Iran. It’s just insane. And it’s incredibly fantastic because they all have got a specific story, from India or Pakistan — watching it like Slumdog Millionaire, 200 people around a TV — to the shah of Iran’s wife saying,We used to sell tickets on the back lawns. People would gather and watch the show illegally by satellite for 25 cents in Iran!” And I’m going, “What? What? What?”

And now, 30 years later, it gets to be in one of the biggest movies of all time. And it’s just still following me around, and I embrace it. The theme of Knight Rider is, “One man can make a difference.” And I’m still alive and proving that, hopefully, almost every day.

What kinds of reactions have you gotten to your cameo in this movie? Are you getting recognized more by kids this summer?
I got the kids’ market kind of wrapped up anyway [laughs] because I was in The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. Kids will say, “Are you David Hasselhoff from SpongeBob? You saved his life!” And I say, “Yeah.” Or the movie called Hop. The funny part about it is, I saw online James Gunn’s little nephew — who is, I think, 4 — dancing to the “Guardians of the Galaxy Inferno” and trying to say the words [from the rap].

You know, the little kids don’t get the Knight Rider association in the movie. But the adults — to be honest, it’s really weird. My daughter has kind of taken over my social media, and she said, “Dad, I have an interesting statistic.” I said, “What is that?” She said, “What’s your biggest audience?” I said, “I don’t know.” She said, “It’s men from 25 to 45 years old in the United States.” Those are the ones that follow me the most. And it’s because of Knight Rider. Because I’m still the guy that they grew up with in their first show that they watched when they were kids.

So what Marvel movie will we see you in next? Are you joining the Avengers?
You know, I really don’t know. From your lips to God’s ear, it would be Guardians of the Galaxy 3, but I’m not going to ask James that question. And I’m not going to require it or say “please” because I’m happy to get this far on the train. I’m on a nice ride. If the ride ends today, the ride ends today. If it goes on — and I think it might go on with another show that we just talked about — then I would welcome that. So we’ll see what happens with fate.

What show is that?
Nothing I can talk about now, but it starts with Knight and ends with Rider.

‘Wait a Minute’: Kurt Russell recalls his response to hearing Ego’s character arc in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2′ (Spoilers!)

Read more from Yahoo Movies: