Arnett (“Arrested Development”) had already completed his part for the pic, which is slated to debut on NBC in less than two weeks. Producers Doug Liman, Dave Bartis and Dave Andron — along with the network and studio — were all fine with his performance.
Problem is, Arnett had a contractual conflict of interest.
For the better part of a decade, Arnett has done voice-over work for General Motors — as the voice of GMC Trucks. NBC’s new “Knight,” however, is “played” by a Ford Mustang.
What’s more, Ford isn’t simply providing cars for “Knight Rider.” It’s taking an active role in the marketing and branding of the pic, a backdoor pilot for a possible series. Ford’s logo even appears all over NBC’s on-air promos for the pic.
Not surprisingly, when GM found out about the Ford connection, it asked Arnett to pull out.
“I was very excited at the prospect of playing the part of KITT in the new ‘Knight Rider’ movie,” Arnett said. “However, because of a long relationship with General Motors as the voice of GMC Trucks, I had to respectfully withdraw from the project.”
While NBC and Universal Media Studios will have to scramble to replace Arnett’s dialogue with Kilmer’s work, the upside is landing a well-known name for the part. In addition to his roles in pics such as “Batman Forever,” “Heat” and “Top Gun,” Kilmer has done plenty of voice-over work, including the voice of Moses in 1998’s “The Prince of Egypt.”