A couple weeks ago, Johnny Knoxville and director Jeff Tremaine came to San Francisco to celebrate the upcoming release of Jackass 3D. I had the opportunity to talk with them. So as I introduced myself, Mr. Tremaine complimented my attire. I, being the gentleman I am, decided to return compliment towards his jaunty captain’s hat (a la Captain and Tenille).
“You…look…nice…as…well,” I said with deliberate and awkward pauses.
“That was forced,” joked Johnny.
“I know right,” said Jeff.
I was pretty sure that the ice was broken with that exchange.
Not being a huge fan of Jackass (mainly because of my low tolerance of seeing people beat themselves up or seeing them bath in excrement), I didn’t really know how to approach them. The extent of my knowledge of the franchise was a couple of episodes I have seen on TV and that this was their third movie.
Even so, I am all for seeing guys act a fool — and in 3D no less. Here’s what they had to say about their masterpiece of idiotic gags.
Q: When making the movie, what stunts came to mind? And were you specifically looking for 3D-friendly stunts?
Johnny: We didn’t write for 3-D – actually, we did write a couple of stunts in 3-D, but it had to be funny in 2-D first. Later we thought we could add to certain bits that were in 3-D.
Jeff: We had a few stunts we wanted to do since the second one. Certain ideas we came up with, we decided to tuck them away in case we wanted to make a movie later.
Johnny: A lot of really good ideas we banked and we didn’t shoot them.
Jeff: Like that idea (points to the movie poster with a Johnny Knoxville in a tuxedo on a jetski in midair) it’s been sitting around for a while.
Jeff: We were scared to shoot in 3-D at first because it might have changed the way we do things. We did some testing. We weren’t only scared about how the big cameras and the big extra crew might slow us down, but we were wondering if they could handle us and what we do. They had to deal with a lot of Steve O throwing up and a lot of naked Johnny.
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Q: Can we expect any interesting sight gags in this third installment? And is there anything really special about it?
Jeff: When you see this film, you will see that it is the most physical one.
Johnny: It’s fun to add sight gags to physical stunts. We are directing a few things more than usual. Like there’s this one sight gag I saw where a Chinese artist painted himself into the background of a brick wall. You couldn’t see him. That’s funny, but it’s half an idea. (I thought) how about if I get painted into a background in a bull ring. That takes the sight gag to another level.
Q: What do you think is the most painful stunt in the movie?
Johnny: There’s a lot –- like the “Not-so-invisible Man.” The only thing that broke my fall was the back of my neck. The bull actually saved me because I was flipping around and right before my neck hit the ground, he kicks me in the head and altered my fall just enough to where I am still walking and sitting here.
Jeff:We also had a fighter jet parked and we used the thrusters as a wind tunnel thing and a couple of our guys got hurt by that.
Q: Have you ever been approached to do a stunt and didn’t do it out of fear of being injured?
Johnny: The only time we will pass on a stunt is when there is negative shit (happening) on set. If everyone is psyched and positive then we’ll do it. If someone is like “I don’t know man…” –- then we won’t. That’s very rare. We were shooting one thing on a ski slope and someone on that slope – not from our production crew – died that day. That was the first bad thing. Then we were in the same location as the Donner party – that was the second bad thing.
Jeff: It was bad energy that day, so we just moved on.
Q: Have you ever thought about having a female in the Jackass crew?
Johnny: We had a girl on the TV show – Stephanie Hodge. She’s awesome, but she got hurt once and the whole class deflated. It was like your sister getting hurt – and we don’t want to see girls getting hurt.
Q: Why do you think Jackass has resonated with audiences?
Jeff: I think it resonates with people because it’s an exceptional group of idiots that people seem to like –- and our relationships are real. We really care about each other. It goes beyond the guys –- it’s the cameramen and the crew. We’ve been together for so long. There’s a real family vibe when we do it.
Johnny: We’re mean to each other, but we love each other. We’re not mean to outsiders. We’re not trying to make assholes out of anyone else – there’s a certain spirit. We’re very focused on who we’re mean to. (laughs)
Jeff: I always like it when people intellectualize Jackass because we’re pretty stupid.
Johnny: Yeah – like when smarty pants critics ride on us.
Jeff: Yeah – like what kind of smart stuff are you going to say about us?
Johnny: You don’t need press to tell you it’s funny or it’s not funny. It’s a very primal thing – it’s real stupid and it comes from a good place.
Jeff: The reviews I like best are the bad ones.
Jackass 3D opens in theaters October 15.