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Jack the Lads
Roe McDermott meets Johnny Knoxville and Jeff Tremaine as Jackass 3D hits cinemas
Roe McDermott, 05 Nov 2010
Waiting outside the Merrion suite where I’ll be interviewing Johnny Knoxville and Jeff Tremaine about their latest film, Jackass 3D, I’m quite worried. What the hell will they have done to this beautiful, plush hotel? I’m imagining a disaster of The Hangover proportions: broken television sets, a wild animal in the bathroom, and…oh good God, please don’t let there be an abandoned baby…
Upon entering the room, however, I’m pleasantly surprised. The room is intact, there are no cries from either animal or human and there are no Bruno-like contraptions set up to terrify the hotel cleaning staff. So far, so good. Until I spot several bruises on Johnny Knoxville’s face. Surely they’re not left over from filming?? “No no,” he drawls, “they’re just from last night, just some wrestling with the boys….” Ah. It seems the Jackass boys are still the same as ever. So let’s get this interview rolling before the crew comes in and paint-bombs me or something – you know they will.
THE NEW FILM
So lads, I hear you’ve been busy soaking up the Irish culture – what’s this about your obsession with the song ‘Aon Focail Eile’?
Johnny: Aww man it’s so great! Richie Kavanagh man, I’ve just downloaded one of his CDs. I was saying to Jeff last night, if we had known about that song before we had made the film it would have been it, we would have found a place for it!
Maybe for the next one then…if there will be one. After every film you say it’s the last one!
Johnny: Yeah, we always say that and then we end up doing another one, so we’re not making predictions anymore!”
Jeff: Yeah, this film is that last one, just like all the others! We always say that after the movies because they take a lot out of you, and it takes a while, both physically and mentally, to recover. Our current four year plan seems to be working well!
So who was the one who pushed for this movie?
Jeff, pointing at Johnny: We were waiting on him!
Johnny: Everybody was wanting to do it, they were just waiting on me, so when I turned to Jeff & was like “So, do you think we should do another one?” he was like “YES!” and we called the guys, and everyone immediately said yes.
I hear you shot over 2 movies worth of footage, how hard was it to edit it down?
Johnny: It gets super-competitive, trying to get stuff into the film.
Jeff: And it’s so hard trying to get down to the final line-up, literally a lot of time and flesh and bone are put into so many of the stunts that it’s hard to tell people their pain was wasted. But it helps knowing we have Jackass 3.5 coming out later in the year, because we can put in a lot of the cut footage.
Is it true the films came about because the show was being censored?
Jeff: Yeah I mean for the TV show there were just things we couldn’t do, but with the films they’re pretty much exactly what they wanted to be. And the great thing about this movie is that it’s our ten year anniversary so we got to re-do some of our favourite stunts, like the Poo Cocktail Supreme, which sees Steve-O in a Port-a-Loo bungee, was an upgrade of the first thing we ever shot with MTV’s money, which was putting him in a Port-a-Potty and flipping it upside down.
In the film you make a lot of references to Steve-O, who has battled drug and alcohol addiction, doing stunts sober. Was it a different experience for him do you think?
Johnny: Yeah it was different for him, but you know he was scared shooting things in the past – he was never drunk doing stunts, but I think he was a little intimidated when we started shooting the movie to see if he could do them sober. And this is totally his best movie, we’re so proud of him.
Jeff: Aw yeah, and he was so fun to shoot with on this movie, he was so clear and present.
Johnny: He was writing bits for this movie, and he hadn’t really done that before, it was great.
I asked Spike Jonze what the hardest thing was about being on set, expecting it to be the insurance or the health and safety checks, but he just said “The paranoia, the sheer paranoia!” Do the on-set pranks ever stop, do you ever call a truce for a day?
Johnny: No way - look at me, we’re not even shooting and I have bruises!
Jeff: I try, I say it constantly but no-one listens to me! I mean, they respect me I think, but the pranks don’t have anything to do with disrespect.
Johnny: It’s just a very physical hug – we hurt you because we care!
What was the worst prank ever played on-set?
Jeff: Sending Bam into the pit of snakes this time around was pretty horrible, seeing as he has a phobia…
Johnny: He cried!
That was fairly evil alright…
Jeff: Yeah but during the whole movie he’s sneaking around and peeing on people, he really had it coming!
THE STUNTS AND INJURIES
So how do you decide who does what stunt or who gets pranked?
Johnny: “Raise your hand who’s terrified of snakes? Bam? Okay, that’s you!”
Jeff: Like Steve-O does the Port-a-Loo bungee because he’s scared of roller-coasters and bungees…
Johnny: He’ll work with alligators, sharks, but put him on a ride that teenagers love and that’s terrifying for him…so we put him in a bungee!
Jeff: Though he doesn’t seem to mind the poo aspect of it, oddly…
Your poor camera man definitely seems to mind, he pukes more than anyone else! Is there a lot of that onset?
Jeff: Oh yeah, I mean with that stunt, what you don’t see is that we did that on a really windy day, so that smell was wafting everywhere
Johnny: I had to change shirts, some got on me.
Niiiice. And the other really gross stunt is the Sweat Cocktail, where Steve-O drinks a cup full of Preston’s sweat after Preston burns some calories on a treadmill.
Jeff: And what you don’t see is that we had space heater sin there, so the room was about 120 degrees, so that room was so hot, you were already feeling off balance and then when the vomiting starts, it’s contagious!
And what about you Johnny, what’s your limit?
Johnny: I don’t like the gross stuff, that’s not my thing, but any of the stunts I’m up for it.
You don’t seem to mind having animals beat the crap out of you! Is that scary, working with animals, it seems like it’s very much out of your control?
Jeff: I think we’re just letting the animals do something they really want to do. Something we all want to do…
Johnny: Yeah I mean I nearly broke my neck during our Invisible Man stunt with the bull in this movie. I got flipped and when you’re up in the air you suddenly go “Wow, I have no control”, and when I land there’s no control, and you’re just hoping that the bullfighters get to me before he does.
Jeff: But those bulls are constantly trying to kill people who are always tricking it and outsmarting it, so for it to get a clean shot on Johnny, you’re really doing a service for that bull! And the ram in the films that gets really pissed off, he lives in a cage by himself and they love to run into things, it loved every second!
Do you still get worried when someone’s about to do a big stunt?
Johnny: Oh yeah, we worry all the time.
Jeff: Oh God yeah, shooting a Jackass movie is really stressful. Your nerves are shot, and not just because you’re always looking behind you to see if you’re about to get pranked, but watching your friends doing something that’s never been done before when we don’t know how it’s going to go – there are just so many factors we’re not in control of.
Johnny: Yeah, I’d much rather do a stunt than watch one of my friends do it, I’m like a nervous mother watching them.
Says the guy who’s the first one to laugh at them…
Johnny: Well…yeah. But they’re always alive!
Jeff: Once you’re still breathing, it’s fair game!
So what do you do when things go wrong? I know you Johnny had a very unfortunate accident…
Johnny: Are you talking about my penis?
Johnny: Yeah, basically I went up a ramp on a motorbike and they were like “Right, whatever you do, don’t let go of the motorbike, because it will come down on top of you”, and whaddya know…The handlebars went right into my crotch and yeah, broken pee-pee for me.
Jeff: And so he went into surgery, and we went to the bar.
Johnny: Yeah, he rang and was like “You okay buddy? Yeah? Well okay then talk to you soon!” and went off drinking! But there was no preparation for that, I turned up that morning and was like “I got this, I can do that.”
Jeff: Technically you rode a motorcycle for the first time the day before…
This kind of sounds like a Darwinian plan, trying to ensure you crazy boys wouldn’t try to reproduce and create another generation of hedonistic self-harmers…
Johnny: Well I have two kids now, one’s only ten months old so Darwin can suck it!
What was the worst injury sustained?
Jeff: Loomis Fall got the worst
Johnny: Oh, Loomis. He jumps off a trampoline into a jet engine’s exhaust holding an umbrella and is just sent flying, so in one stunt he broke his collar bone in three places and had to get surgery on his hand. He’s just so skinny, he has a horrible diet so was blown away.
Yeah, blame the diet, not the jet engine!
Johnny: Ha, yeah that’s some classic Jackass reasoning right there!
There are a few moments in the film where the cast seems pretty reluctant to do stunts, like before the lads run through Electric Avenue – a maze full of tasers - or when Pontius gets stung repeatedly by a scorpion. Is that the norm for the films or were the cast more wary this time around?
Jeff: I think there were a lot less of those moments this time actually! They’re always a bit reluctant, but this time everyone pretty much signed up to shoot everything. But they’ve always had that dread – they’re not the bravest guys, just the dumbest!
Do you tone down the descriptions of the stunts to your family?
Johnny: I don’t tell my parents what I’m doing; they say “You just leave that dangerous stuff to everybody else!” I don’t know what they think I get paid for!
Jeff: I don’t know how to tell my wife about half the things we’re doing
Johnny: But then your wife doesn’t have the same concerns that mine does! I don’t let her come to the set if I’m doing something really bad but she wanted to know everything I was doing – they were fun conversations!
And what happens if the kids turn around and say “Dad, I want to be just like you!”
Johnny: Ooh, pranks are okay, but no stunts!
Jeff: His daughter’s fourteen though, and she’s actually in the movie. She punches me in the face at one point!
Johnny: And she hula-hoops in the scene where I’m dressed as the old man making out with his grand-daughter
Your daughter watches you dressing up as a granddad and scoring some young one?? Is that not a bit weird??
Jeff: She’s grown up around a lot of weird stuff.
Johnny: Yeah, everything’s normal to her! She’ll be hanging out on set and Pontius is in a thong with a ukulele and they’ll just be talking normally and I’ll giggle, and Pontius is all “What, she doesn’t know any better!” and they’ll just go back to talking!
I cannot wait to see what kind of boys she starts bringing home!
Johnny: Oh God, why would you say that to me?
Ha, I actually managed to freak out the unshockable Jackass boys. I think my work here is done. I just hope I don’t get whacked by a giant high-fiving hand on the way out…