David Hasselhoff talks Sharknado 3 and the fall of the Berlin Wall ahead of his visit to Norwich
19:10 29 January 2016
It’s not easy to sum up David Hasselhoff, who will be in Norwich next week, so Stacia Briggs asked him the important questions (and some silly ones).
It took four years in an impossibly-clever robot car and 11 in an impossibly-tight pair of Speedos to make David Hasselhoff the most watched man on the planet, but it took The Hoff to become a legend.
Here is a man who has made a series of seriously good decisions and even managed to make his bad decisions bankable: from his role in Knight Rider to baling out the sinking ship that was Baywatch because his instinct was that it would eventually be a huge hit, from releasing the right song at the right time in Germany as the Berlin Wall was about to fall to embracing parody and turning it to his advantage, there’s no doubt that David Hasselhoff is a smooth operator.
“At work I’m The Hoff and I’m this thing, this larger-than-life character who does crazy things and acts in a crazy way, but at home I’m just David, a normal guy who does normal things and just has a bit of an odd job,” he tells me, speaking from Liverpool where he is preparing for another performance of his new musical.
“If I get something wrong, the world is watching. So you have to turn getting something wrong into something right. Failure usually works out for me in the end – at first you think ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do about this?’ and then I just think ‘let’s just laugh about it’. Then all I have to worry about is making sure I get to the gym on time, making sure I have time for my girlfriend, my kids.
Five Strange Hassel Facts
• David Hasselhoff was married to Catherine Hickland during his time on Knight Rider. After they divorced, Catherine married another actor whose real name was Michael Knight, David’s character’s name in the show.
• Baywatch was the longest running show to never win an Emmy Award.
• He was cast in the film Starcrash in 1979 as the son of the Emperor of the Galaxy. In the scenes where his character appears wearing a mask, it was actually a production assistant as Hasselhoff had food poisoning and was unable to film.
• In Germany, David Hasselhoff and Kermit the Frog are dubbed by the same voiceover artist.
• A shop employee was injured in 2013 when he tried to stop two men and one woman from stealing life-sized cardboard models of David from a convenience store. Hasselhoff took to Twitter to send his well-wishes to the injured man.
“When you stop taking yourself so seriously, things get a whole lot easier.”
This seems the perfect moment to mention a request from my teenage son, Cole, who has asked me to personally thank The Hoff for participation in one of his favourite films, the critically-acclaimed (ahem) Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!
For those unfamiliar with the franchise, it involves a very likely consequence of global warming: freak weather that results in huge tornados which are packed with angry sharks whose only mission is to attack innocent children and attractive blonde women.
David plays the father of series hero Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering), Gil and, by the end of Sharknado 3, the pair had commandeered a spare space shuttle in order to destroy a rogue hurricane of sharks which was assaulting the Eastern seaboard of America, preparing to fight the marine monsters with shark-snuffing laser chainsaws.
It is, I tell David, Cole’s favourite film involving dangerous ocean creatures and natural disasters that is also part of a trilogy.
“Fantastic!” he roars, clearly delighted, “That film was lots of fun! Sometimes you take on projects because they are art and they are worthwhile, and sometimes you take on projects because you are sent to the moon to battle furious sharks with laser chainsaws.”
He’s also seen David in Piranha 3DD, I tell him, recounting a disturbing moment where I walked into his bedroom during a particularly unsettling love scene on his TV screen which involved fish with razor teeth and a knife. No one wants to see their mother during cinematic moments such as these.
“Who was more scarred?” asked David, “You? Him?” In truth, I think it was Josh, the man in the film.
I ask him if Cole should watch Anaconda 3: The Offspring, in which David plays a snake hunter.
“In a word? No. Piranha was a good bad film that was a lot of fun, Sharknado was a good bad film, Anaconda 3 is a terrible film. Anaconda 3 is what happens when you’re going through a messy divorce and someone suggests you do a film about giant killer snakes in Romania. At first, I said there wasn’t a price on earth that I could be offered in order to do a film about killer snakes in Romania, then I was told the figure and I said yes.
“This is an example of art versus paying your attorney. But if you love your son, tell him not to watch Anaconda 3. Hold out for Sharknado 4, I say, I can promise him some great shark/space stuff. No snakes. Not that there were any in the film until they put them in post-production – I am attacking fake snakes. Terrible.” On a roll, and before we talk about the serious business of David’s new show, Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, which he brings to Norwich on Monday and Tuesday as part of a nationwide tour, I mention my next door neighbour Tina, an East Berliner who was 24 when the Berlin Wall fell, and who had only escaped East Germany a matter of weeks beforehand.
The Hoff, it is fair to say, is big in Berlin. His song Looking for Freedom caught the end-of-the-Wall zeitgeist, going to number one for eight weeks in Germany in 1989, the same year that the Wall fell – he sang on it as it was being dissembled and somehow found himself providing the soundtrack to a new European age. Not bad for a man who became famous for talking back to his car and wearing scarlet budgie-smugglers.
“I have nothing but respect for people like your neighbour who lived through these times. I’d been going to Germany for years and had been at Checkpoint Charlie, going through the gates, seeing what was happening in East Berlin and feeling for the people there,” he said. “For the 25th anniversary of the Wall coming down, I went and spoke to people for a documentary and the stories I heard were incredible. I would shake your neighbour’s hand and congratulate her for escaping. Such bravery.”
At some point I realise I have to stop asking questions such as ‘Will you be taking the crab that was named after you to Cromer to meet the other famous crabs?’ and ‘Your face is tattooed on the buttock of a Spanish fan – is there anyone you admire enough to have their name tattooed on you?’ and ‘Do you ever find yourself inadvertently answering your own sat-nav?’ and ‘Were you tempted to keep the giant Hoff from the Spongebob movie?’ (maybe, no, no, no) and start asking about David’s upcoming first appearance in Norwich. Sometimes my job is all about sacrifice.
In his new jukebox musical, The Hoff plays Ross, a party-loving nightclub owner and DJ who relishes the hedonism of a carefree life. And then his teenage daughter arrives to spend the summer and he realises it’s time to re-evaluate his life and put his daughter first.
You can practically hear the ‘inspired by real life’ klaxon sounding: in 2007, David’s then-teenager daughter Taylor Ann videoed her shirtless father lying on the floor clumsily eating a hamburger and in the background, Taylor can he heard pleading: “Tell me you are going to stop, tell me you are going to stop.”
When Taylor’s phone was leaked, the video was shared online. Her sister Hayley said: “Alcoholism is something that is dealt with every single day and unfortunately, because our life is so public, it was put out there. It was never supposed to be shown to anyone but our family.”
David is refreshingly honest about the very public wake-up call: “I am lucky and I have a very honest and positive relationship with my daughters and that meant that I realised that I had to confront what I was doing to myself and change for them. And I did.
“With this show, it’s a father/daughter storyline and the message is that you need to be honest with your children, even if you make mistakes. Of course I learn this within a show and happen to sing lots of 80s and 90s songs at the same time, so it’s cool, has a great story, great music and there’s a chance to sing along and shout out to us on stage. It’s a bit like adult panto, really, a huge amount of fun.”
The show’s playlist includes floor-fillers such as Can’t Touch This, Ride on Time, Spice Up Your Life, Things Can Only Get Better, Saturday Night, a blast of Baywatch and Bryan Adams’ power ballad, Everything I Do, I Do it For You. Joining David on stage will be Kim Tiddy, who plays his girlfriend Mandy, Stephanie Webber as his daughter Penny and Shane Richie Jr as DJ Rik, who catches Penny’s eye and captures her heart.
Time is running out for me and The Hoff and before I can ask whether Janette Krankie gave Pamela Anderson a run for her money in the red swimsuit when he was in pantomime with her this Christmas, our interview comes to an end. But not before one more question – with the show in mind, and with two teenagers at home, including a daughter who is nearly 18, I ask him for parenting tips.
“Tell your kids the truth. Tell them that every action has a consequence but expect them to make mistakes because everyone makes mistakes – a bit like me and Anaconda 3, although at least that paid a bill. Really, the key is to love them and put them first. And that’s the show in a nutshell, too,” ever the professional, with the final mention being a bid to sell tickets, we bid our goodbyes.
And then he’s Hoff.
• Last Night A DJ Saved My Life is at Norwich Theatre Royal on Monday and Tuesday at 7.30pm, box office on 01603 630000 or www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk