Interview: David Hasselhoff

BY Simon Button

5th Oct 2022 Celebrities

Interview: David Hasselhoff

The iconic star of Baywatch and Knight Rider opens up about his enormous fame, keeping his ego in check, and still hustling at 70

It’s not easy being a legend. Just ask David Hasselhoff. "From the moment I wake up it’s like I’m The Hoff," says the man who holds a Guinness World Record as the most watched man on TV. "I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve gotta go to work’. I have to be on all the time."

We’re meeting at the 2022 Monte-Carlo Television Festival a day later than planned, with David apologising: "I wasn’t really on yesterday. I was tired the night before and I couldn’t sleep. It’s funny because when I’m working I have to be David Hasselhoff, to be charming and funny. But sometimes I just want to stay home and watch television with my wife."

"I have to be on all the time…But sometimes I just want to stay home and watch television with my wife"

As we chat in the restaurant at the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel his Welsh wife Hayley is sat quietly by his side. It’s his third marriage (he was previously wed to actresses Catherine Hickland and Pamela Bach) and they seem like a very happy couple. To her he’s just David but to the world he’s The Hoff—a larger-than-life personality famous for starring in Knight Rider and Baywatch as well as for topping the pop charts in Germany and sending himself up in adverts and cameos. 

Being "The Hoff"

Now 70, he’s a formidable presence, with steely blue eyes and an imposing 6ft 4in frame. But he’s also friendly and laidback. The Hoff, he notes, is a persona, not a real person, but he’s been happy to go along with the moniker since it was bestowed on him by a bunch of female fans in Australia some twenty years ago.  

To hear him tell it, they’d written to the country’s Daily Telegraph en masse, signing his praises with such compliments as "We’re Hoff crazy", "We’re Hoff nuts", "He’s Hoff-alicious" and "Some like it Hoff".  

David grins between bites of vanilla ice cream. "I thought that was pretty interesting and flattering. I ended up going to Australia to do a tour and wound up presenting at The ARIA Awards, which is like their equivalent of The Grammys. Everybody in the pit was wearing a David Hasselhoff mask and shouting ‘Hoff, Hoff, Hoff’."

David "The Hoff" Hasselhoff

Hasselhoff in Knight Rider, 1982 © Allstar Picture Library Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Hasselhoff embraced it. As well as being a judge on America’s Got Talent and a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, he has since good-naturedly sent himself up in everything from The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 on the big screen to a slew of TV walk-ons. 

His latest TV show, Ze Network, puts a new spin on his willingness to pastiche his public image. In what he calls a "totally crazy" action comedy he plays himself as a frustrated actor fed up of all the cameos. So he travels to Germany to star in a stage play in what he thinks is a prestigious theatre in Berlin, only to find it’s in an obscure venue in some out-of-the-way town. To make matters worse, he then gets mixed up with former Cold War assassins who think he’s an ex-spy. 

"The reviews have been great," Hasselhoff smiles, "and here in Monte-Carlo I bumped into a couple of American actors who’d been to the screening and told me ‘We didn’t like it, we loved it’."

Fans are also lined up in front of the hotel, hoping for an autograph or a selfie, which must stoke his ego? "Well yes, I have an ego, but it’s through a desire to be perfect in whatever I’m doing. I have a healthy ego because I apologise when I’m wrong. I am wrong sometimes but most of the time I’m dead-on."

His rise to stardom

He oozes confidence and self-awareness. I wonder if he was the same as a youngster growing up in Florida and Atlanta? He shrugs. "When you’re young you’re confident about everything. I remember seeing a play and going ‘I want to do that’. Next thing you know, at age seven, I was in Peter Pan on stage. It felt like I belonged there. My mother told me ‘You’ve got it’. I asked her ‘What have I got?’ and she said ‘Star quality’."

His mother was right. He went on to study theatre at the California Institute of the Arts, then did a stint on TV soap The Young and the Restless. His subsequent TV and film credits are too numerous to mention, but Knight Rider—in which he played LA crimefighter Michael Knight with his sidekick talking car KITT—remains one of his favourites. 

"Hasselhoff oozes confidence and self-awareness"

David knew from the start that it would be a hit. "But everybody laughed at me. My father even laughed. I said ‘Dad, the script is glowing in my hands and I have to get this’. At the first audition I was too nervous. I wasn’t ready but they auditioned me again and at the second audition I was like ‘Roll the cameras!’"

Another iconic role came along in the swim-shorted shape of hairy-chested lifeguard Mitch Buchannon on Baywatch, which ruled the airwaves throughout the 1990s with its slow-motion shots of scantily clad beach boys and babes. I ask if it could be made now and Hasselhoff sidesteps the question with: "It was a different time." 


Baywatch © Collection Christophel / Alamy Stock Photo

He’s also dismissive when asked about the Pam & Tommy TV series. "I refuse to watch it. I don’t care." He laughs. "Although if they did the David Hasselhoff story I’d watch that. I’d probably produce it."

As for the more-PC 2017 Baywatch movie starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, he’s equally scathing. "They blew it and it bombed, except in Germany. I went on stage there and said ‘It’s a great film’, just to be nice, and it was a huge hit."

Filming Ze Network

Germany has always embraced Hasselhoff and even more so for his singing than his acting. He’s had hit after hit over there and famously performed "Looking For Freedom" atop the Berlin Wall. "I love the fact I had the balls to insist on singing on the Wall and I love how the Germans have embraced me and my music. That’s why I was so happy to go back there to film Ze Network."

"I love the fact I had the balls to insist on singing on the Berlin Wall"

Given that he doesn’t take his image too seriously, I ask him what he does take seriously. Ever the canny self-publicist, he says: "I’m serious about Ze Network. I was in a bad mood because I couldn’t find a TV series for myself, yet I saw all my friends getting old on television. I was like ‘What about me?’ A few years ago I bumped into the director Robert Rodriguez and he asked me if he could take a picture with me. I said ‘Never mind a picture, I want a movie!’"

So far he has yet to work with the From Dusk Til Dawn moviemaker but now he has his own TV show at 70. He grins again. "I’m really proud of it And it’s really really weird. The director said to me ‘Just go with it’ and that’s what I did."

Ze Network

Hasselhoff starring in Ze Network © 2021 Stefan Erhard

The David Hasselhoff in the show is fed up with doing cameos and commercials. The real David Hasselhoff isn’t. "They’re great, so long as they pay well." He talks about being paid a lot of money to do adverts for a bank. "So I embrace the fame that Knight Rider and Baywatch have brought me. It makes me a living."

He’s also happy to meet and greet the fans once our chat is over. "After all, it’s called showbusiness." He flashes those bright blue eyes. "You put on a good show, you get the business."

Ze Network is coming soon to the UK and Europe 

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