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Retro : Star Vehicles

May 19, 1991|SUSAN KING | Times Staff Writer

David Hasselhoff proved man's best friend wasn't his dog, but his talking car in the 1982-86 NBC series "Knight Rider."

Previously a regular on the CBS soap "The Young and the Restless," Hasselhoff played Michael Knight, a former undercover cop who fought for law, justice and the American way with the help of his super-car KITT. The black Pontiac Trans-Am that could talk (William Daniels of "St. Elsewhere" supplied the voice) was able to cruise at high speeds and leap 50 feet in a single bound. KITT came equipped with everything from flame-throwers to infrared sensing devices.

"Knight Rider" reruns air in more than 80 countries.

Five years after Knight and KITT drove into the sunset, they're back in tonight's new NBC movie, "Knight Rider 2000."

And so it seemed only appropriate Hasselhoff would be doing this interview via his car phone.

"I have been trying to mount this project for three years," Hasselhoff said. "I have been around the world in over 40 countries since 'Knight Rider' went off the air. The most asked questions I get are: 'Where is KITT? How come you are so tall? (He's 6-foot-4.) And how come there are no more 'Knight Riders' ?"

Hasselhoff, though, couldn't get Universal, the studio which produced the series, interested in a reunion movie. He couldn't even get any executives to return his calls.

"Finally," Hasselhoff said, "I got someone at Universal to say they would see if it was worth their while." The actor hit pay dirt when he ran into Brandon Tartikoff, NBC's chairman (and recently-named chairman of Paramount Pictures), at the Century City shopping mall.

"I said, 'Brandon. We've got to do 'Knight Rider.' Everyone is waiting.' The next day I got a phone call from Brandon and he said, 'We are going to do 'Knight Rider.' Every time I meet Brandon in the mall or on an airplane it is good luck.

"I am hoping to meet him in a bowling alley next year. Maybe I will get a miniseries or something."

"Knight Rider 2000" is set in that year, a time when handguns are banned in all major cities. Michael Knight is in retirement until his former associate, Devon Miles (Edward Mulhare), asks him to help destroy a deadly ring of gunrunners who have close connections with the police.

"Michael finds out that KITT has been dismantled and recycled," Hasselhoff said. "KITT is like a little voice box. I put him in my '57 Chevy that I am restoring. Then the Chevy gets trashed and we update the KITT car to a state-of-the-art car based on the Dodge Stealth."

Hasselhoff is thrilled to be behind the wheel of KITT.

"While I was sitting in the car right before my first shot, I said to myself: 'God, David. You have been waiting three years for this.' I looked around and there were people (fans) lining up on the streets. It was like I never quit."

If the ratings for "Knight Rider 2000" are good, Hasselhoff hopes to do several "Knight Rider" movies a year, a la NBC's "Perry Mason" movies.

But he isn't interested in doing another "Knight Rider" series. "A movie-of-the-week is kind of a prestigious event," he said. "Doing Michael Knight as a series again means that when I am 55 I will be standing in malls going 'Hi! I'm Michael Knight.' If it goes to series, I will do a couple of guest shots."

Besides, Hasselhoff's schedule is quite full these days. He is producer and star of a syndicated version of "Baywatch," based on his 1989-90 NBC series. Hasselhoff begins shooting 22 episodes in June and the series will air this fall.

"Knight Rider 2000" airs tonight at 9 on NBC. The original "Knight Rider" series airs Monday-Friday at 3 p.m. on hannel 5.

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