When a newscaster comes on the radio to report on a robbery foiled by an officer on duty, my mind instantly leaps to an image of a cop standing in a pile of doody. Needless to say, I was the first kid on my block to discover (and delight in) Johnny Knoxville and the Jackass gang.
Jackass: Daddy and Baby
A few weeks after my discovery, and a pair of rather erudite friends are over for dinner. What better dessert is there than watching Johnny in a crowded parking lot, placing a mock-baby-in-car-seat on the driver’s side roof and beginning to take off, to the shock of those around him?
“Do you think that’s funny?” one of my friends asks. “What kind of a tawdry mind thinks that up? He could have given someone a heart attack!”
The more she goes on, the harder I laugh. “Oh, yeah,” Johnny recalls. “People were really angry with that one.” There is a happy ending. No matter how upset she might have acted, don’t think my friend didn’t become a series devotee. She also accompanied me to the theatre for each subsequent feature. “Aww! That’s sweet,” Johnny says. “Thank you!”
Action Point is the first of Knoxville’s films to merge stunts and story. It wasn’t screened for the press, so rest assured that I’ll be there for an opening day matinee.
Scott Marks: How was it determined that you would be the one to welcome viewers to Jackass?
Johnny Knoxville: I developed the show along with Jeff Tremayne and Spike Jonze. I had done this thing for the Big Brother video where I tested self-defense equipment on myself. I introduced myself, told them my name, and walked them through it. When Jackass began, the other guys really hadn’t appeared on camera that much. I was the one who was more comfortable on camera. Everyone else caught up (and surpassed me) real quick.
SM: Times have changed so much in the 15-plus years since Jackass was released, there are things you would never get away with today. “The Burglars” schtick where you and Bam (Margera) drop through an office ceiling like a pair of ninjas… one of you might have taken a bullet were you to try something like that today.
JK: It was sketchy back then, too. (Laughing.)
SM: The one member of the team to leave after the first movie was Chris Raab. Anyone who proved with scientific precision that it was possible to move your bowels while running at full speed earned my eternal affection.
JK: That was an amazing bit. Raab was so free-spirited and up for it. One of my favorite things we did with him… Bam had quit school when he was a sophomore. And Chris was kicked out of school not long after for defecating on a locker. We’re filming a bit one day where he’s pooping next to a stop sign. And the principal who kicked him out of school drives by and sees him pooping. (Laughing.) It made everyone so happy. Chris got sober and he’s doing great now. He’s working in film behind-the-scenes and he’s healthy and happy.
SM: It wouldn’t be a Jackass movie without a cameo by Rip Taylor. How did you come in contact with him and how is his health?
JK: I haven’t seen Rip in a few years, so I hope his health is good. When we did the first movie, we were talking about celebrities we wanted to get to appear. They started throwing out some big names that I didn’t care about. No one really did. And out of nowhere I said, “Let’s get Rip Taylor.” Everyone agreed. We were very happy to have him.
SM: I’m doing research and I run across an article titled, “The Sad Truth Behind Why You Don't See Johnny Knoxville Anymore.” It goes on to say that the majority of the movies you appeared in were bombs and that you were slowly being phased out of the entertainment industry.
JK: Uh huh.
SM: Two paragraphs later it says Bad Grandpa smashed the box office after raking in $151.8 million - which is seriously impressive considering the movie's $15 million budget. Why won’t people take Jackasses seriously?
JK Laughing): It’s a good title for a story… makes you want to click on it. A little clickbait. I realize that it’s clickbait, but it still doesn’t feel great.
SM: If it was a story about someone that rubbed me the wrong way, I would have loved it. But you’ve broken bones to make me laugh. I owe you.
JK: Thanks, man!
SM: In 2000, if somebody would have told you that Jeff Tremaine would go on to have as many features to his credit as Spike Jonze you would have laughed, right? Did Sofia Coppola get custody of the talent in the divorce?
JK (Bursts out laughing): Is that the case now?
SM: Yes, sir. Seriously, this is your first stunt film without Jeff Tremaine riding herd. This is Tim Kirby’s feature debut. Who is he and how did you two hook up?
JK: Tim came to my attention after I watched a short film he directed on The Clash. I met with him and talked about what I had in mind for this movie and it turned out we were thinking the same things. He’s very collaborative and fun to work with.
SM: I was watching one of the Jackass movies and a scene where’s you’re having stitches sewn into your head reminds me of an outtake from a Jackie Chan movie. Sure enough, you and Jackie worked together on a film called Skiptrace. It’s a very entertaining action comedy that did well overseas. Why didn’t it play stateside?
JK: I don’t know. I was just an actor on that. I loved working with Jackie. The things he used to do… all those stunts. I acquainted myself with all his film before I went off to do it. Police Story and Project A, all those early films just blow you away. He was doing stunts the way we did them. He didn’t rehearse back them. He told me that he didn’t know people rehearsed until he came to America.
SM: The resourceful ingenuity is still there. That scene where he kicks it out with a Russian nesting doll was sublime. You have children. How old are they and have they seen Jackass?
JK: I have a 6-year-old daughter, 8-year-old son, and a 22-year old daughter. My oldest was like four when Jackass came out. She could see stuff where Wee-Man played the Oompa Loompa, but I didn’t want her seeing anything inappropriate or stuff where Daddy got hurt. The first movie she got to see was Jackass 3D. I made her sit next to me. I had a list of objectionable scenes with me. I said, “Sometimes I’m going to ask you to cover your eyes or ears and sometimes you gotta cover both." So she could see most of that movie. With my youngest kids, they once caught a glimpse of a picture of Daddy being run over by a buffalo in my office, but I don’t show them any stunts. The boy will get this funny look in his eye as if he’s wired for it and I don’t want him getting hurt.
SM: Out of all the jackasses, why do you think you are the only one to have made the transition to the big screen? I mean, you don’t see Erin McGeehee working with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
JK: That conversation would be pretty great! Pretty short, but pretty great. I don’t know. I think I’ve probably pursued it more. The guys are all funny and capable… I have a family to support.
SM: There’s a line in Skiptrace that pretty much sums up Jackie’s feelings towards dealing with characters of the opposite sex: “It’s not honorable to fight girls.” If there is to be a Jackass 4 — and there won’t be if your recent interview with Howard Stern is any indication — will we see our first female Jackass emerge in this era of equality?
JK: We’ve had some girls on the TV show and movies… one of the girls on the TV show got really hurt. It crushed everybody. We decided we don’t want… it’s like your kid sister getting hurt. None of us wanted to feel that way. If we did bring in a girl, we’d probably be doing pranks and you can blame me for that. With my kids, I’m a helicopter parent. If they’re climbing a tree, I’m standing under them. When they say something naughty, I’m laughing harder than anyone. But when it comes to their safety, I get really squirrely.
(At this point, the rep breaks in to inform us there’s time for one more question.)
SM: You worked with Kevin Spacey on Elvis and Nixon. Did uh…you know, in light of your boyish good looks… can we add a #Metoo to your Twitter feed?
JK (Laughing): Oh, Jesus. Don’t go there.