The Hoff is back. But really, he's never been away.
It's been something of a banner year for David Hasselhoff, the longtime TV star who, over the years, has become an icon for his performances in pop-cultural touchstones like "Knight Rider" and "Baywatch."
In recent years, Hasselhoff has leaned into the admittedly cheesier elements of his legacy, creating a new comedic persona in the form of The Hoff -- which has allowed him to embrace the more absurd elements of his television legacy and not just be in on the joke, but to be delivering punchline with gusto.
Thus far, the audience has been laughing with him: Netflix picked up his British-made mockumentary series "Hoff the Record" to air in the U.S.; "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2" director James Gunn tapped Hasselhoff for a strategic and inspired cameo in the Marvel blockbuster, and the recent "Guardians: Inferno" music video put the actor –- and singer! –- in the center of the spacey 80s-style proceedings. He was also deployed in this summer's "Baywatch" film, a satirical sendup of his signature series that starred Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron.
And now he's revisiting The Hoff again, this time front and center in the comedy "Killing Hasselhoff," which debuts on DVD and VOD Aug. 29. Hasselhoff plays the unwitting target of a plot by a increasingly cash-desperate nightclub owner (Ken Jeong) to assassinate the actor and score a financial windfall from his celebrity death pool. It's just the latest entry in Hasselhoff's uncanny ability to, as he says, stay in the game –- and, as he tells Moviefone, if all goes according to plan, perhaps get back behind the wheel of KITT.
Moviefone: Beyond just this movie, there's this whole character of "The Hoff" that's all over pop culture. Tell me about seeing that come about and wanting to have some fun with that image of "The Hoff," as opposed to David Hasselhoff.
David Hasselhoff: Well, somebody asked me was there ever an "A-ha!" moment? I thought, yes, there is, there was. That moment was when I got a phone call at my house and they said, "'The City Telegraph' wants to do an interview with you. The first question is, how do you feel about being a sex symbol?" I went, "Well, I'm 50. I guess that's okay." "Well, there's an epidemic of emails going back and forth between secretaries on Hoff-isms." I said, "What?" They said, "You're Hoff-alicious. You're Hoff-nuts. You're Hoff-crazy. You're Hoff Infinity and Beyond. You're Hoff to see the Wizard. You're BraverHoff." I went, "That's pretty funny."
I just remembered something else -- Wow! I was in Sydney Harbor and I was jogging –- I can't jog much anymore because of my knees. I was jogging. All these cars were driving by going, "Hoff! It's The Hoff!" It was like the "Night of the Living Dead." I was going, "What are they talking about?" It was me. They all were, like, literally stopping their cars and getting out and coming over like zombies going, "Hoff! Hoff!" I went back to my room and I said, "You're not going to believe what just happened. It was so weird."
That was the beginning of it all. That was 15 years ago. Now, it's turned into a huge brand that's just taken off.
Because you've been a leading man for so long, was there a side of you that was desperate to do comedy? Had you always wanted to give it a shot?
You know what? I saw comedy in everything. I think that's one of the reasons I was on "America's Got Talent." I would see the comedy backstage, of how it really worked. I would make fun of everything all the time. Even when I was doing "Chicago" in the West End. They said, "You just can't stop doing practical jokes. You're just nuts." I said, "I've got to have fun. Who wants to do this every night? It's boring. Once you do a show 10 times, cut, print, let's move on."
Now with "Hoff the Record" I was really, really happy because even though it's funny, it's dark at times because -- though underneath the fun of making fun of David Hasselhoff -- there's a sensitivity and a reality that I'm able to communicate to the audience by saying, "This is how I really feel." A lot of it is really real. I think that's why it works.
A lot of people would think it's a reality show and they call me up and they go, "This is horrible." I said, "No, it's funny. I wrote that." "You're making so much fun." One of these Comedy Central roasts doesn't work unless it's brutal. I find that stuff shockingly funny. I think what made "Guardians of the Galaxy" and my part in that movie was silly, and funny but it was cool.
The same thing with "Killing Hasselhoff." It's like one minute I'm a coward, the next minute I've got a sword and I'm saving the day and I'm running in slow motion. "Aren't you a lifeguard?" I say, "No, but I played one on TV."
I feel like you could teach a master class on showbiz survival because you have successfully reinvented yourself so many times: soap star, primetime star, syndicated star, pop star, now a comedy star. Tell me your mindset of how you've been able to zig and zag as prominently as you have.
Staying in the game is the key. That's it: you've got to stay in the game. I tell my daughters, you can't hit a home run unless you stay in the game. Even with "Baywatch [the movie]," recently I said, "Should I do this part? I don't like this part." My daughter goes, "You're going to sit home, you're going to watch it, and you're going to piss and moan. Or are you going to get in the game and see what you can do?"
I did. I got in the game. You just get in the game. Remember the passion that we had when we were 16 years old. You'd do anything for a part. One time, I went to an audition and it was like Harry Hamlin from "L.A. Law," Bruce Boxleitner and then "BJ and the Bear," Greg Evigan, and then Corbin Bernsen -- and they were all walking out for the same audition! I remember Harry Hamlin, going, "It's on friggin' tape! It's not even a person! It's just a tape!" and he goes "Hi, Dave," and he walks out. I went, "This is so funny." We all were superstars and making zillions of dollars an hour while trying for this fourth lead in a sitcom. It's really humbling.
The main thing is exactly what I would tell them. Get in the game. That's why I'm still passionate about "Knight Rider" and bringing that back. I'm into "Guardians" and I'm in this video. How did I get in that game? I don't know. I had lunch with a guy -- the guy who directs it now came over to me and said, "All I'm getting from people is, 'This is amazing.' I've never had that reaction in my life." I said, "You want to do a video about me and the 'Knight Rider' car?" Now we're in development for that. It's get in the game.
What's left that you haven't done that would be another big sort of swerve for you?
I think a swerve would be to play something evil. I did it in a movie called "Avalanche," and "Jekyll & Hyde" [on Broadway], where I played an evil guy. It's like the evil guys are actually... I don't care what anybody says: they're easier to play than the good guy.
And I think that the dream project for me would be to redo "Knight Rider." In 2017, like "Logan." Make it a hard-ass guy that's just pissed off. Then he finds the KITT car and they go back and they say, "One man can make a difference. We can still do it." They do it. They do it in the right way. Like "John Wick" was way too far, but it was really great. It's just kind of a combo of that coolness I think would be a nice sayonara? When you walk away and you say, "This is my au revoir. This is my sayonara."