In the world of extreme sports, there aren't many athletes who can rival the brass cojones of the Nitro Circus crew. The gang of thrill-seeking superjocks has been inspiring wannabe daredevils with their often ridiculous, always risky routines since their TV debut in 2006.
Their insane adventures often beg the question, "Is there anything they won't do?" The answer, naturally, is "No, they'll do anything" -- including film. Nitro Circus: The Movie 3-D hits theaters today.
Travis Pastrana and Jolene Van Vugt, two of Nitro Circus' most recognizable stars, took some time away from endangering their lives to talk to us about following their stuntman dreams, the scariest tricks they've ever done, and who cried on the Nitro Circus movie set.
Travis Pastrana is a legend in world of action sports, and has seemingly conquered every motorized challenge under the sun, from motocross to rally racing. His list of awards and accolades run the gamut, and include a title as the most successful competitor in the history of X Games Freestyle Motocross, the 125cc National Outdoor Motocross Champion, and holder of multiple world records.
His pseudo-sister, Jolene Van Vugt, is equally impressive. She was the first CMRC Women's Canadian Motocross National Champion, the first female to backflip a full-sized dirt bike, and holds several world records in her own right.
Cultist: I heard Nitro Circus Live was just renewed for season two. Congrats!
Travis: Wow, well that's news to us. Thanks!
How did you guys originally meet?
Travis: We actually met through racing. We've known each other since our early teens. Jolene was a motocross racer and so was I. Then, closer to 2005 she came over and we tried to get her to do a backflip. That's when we found out how awesome and durable she was and how well she fit in with the team.
Are there any special techniques or tricks you use to get revved up for your stunts?
Jolene: With the live show and when something is making me really nervous, I really just like to listen to some music. One sort of silly thing I do is listen to Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me." I've been doing it for years, and when we jumped into the Grand Canyon it was one of the songs I listened to.
I know you've both had dozens of injuries -- any idea how many?
Travis: No. I mean we lost track years and years ago. People sometimes ask, why would you keep doing it? Well you wake up with a passion and you get to travel the world with your best friends and really be creative and work outside of the normal rules and boundaries of people who have desk jobs. I couldn't imagine living any other way.
Jolene: We feel really blessed. Every day I'm just so grateful that I have such a great group of friends and that we've been able to create our own careers with such a unique thing as Nitro. Not a lot of girls are able to make a living riding motorcycles. It's pretty amazing.
What do you tell the legions of fans who wanna "try it at home," so to speak?
Travis: Don't try it at home without a lot of practice! Our goal for the movie is that people get outside, get off the couch, put down the video games, be creative. Don't just go hurl yourself out of an airplane without preparation; don't go trying a dirt bike without learning how to ride it.
Jolene: But we want to encourage people to go out and try things if they've always wanted to. Go learn to ride a dirt bike if you've always wanted to. If you've always wanted to skydive, go try it. We really want to inspire people to have a good time with life.
Jolene, you were a stunt rider in The Dark Knight Rises. A behind-the-scenes Catwoman, so to speak. What was it like driving the Bat Pod?
Jolene: That for me was a pretty big deal -- a dream come true, actually. I'd been wanting to do Hollywood stunts since I was a teen, so to get that phone call was pretty surreal. I actually thought someone was prank calling me!
I loved getting to work on that movie. It was one of the most amazing and challenging motorcycles I'd ever ridden. I was honored to help represent such an amazing project.
What's your favorite scene/stunt in the new flick?
Travis: It's really hard to pinpoint. Every stunt was just so much fun! There was one called the Chopper Flopper. We hooked a ski rope to the wheel of a chopper and we were going down a slip and slide, floating on a boat, driven by one of our friends, and launching, flying taking off at 70 mph, flying 200 feet in distance. For me it was one of the more fun stunts, but for someone like Tommy, who hasn't had a lot of air time, it was the most horrifying.
Jolene: But Tommy had a turnaround moment, which is really, really cool. He actually broke down. You'll see it in the film. He was so scared, but afterwards, he said thank you for pushing me through it. He was the only person who actually cried in Nitro Circus.
Have you had any breakdown moments like that? Stunts that put that kind of fear into you?
Jolene: For me it's when I'm doing something that I'm very nervous about. Like jumping into the Grand Canyon -- even doing the backflip for the first time. I wanted to do it, I wanted to stop crashing, I wanted to land on two wheels. With everything we do there's an element of nerves.
Travis: There's actually one clip in the movie that's a starting clip, you might not even notice it. I was trying a double backflip and it was a fail. That was my scariest moment in a very long time.
What was different about doing the movie versus the show?
Travis: The biggest thing was that we were our own production company. With the movie we were in charge of our destiny. It was all kind of on our shoulders.
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Any surprises from the film you wanna reveal? Or anything you think will surprise audiences?
Travis: We had a really good storyline that went through the whole film, whereas nothing with the show really had a storyline before. That was kinda cool. It had more time to allow everyone to really relate to the athletes and characters.
Also, the 3D element. I was always against 3D, I thought it was a gimmick, but with this film it adds so much to the depth and perspective of the stunts.
"Nitro Circus the Movie, 3D" opens in theaters today.