Before I spoke with David Hasselhoff, aka "The Hoff," I knew what most people know about the man: He's a world-famous celebrity known as much for his starring roles in "Baywatch" (1989) and "Knight Rider" (1982) as he is for his German-pleasing music and passion for cheeseburgers. But now that I've had the chance to speak with The Hoff about his upcoming horror-comedy "Piranha 3DD," I know something else: The Hoff is really funny.
I laughed throughout our candid phone conversation. I laughed while he told me about the emotionally gutting preparations he undertook to play the part of himself. I laughed when he poeticized the difference between David Hasselhoff and The Hoff. I laughed while he explained that his fan base would be disappointed if they saw him in bed with just one woman. And I laughed when I found out that the essence of The Hoff is sushi.
Of course, all this laughter is right in check with the tone of the film -- a sequel to the gore and flesh fest "Piranha 3D" (2010) -- which promises "twice the terror" and "double the D's." One thing it certainly has is Hasselhoff, which should make you want to "get on your Hoff Train and take a ride" to your local theater when "Piranha 3DD" opens Friday.
[Related: "Piranha 3DD" in our Summer Movie Guide]
Adam Pockross: Mr. Hasselhoff, how did you prepare to play Mr. Hasselhoff?
David 'The Hoff' Hasselhoff: I went into a deep trance, and every night I meditated, and I read David Hasselhoff's book to try to find out who he was about. I spent probably two days eating cheeseburgers. I also prepared by looking at old "Baywatch" episodes that he was in. And then I talked to his children, Taylor-Ann and Hayley, and spoke to them at length about what it's like living with their father. And then I visited the Berlin Wall and saw exactly the part where he cracked that exact spot. I stood on the wall for a while and I cried, because it was so emotional.
Then I went onstage with the director, and we did some emotional recall where you lie down and you go into your childhood memories. Like, 'If you were David Hasselhoff, what would have been your first big toy?' And it was a go-kart that came to me, like in 'Knight Rider.' It was really weird. And, 'What was your favorite thing?' It was the beach, and I was like, 'Wow!' So, that's how I did it.
And I think it worked because I was able to play David Hasselhoff, and kind of get to the essence of him, especially with the line, 'Holy f---, I'm old.' That was a hard line for me to do because I don't feel old, and I never say the word 'holy' and 'f---' together. I've said 'f---,' but never 'holy f---.' But that was the hardest part, to say, 'Holy f---, I'm old.' But I got to do it. And then also, I did get some blood in my eye when I was making the film, but the best part about it was I just kept going. And the director said, 'God, that's fantastic!' And if you look really closely, you'll see me trying to clear my eye during the movie.
AP: You're a pro. No doubt about it. So, you say you got to the essence of David Hasselhoff? In a sense you were born to play this part. So what is the essence of David Hasselhoff?
The Hoff: The essence of David Hasselhoff is … mostly sushi. I think that without sushi there would be no David Hasselhoff, because sushi is like the perfect way of describing the insights of David Hasselhoff. He is like a protein, clean and easy. That's how I feel about myself. I feel I'm protein, I'm clean, and I'm very easy to eat.
AP: That is a remarkable combination.
The Hoff: Thank you.
AP: Did you make sushi out of any piranhas?
The Hoff: No. The piranhas on the set were disgustingly stupid and not real, similar to the breasts on a lot of the girls. … In fact, the piranhas were actually more attractive than a lot of the girls, because the girls were laying there in blood and half-eaten, and not eaten in a nice way. It was horrible. But I had to endure it. It was a very tough shoot for me.
AP: It sounds very difficult. Did your experience on "Baywatch" prepare you for this?
[Related: The Hoff finally makes a rescue]
The Hoff: No. Nothing prepared me for this movie. And I'll never be the same ever again. Nothing. Especially when I watched the movie and they used a lot of outtakes that I didn't know we even made. The movie was over, and the movie was not over, and the movie wasn't over for about a year and a half. And it just kept going on. So I think every stupid outtake that I did was left in the movie.
AP: Were there any lines you were embarrassed by?
The Hoff: No, nothing. Nothing embarrasses me.
AP: You've never uttered an embarrassing line in your life?
The Hoff: No. The hardest line that I ever had to say in my life was, 'I'm David Hasselhoff.' And that was in 'Sponge Bob', and I couldn't figure out how to say it. So I had the director come over and give me a line reading, which was really kind of demeaning and humiliating, but he did give me the line.
AP: What was so difficult about phrasing that line?
The Hoff: I couldn't say it. And that's the truth. I could not. 'How the f--- do I say this line?' 'Well, you say it like you're a superhero: "I'm David Hasselhoff!"' So I said, 'Oh OK. I'm David Hasselhoff!' It was just too funny.
My problem is people seem to laugh at me, but the one that laughs harder than anybody is me. I mean, I laugh at everything and I laugh at things that are supposed to be drastic and 'Oh my God.' It's like my manager doesn't want me to do 'Chelsea Lately.' I said, 'Why not? What's wrong? Come on. I'm going to have a blast. Who cares?' Once you realize life isn't fair and it's a bit of a joke, then you can get on your Hoff Train and take a ride.
AP: Is there a difference between David Hasselhoff and The Hoff?
The Hoff: The Hoff has taken over David Hasselhoff. David Hasselhoff really doesn't know who he is anymore. Everywhere I go, it's The Hoff. I did a video with Train. And the guy, his name is Pat, the lead singer, he says, 'Should I call you Hoff or Mr. Hoff or…' I said, 'No. You should call me "The."' So, I'm The now.
AP: Well, that doesn't sound confusing at all.
The Hoff: Yeah, The.
AP: Now The, did you compose the song that you sing in this film?
[Related: The Hoff composes "Love Hunter"]
The Hoff: We made that song up on the spot! We had a keyboard. You can have a little keyboard on your little iPhone, right? So we're playing on the keyboard, and we just started hitting these notes. The director was Clu Gulager's son. What is the director's first name, John? I can't remember. John Gulager?
PR Lady: Yes, John.
The Hoff: And Clu Gulager was like a superhero to me when I was growing up. Clu Gulager was Billy the Kid. You wouldn't even remember him. And I thought it was the coolest thing ever. And John really had a take on, 'Let's play your character really real, you know, like you really believe this.' So, we just sat there and started singing, 'Love hunter … hear what I say. Love hunter … two chicks for me.' And we just made that up. And I said that all I require for the scene is two girls. I cannot have just have one girl. My reputation will be over. And they wanted them naked, but I said, 'No. If they're naked then no one will watch me.'
So, we made sure that the girls were clothed. But in the end, I kind of wished they were naked because they were really pretty.
AP: Are you a fan of the genres and, if so, what are your five favorite horror movies?
The Hoff: Well, 'Exorcist' is No. 1. I think 'Cape Fear' is No. 2. 'The Shining' is No. 3. The one with Sissy Spacek, was it 'Halloween'?
The Hoff: 'Carrie'? Yeah, 'Carrie.' Oh God, 'Carrie!' And then the other one for me was 'Jaws.'
AP: Yeah, very horrific, similar to "Piranha 3DD," but without the double D's really.
The Hoff: I think when they look back, you'll see 'Citizen Kane,' 'The Seventh Seal,' '2001,' 'Gone With the Wind,' and then 'Piranha 3DD.' It will definitely be there. There is no question about it. I'm hoping to be in the sequel. I've already heard that it could be called 'Piranhas on a Plane,' which could be really interesting.
See the Hoff sing in 'Piranhas 3DD':