Once upon a time, MTV used to play music videos. Then, slowly, the Viacom-owned network began chiseling away at its foundation with shows such as Pimp My Ride and Cribs. But the biggest jackasses at MTV weren't network execs and washed-up-rappers-turned-hosts (cough, Xzibit); they were nine dudes who enjoyed inflicting seriously painful fun at each others' expense.
Nothing fancy, Jackass simply showed straight videos of people doing outrageous stunts and getting hurt along the way. The reality/comedy hybrid quickly grew from a half-hour MTV show to a multimillion-dollar franchise spawning several spinoffs. Meanwhile, Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, and Bam Margera became household names — and very rich along the way.
To celebrate ten years of deranged and disgusting stunts, New Times sat down with Knoxville and Jackass cocreator and director Jeff Tremaine to talk about their new movie, Jackass 3D; trashing Jet Skis; and mousetrapped testicles.
New Times: There's heavy competition this year in the 3-D department. If Toy Story and Jackass are both up for best 3-D movie, who wins?
Jeff Tremaine: Oh, c'mon, that animated stuff, that's old. We're bringing the new stuff, the dumbest stuff ever filmed with 3-D cameras.
For the filming, you worked with a 3-D camera crew in addition to your regular crew. Are they off-limits when it comes to getting pranked or kicked in the nuts on set?
Johnny Knoxville: No one is verbally [off-limits], but our attacks are really focused on ourselves and the crew we've been with for ten years.
What's it like working with animals?
Tremaine: We found a ram that is just like a movie star. It knew exactly what we wanted and always delivered.
Knoxville: Not a people person, but a movie star.
Manny Puig has been around for a lot of those wild bits since the series was on MTV. How'd you meet the Cuba-born, Florida-based animal guy?
Tremaine: Chris [Pontius] and I were watching TV at my house one night. He and I are both nature buffs, so we had Animal Planet on. We see this dude jump out of a boat, onto the back of a shark, wrestle the shark, and pick it up out of the water. And he's wearing a Speedo.
We were like, "Look at that dude. He looks like Tarzan and jumped on a shark and picked it up out of the water. We've got to find that guy."
The second time we came back to Florida to shoot, he heard we were looking for him. That was the time Steve-O snorted a worm and Manny thought it was funny. We just became friends instantly. [Laughs.] He gives the guys a sense of security around dangerous animals, which is totally false because all he's doing is putting them in harm's way.
Knoxville: [Laughs.] He designed his own spear, and luckily he always had the spear on set during Jackass 3-D. We could be filming whatever scene, in a hotel or whatever, and he'll just be standing there with a spear. He's Tarzan.
When Jackass the series was on MTV, there were a lot of street pranks, but in this film, you're crashing a personal watercraft through someone's privacy hedges. How do you find someone willing to let you destroy their landscaping?
Knoxville: That was just some dude we found that had a really nice pool. There were no neighbors; it was just a big hill on the other side — straight out of water, onto land. Baboom.
Tremaine: We've done that stunt twice. We did it at Bam's parents' house, and it just wasn't as spectacular as it could've been because of the limitations of the length of the pool. We needed about a 50- to 60-foot-long pool to get the Jet Ski up to speed, and our location guy found that house.
Your friend and fellow Jackass, Steve-O, has been sober for two years. Was it a collective decision to have a dry set?
Tremaine: The guy doing the stunt is always sober, ever since the beginning. It's not like, "Oh, you guys are just drunk and doing this stupid stuff."
Knoxville: Jeff and I and everyone talked, and we want to keep Steve-O sober, so we didn't have beer on set. On the first two movies, we had a beer sponsor, and there was beer around the set, but not on this one. We'd go to bars afterwards, but Steve-O wouldn't go; we wanted to do everything we could to keep him sober.
Jackass fans are pretty hard-core. What is some of the ridiculous stuff people do when they meet you guys?
Knoxville: Some guy had written out a release form last night [in Miami] exonerating me from, like, him coming after me legally if I kicked him in the nuts. I signed it, but I didn't kick him.
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Tremaine: I would've done it. [Laughs.] We had that one guy, the dick with the hammer, dude.
Knoxville: Oh, yeah. A guy tried to impress us in a bar on Valentine's Day. We had mousetraps and were putting them on each other's ears and everything at the bar, and some guy pushes his way — 'I'll put that on my dick,' he says. We're like, 'All right,' and he [trapped] his dick, his balls. Then the owner of the bar came out with this big hammer: 'How about this?' And the guy is like, 'Yeah, I'll do it.'
Tremaine: He put his dick up [on the bar] and set the hammer up. The hammer just kind of fell and bam. It was bad.
Knoxville: What a dummy.