David Hasselhoff Winks at Career in "Piranha 3DD"

Photo Credit: Dimension Films
June 12th, 2012

David Hasselhoff Winks at Career in "Piranha 3DD"

-- No one can ever accuse David Hasselhoff of refusing to have a little fun at his own expense. Even though his acting and singing career has waned since his heyday in the '80s and '90s, Hasselhoff has found ways to stay in the public eye. Most often, he's done this by spoofing the role he's best known for: a macho lifeguard on television's "Baywatch."

That's exactly what the man affectionately nicknamed "the Hoff" is doing in the new comedy-horror film "Piranha 3DD," a sequel to the 2010 film "Piranha 3D." (The predecessor was itself a loose remake of "Piranha," a cult film directed by Joe Dante in 1978.)

Hasselhoff's role in "Piranha 3DD" amounts to little more than a cameo, in which he plays himself as a lifeguard. It's remarkably similar to his cameo as himself in "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie," except that the children's film was a PG-rated affair. By comparison, the R-rated "Piranha 3DD" is jam-packed with violence, gore and nudity, replicating the tone of its 2010 predecessor. For anyone who wants a little extra dose of Hasselhoff, he also appears in a brief post-credits scene.

Hasselhoff has been having fun with his own image ever since one of his first popular roles when he played Michael Knight in the NBC action series "Knight Rider." The skintight clothes Knight wore quickly became an in-joke on the show that Hasselhoff and the producers regularly played around with. As campy as "Knight Rider" was, it was a perfect fit in the mid-80s, and Michael Knight action figures sold well. Hasselhoff has parodied his time on the show many times, including during his Comedy Central Roast in 2010. He also had a cameo in a 2008 television movie based on the series.

During his stint on "Night Rider," Hasselhoff became extremely popular in Germany-not for his acting, but for his singing. While Hasselhoff's music career never really took off in the United States, German fans went crazy over his 1989 song "Looking for Freedom," which hit number one on the German charts. Hasselhoff sold out numerous concerts in Germany for years afterward. That aspect of his career is something else he's chosen to spoof in various TV appearances, including on the Comedy Central Roast.

Though Hasselhoff was well known throughout the '80s, his career had begun to wane when the TV show "Baywatch" premiered on NBC in 1989. The network quickly canceled the show, suggesting that this was anything but a career resurgence for Hasselhoff. However, the actor made a decision that would resurrect his career and define his celebrity for decades. Believing "Baywatch" still had potential as a hit TV show, he invested his own money to become an executive producer on the show and kept it going.

Hasselhoff sold "Baywatch" to the first-run syndication market in 1991. The show became a massive international hit, running for 10 seasons and appearing in more than 140 countries. It also produced the character of Mitch Buchannon, the fit, tan, hairy-chested lifeguard played by Hasselhoff, and the character he would later spoof in "Piranha 3DD."

While the Hoff and actors such as Jeremy Jackson and David Charvet provided the beefcake on the show, "Baywatch" gained a lot of popularity because of the bikini-clad babes running up and down the beach. Probably the most popular of the actresses was Pamela Anderson, but Alexandra Paul, Yasmine Bleeth and Nicole Eggert are all remembered for their work on the show.

The campy style of "Baywatch" fit in perfectly with Hasselhoff's career, which is why his appearance in "Piranha 3DD" is no surprise. He's always been happy to do work he enjoys, regardless of whether it's considered worthy of Emmys or Oscars. His pre-"Piranha 3DD" career includes such frivolous-but-fun movies as "Anaconda III" and "Kickin' It Old Skool."

While the recent box-office smash "The Avengers" featured Samuel L. Jackson as Marvel Comics hero Nick Fury, Hasselhoff actually premiered the character in live media. The Hoff played Fury in 1998's "Nick Fury: Agent of Shield." Though the film was not well received, its somewhat comic tone was in character with most Marvel Comics adaptations before the twenty-first century. It's certainly no sillier than the goody fun found in "Piranha 3DD."

Even as issues in Hasselhoff's personal life have made headlines, his likeable nature and ability to laugh at himself make him seem almost impervious to ridicule. Much of his life and career was targeted by comedians in the Comedy Central Roast, but he laughed it off and gave as good as he got. It's exactly that "I'm in on the joke" nature that makes his cameos in films such as "Piranha 3DD" so much fun. When the Hoff hits the screen, you can't help but smile.

Critics haven't been kind to "Piranha 3DD," but that makes it no different than most films and shows in Hasselhoff's repertoire. He's there to deliver a fun, campy time, as "Piranha 3DD" illustrates perfectly. Maybe running up and down the beach helped the Hoff develop the thick skin that has served him well over the years. It isn't easy to laugh too much at David Hasselhoff, because in "Piranha 3DD" and other films he's right there laughing along with you.