10 Fast Facts About Knight Rider

Knight Rider Opening Credits
Knight Rider Opening Credits

With its offbeat premise, synth soundtrack, and David Hasselhoff’s voluminous perm, Knight Rider is a worthy pick to land on the Mount Rushmore of ‘80s TV. Debuting in 1982, the show ran for four seasons and 90 episodes, with a number of TV movies and short-lived revivals to follow. To this day, the franchise continues to stay relevant as rumors of even more Knight Rider surface regularly. Here are 10 facts about Knight Rider.

1. THE SHOW WAS A MASHUP OF THE LONE RANGER AND CLASSIC SCI-FI.

Glen A. Larson had made a name for himself throughout television in the ‘70s and ‘80s as the creator of shows like Battlestar Galactica and Magnum P.I., and in 1982 one of his more unique ideas hit the screen in Knight Rider. While a talking car that helps fight crime sounds a bit bizarre (and it is), the series has its roots in a much more grounded TV classic.

"I wanted to do The Lone Ranger with a car," Larson said of the show. He went even further by saying, "If you think about him riding across the Plains and going from one town to another to help law and order, then K.I.T.T. becomes Tonto.”

The "good vs. evil" inspirations from The Lone Ranger were joined by Larson's background in sci-fi. In Hasselhoff’s autobiography, the actor states that HAL 9000 from 1968's 2001: A Space Odyssey was the direct inspiration for K.I.T.T., while the red strobe lights that emblazoned the car's hood were a nod to the scanner lights that were the trademark of the Cylons from Larson’s Battlestar Galactica.

2. WILLIAM DANIELS FOUGHT FOR K.I.T.T. TO HAVE MORE OF A PERSONALITY.

When William Daniels first began working on Knight Rider, K.I.T.T. was set to sound more robotic and synthesized than the actor wanted. Instead, “I saw a chance for it to be amusing and bright,” Daniels recalled. “K.I.T.T. had to have human expression.” Soon, K.I.T.T. began to loosen up and show more of Daniels’s natural charm as the series progressed. 

3. LARSON GOT A HUGE CUT OF THE MERCHANDISE MONEY.

Larson’s business savvy and faith in his creation were rewarded beyond anyone’s expectations. When he was negotiating his deal with Universal, he nabbed himself a huge chunk of the merchandising rights. With Knight Rider’s popularity sustaining for long after it went off the air, Larson profited handsomely.

“I think I had the best deal in the history of television,” Larson said. “As the writer/creator I got 50-50 with the studio on all toys, models, T-shirts, and whatnot.”

These types of deals are virtually unheard of now, as Larson pointed out, “It was just before studios realized how profitable merchandising could be.”

4. WILLIAM DANIELS AND DAVID HASSELHOFF DIDN’T MEET UNTIL THE SHOW’S CHRISTMAS PARTY.

Though they made for a formidable duo on-screen, William Daniels and David Hasselhoff were never even in the same room together while the show was being made. They first met at the show’s Christmas party when Knight Rider was already an established hit.

“A guy walks over to my table and goes: ‘Hi I’m William Daniels, I play K.I.T.T.,’” Hasselhoff said in an interview with CBS. “And I say: 'Oh I’m David Hasselhoff and I play Michael.’ And he says: ‘Oh we have a hit don’t we?’ And that was our first conversation.”

5. DANIELS ISN’T FEATURED IN THE CREDITS AS K.I.T.T.

William Daniels’s name doesn’t appear in the opening or closing credits of Knight Rider throughout its run. The one story surrounding the decision is that Daniels wanted the audience to believe the car had a mind of its own and preserve the mystery. The plan backfired as Daniels was soon getting recognized on the streets where he lived as the voice of K.I.T.T.

6. DANIELS WORKED FOR LESS THAN AN HOUR PER EPISODE.

Though his voicework as K.I.T.T. was integral to the success of the show, Daniels was fairly far removed from the production when he would record his lines.

“I knocked off an episode in about 45 minutes. I never watched the episode while I would do the voice over,” Daniels said. “I would have the pages that involved K.I.T.T.—not even the entire show. Those pages would have David’s dialogue and then K.I.T.T.’s answers.”

Daniels’s process involved reading Haselhoff’s lines out loud in the recording booth, then answering them as K.I.T.T.

7. K.I.T.T. ALMOST WENT BY A DIFFERENT NAME.

K.I.T.T. stands for Knight Industries Two Thousand, based on the car’s fictional creator, Wilton Knight. The car went by another name when the series was early in its production: T.A.T.T., which stood for Trans Am Two Thousand.

When it came time to give a name to K.I.T.T.’s evil doppelganger, a completely different name was created in K.A.R.R. This stands for Knight Automated Roving Robot, and it was voiced by Peter Cullen, who was the man behind another talking vehicle: Optimus Prime from The Transformers cartoons and movies.

8. K.I.T.T. WENT THROUGH VARIOUS MODIFICATIONS AS THE SEASONS WENT ON.

During Knight Rider’s first two seasons, K.I.T.T. was based on an F-bodied Pontiac Trans Am with minimal alterations, and it was dressed up by Universal’s prop department. The major change were the red strobe lights to give the car “life” as it was interacting with Michael. But not much else made K.I.T.T. stand out from a standard Trans Am (Pontiac didn't even want them referring to the car as a Trans Am). The production would have around four different K.I.T.T. cars at a time, costing about $18,000 apiece to modify.

It was during production on season three, though, that K.I.T.T. got a bit of a facelift. Spoilers, wings, and new hood scoops were just some of the cosmetic additions that the legendary George Barris—who also designed Adam West’s Batmobile and The Munster Koach—added to the car. It took eight weeks to complete each car, but the new version set Knight Rider’s trademark set of wheels apart from anything else on the road.

9. THERE WAS A MODIFIED CAR TO SIMULATE A SELF-DRIVING FEATURE.

For scenes when K.I.T.T. had to appear to drive itself, Barris created a right-seat driving position inside the on-set car that dipped below the dashboard. From the passenger side, a stunt driver was then placed in a special seat that sat low enough to avoid detection on camera, but high enough to see where he was going. This was all part of Barris's job on the show. In addition to creating a more unique look for K.I.T.T. in later seasons, he was also in charge of creating different models of the car, all for the sake of specific stunts that could make for more unique action sequences.

10. THE SHOW’S THEME WAS BORROWED FROM AN 18TH CENTURY BALLET.

Knight Rider’s opening theme—composed by Stu Phillips—is one of the best the ‘80s has to offer, but its roots go further back than the synth stylings it embraces. It’s actually based on a selection from Léo Delibes’s ballet Sylvia. Specifically, “Cortège de Bacchus” from the third act.

Over the years, the song has been sampled by a number of artists, including Busta Rhymes and Lil' Kim. However, the song owes its longevity to its status as a ringtone. In 2005, Phillips won an award from BMI—a performing rights organization—for most downloaded ringtone. (Phillips shared the award with Lalo Schifrin’s Mission: Impossible theme.)

25 Most Extreme Actor Transformations for Movies

Christian Bale stars as Dick Cheney in Adam McKay's Vice (2018)
Christian Bale stars as Dick Cheney in Adam McKay's Vice (2018)
Greig Fraser, Annapurna Pictures

When an actor is critically acclaimed for their work, it's not just the talent people are looking at. It's the dedication that truly drives the star to dive deep into their character and persuade us as viewers of their story. While some are more convincing than others, the best actors frequently go to dangerous extremes to craft as authentic a performance as possible. Sometimes this means undergoing unbelievable transformations, as Christian Bale recently did to inhabit the role of Dick Cheney in Adam McKay's upcoming Vice—and not for the first time. Here are 25 of the most extreme actor transformations.

1. CHRISTIAN BALE // THE MACHINIST (2004)

Christian Bale's most extreme transformation is hands down for his performance in The Machinist. The Method actor played the part of an industrial worker who hadn't slept in a year, and truly looked worse than that. Bale lost 63 pounds in four months, thanks to eating only one can of tuna or one apple a day.

2. CHARLIZE THERON // MONSTER (2003)

In the role that proved Charlize Theron was more than just a pretty face, the actress played real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos, completely transforming her appearance. Besides her facial differences,Theron gained 30 pounds for the part, by mostly eating donuts and other junk. Her performance earned her an Oscar. It wasn't the last time Theron transformed her body for a role; she gained 50 pounds to play a mom with post-partum depression for this year's Tully.

3. JARED LETO // DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (2013)

To play a transgender person living with HIV in Dallas Buyers Club, Jared Leto basically stopped eating—and dropped down to 116 pounds. "I think the role demanded that commitment," Leto said of the extreme diet plan. "It was about how does that affect how I walk, how I talked, who I am, how I feel. You know, you feel very fragile and delicate and unsafe." He ended up winning an Oscar for his performance.

4. TOM HARDY // BRONSON (2008)

To play the real-life British criminal Charles Bronson, Tom Hardy put on 42 pounds for Nicolas Winding Refn's Bronson. He reportedly did so with the help of an ex-Marine, who motivated and trained him. Hardy said he ate mostly chicken, rice, chocolate, and pizza while training, gaining about seven pounds a week.

5. MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY // DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (2013)

Alongside co-star Jared Leto, Matthew McConaughey had to drop some serious weight for his role as the real-life HIV-positive Ron Woodrooff in Dallas Buyers Club. Ultimately, he dropped 38 pounds by dieting and eating in small quantities. McConaughey went on to win an Oscar for his performance.

6. ROBERT DE NIRO // RAGING BULL (1980)

For one of his most iconic roles ever, Robert De Niro played real-life boxer Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, and won an Oscar for his performance. In order to play this part, the actor got extremely buffed up through a grueling training routine with the actual LaMotta. Then, to play the boxer in later years, De Niro put on 60 pounds. Director Martin Scorsese was said to have only been able to shoot the actor for short periods of time in the later parts of filming, due to his struggle to breathe and general decline in health.

7. MICHAEL FASSBENDER // HUNGER (2008)

To take on the role of real-life activist Bobby Sands in Steve McQueen's Hunger, Michael Fassbender lost more than 40 pounds. Sands participated in the 1981 Irish hunger strike, and ultimately died doing so. For the role, Fassbender restricted himself to a 600-calorie-day diet, along with exercising.

8. 50 CENT // ALL THINGS FALL APART (2011)

To play a cancer patient in All Things Fall Apart, rapper 50 Cent lost his muscular frame by dropping 54 pounds. His method involved a liquid diet and running on the treadmill for three hours a day. “I had so much muscle on me that it was hard for me to lose definition even as I got lighter and slimmer," he said of preparing for the role. "I started running to suppress my appetite. Towards the end it was really difficult."

9. JARED LETO // CHAPTER 27 (2007)

In order to play Mark David Chapman, the man who assassinated John Lennon, Jared Leto had to gain nearly 70 pounds. By eating a lot of ice cream and other junk food, the actor put on 67 pounds, and ultimately developed gout, making it painful for him to simply walk.

10. ANNE HATHAWAY // LES MISÉRABLES (2012)

Anne Hathaway was already thin when she landed the iconic role as Fantine, a factory worker-turned-prostitute in Les Misérables. Still, she ended up losing 25 pounds for the part, claiming to have eaten two small squares of oatmeal paste a day. For the shoot's final 13 days, she basically stopped eating altogether. Though she only logged 15 minutes of screen time despite the film's whopping 158-minute runtime, Hathaway won an Oscar for the role

11. CHRIS PRATT // GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

Chris Pratt's weight has fluctuated over the years, from his heftier Parks and Recreation look to his extremely ripped figure in Guardians of the Galaxy. For the Marvel role, Pratt lost 60 pounds in six months with intensive workouts and a diet change, including lots of water. "I was peeing all day long, every day," Pratt told Men's Journal. "That part was a nightmare,”

12. CHRISTIAN BALE // AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013)

Christian Bale is known for his incredible transformations for roles. For American Hustle, he gained 43 pounds to play a conman; he relied on junk food to reach his "goal" weight. His performance earned him an Oscar nomination.

13. ROONEY MARA // THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011)

​In order to play the iconic role of Stieg Larsson's antihero Lisbeth Salander, Rooney Mara truly transformed her look for David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The normally innocent-looking actress got her lip, eyebrow, nose, and nipple pierced, bleached her eyebrows, chopped off her hair. Mara was nominated for an Oscar for her performance.

14. MATT DAMON // COURAGE UNDER FIRE (1996)

In his breakout role, Matt Damon lost over 50 pounds in three months to play a heroin addict in Courage Under Fire. His diet consisted of chicken, egg whites, broccoli, and a baked potato everyday, along with running 13 miles daily, which resulted in him weighing only 137 pounds during filming. “I went too far," Damon once said of his extreme diet. "I got sick and I wouldn't do that again because it was just too much."

15. TOM HANKS // CAST AWAY (2000)

To prepare for his Oscar-nominated role in Cast Away, Tom Hanks put on 40 pounds to bulk up for the first half of the film. Once his character was stranded on the island, Hanks then had to lose the weight he had gained—and then some—for a 55-pound weight loss. (When it came time for Matthew McConaughey to lose weight for Dallas Buyers Club, he called Hanks for advice.)

16. JAKE GYLLENHAAL // NIGHTCRAWLER (2014)

Jake Gyllenhaal was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance as a reporter in Nightcrawler.
The actor dropped around 20 pounds for the film by basically starving himself to get into the mindset of his character, Lou. "I knew that Lou was literally and figuratively hungry, so I got into the mode where I was always a bit hungry," the actor revealed.

17. NATALIE PORTMAN // BLACK SWAN (2010)

To play a troubled ballerina in Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, Natalie Portman ate a few hundred calories a day, underwent a grueling training schedule, and eventually dropped 20 pounds. Portman went on to win an Oscar for her performance.

18. TOM HANKS // PHILADELPHIA (1993)

To portray a gay man with HIV in his Oscar-winning role in Philadelphia, Tom Hanks shaved his head and lost 35 pounds. His fragile and sickly look only added to his amazing performance.

19. HILARY SWANK // BOYS DON'T CRY (1999)

For her Oscar-winning role as Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was killed in 1993 as the result of a hate crime, Hilary Swank underwent a dramatic transformation. Not only did she play a male, but she literally lived as a man for a month to prepare. This included binding her chest and using socks as a prosthetic penis. She also lost weight in order to maintain a more masculine figure. Kimberly Peirce, the film's director, spent more than two years searching for an actress who could play the role; Swank won an Oscar for the role.

20. CHRIS HEMSWORTH // IN THE HEART OF THE SEA (2015)

Known best for playing the jacked Thor in the Marvel films, Chris Hemsworth had to get seriously skinny for his leading role in In the Heart of the Sea. In order to do this, the actor dropped 33 pounds in just four weeks, which he said took a toll on both his body and his mind. “In order to do it justice, the story, we had to suffer in some way and we did,” he told People. “In other words, not a whole lot of acting was required. We were desperate.” 

21. EMILE HIRSCH // INTO THE WILD (2007)

To play the late Christopher McCandless, Emile Hirsch and director Sean Penn decided that the actor should embark journey similar to the real-life traveler he was playing for Into the Wild. McCandless's experience through North America to Alaska caused him to lose a dramatic amount of weight before eventually passing away in the wild. Hirsch dropped 40 pounds by not drinking, cutting out sugar, and running five miles a day. “It took more willpower to lose that weight than to do anything I've ever done in my entire life,” Hirsch told USA Today of his transformation.

22. TOM CRUISE // TROPIC THUNDER (2008)

Tom Cruise had the help of prosthetics for his role in Tropic Thunder, but the actor really transformed his whole image a bit with this role.

23. CAMERON DIAZ // BEING JOHN MALKOVICH (1999)

With her normal blonde locks transformed into a frizzy, red mess, Cameron Diaz was practically unrecognizable as the wife of a puppeteer (John Cusack) in Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich.

24. RUSSELL CROWE // THE INSIDER (1999)

Russell Crowe put on 35 pounds, shaved back his hairline, bleached his hair, and had liver spots and wrinkles applied with makeup to age him 20 years for his part in Michael Mann's The Insider—a role that earned Crowe went an Academy Award nomination.

25. EDDIE MURPHY // COMING TO AMERICA (1988)

In addition to his starring role as Prince Akeem in John Landis's Coming to America, Eddie Murphy also played the role of Saul, an old, white, Jewish man who hung out with the other characters at the barbershop. This role led Murphy to go on and play multiple characters in other films.

Daniel Radcliffe Says Kids No Longer Recognize Him as Harry Potter

John Sciulli, Getty Images for Turner
John Sciulli, Getty Images for Turner

Take a deep breath. If you're standing, sit down. Relax and find your happy place. Now try your best to stay there while I remind you that the first Harry Potter movie came out in 2001 and the last of the core films was released seven years ago. It's been so long, in fact, that series star Daniel Radcliffe—who made his debut in the role at age 11—will turn 30 next summer.

Apparently that separation of time has caused Radcliffe to lose some of his fame among the younger generation, as ​he discussed on MSNBC's Morning Joe. "I do have a thing sometimes where I meet kids now and their parents will bring them up to me and they'll be like, '​this is Harry Potter' and the kids will be like 'No it's not,'" Radcliffe said.

In the same interview, Radcliffe elaborated on what being a generational icon has meant to him. "It is very strange but also genuinely lovely when somebody comes up and says, '​You were a huge part of my childhood.' For me The Simpsons was a massive thing and the idea that I could occupy a similar place in someone's else life is so crazy and wonderful," he shared.

"I always say I'm incredibly lucky to have got famous with Harry Potter because it is a genuinely beloved thing," he added.

Radcliffe is currently starring in the Broadway production of The Lifespan of a Fact.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER