“Jackass Forever” is the title of the most recent film in the Jackass franchise, which was created by Johnny Knoxville.
Johnny Knoxville has reached the age of 50. This may not appear noteworthy when viewed in isolation; but, when considered in conjunction with the fact that Knoxville has served as the ringleader and master of ceremonies for the production team responsible for the “Jackass” brand for more than 20 years, it becomes noteworthy.
Beginning with the short-lived MTV series that brought them all to prominence, the franchise has built a devoted fanbase with films such as “Jackass: The Movie,” “Jackass Number Two,” and “Jackass 3D,” along with a variety of spinoffs and affiliated movies and shows. One such example is “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa,” which was released in 2013 and was nominated for an Academy Award for makeup and hair
Knoxville and the rest of the crew once again get together for a series of outrageous stunts and pranks that make a mockery of the fragility of the human body and become a triumph of friendship and laughter. The theme of aging and mortality is surprisingly tender and poignant throughout the new season of “Jackass Forever,” which follows the same formula as previous seasons. (Jeff Tremaine is the director of the movie, which is having its wide distribution debut today, and Spike Jonze is one of the producers of the movie.) Knoxville was forced to undergo months of treatment and rehabilitation after suffering serious injuries while doing a stunt in which he performed a magic trick in front of a charging bull. His injuries included a broken wrist, a broken rib, a concussion, and a brain hemorrhage.
However, the movie maintains its sense of anarchic absurdism, giving the viewer a sensation of shock and delight along the lines of “I can’t believe I just witnessed that.” (In addition to an excessive amount of closeup male nudity.) Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Dave England, Ehren McGhehey, Preston Lacy, and Jason “Wee Man” Acura are among the cast members who have reprised their roles in the new movie. Joining them are newcomers Sean McInerney, Zach Holmes, Eric Manaka, Davon “Jasper” Wilson, and Rachel Wolfson. Also featured in the cast is Jason “Wee Man” Acuna. Cameos are made by Machine Gun Kelly, Eric André, Tyler the Creator, and Alia Shawkat among others.
At the most recent WWE wrestling Royal Rumble event, Knoxville competed and was knocked out of the competition by Sami Zayn. The following evening, Zayn attended the premiere of “Jackass Forever,” where he confronted Knoxville on the red carpet. Knoxville then used a cattle prod to drive Zayn away from the event. In the pause that existed between those two events, Knoxville was available for an interview with The Times.
A scene from “Jackass Forever” featuring Danger Ehren on the left and Johnny Knoxville on the right.
After the promotion of the movie is over, do you intend to continue wrestling professionally?
It would appear that I do not have a choice in the matter because of that coward Sami Zayn. I’m going to have to get even. If you see me in the ring, you’ll see Sami Zayn flying out of the ring shortly after that.
During the course of the movie’s promotion, you’ve been very vocal about the fact that you’ve suffered a few head injuries and that you’re doing your best to take it easy. It does not seem like the best strategy to tackle the problem by engaging in professional wrestling.
I’m not too impressed with those other men. That is nothing in comparison to what I do for a living. The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) includes a few of incredibly fierce female wrestlers, but the male wrestlers aren’t quite as tough.
Let’s talk about the movie “Jackass Forever,” which, to the best of my knowledge, is the first time that a major Hollywood studio has ever produced a film that features so many extreme closeups of male buttholes, scrotums, and penises.
Chris Pontius holds the record for most male full-frontal nudity exposures in the history of motion pictures. In my opinion, there is no room for debate about it. And for that, he ought to be honored with a prize of some kind. I mean, blue movies do show more of that, but in real films — and I don’t know if you can call this a legitimate picture, but it is going to be released in a cinema — they show more of that kind of thing.
It is being distributed by Paramount Pictures and is a part of a film series that has been nominated for an Academy Award. Johnny, I believe that you may rely on this information.
Okay, I’ll go with that. However, there is a lot of c— in this movie, and I hope that everyone laughs their asses off during it.
You guys really go for it with the male nudity in this picture in particular, right from the beginning of the credits when it starts. Was there a dialogue going on, and was that on purpose? Why did you choose to put such a strong emphasis on that aspect in this movie?
I really have no idea. We exchanged some words back and forth. After filming a significant amount of c— and ball-related content, we came to the conclusion that we should take a break for a few weeks and not continue filming. And this would continue for almost three days. And we’re like, “it’s kind of funnier if his court,” —’s so that’s what we’re going with.
Do you think it’s vital for the movies to contain things that you couldn’t do on the TV show, or that the movies need to be more explicit?
No. We do not engage in intellectual speculation over this matter. Simply put, we make phone calls throughout the day. “Uh, yeah, it’d kind of be funnier if he was nude,” the speaker said. I really have no idea. There are numerous naked scenes that were cut from the movie because they did not add to the overall comedic value of the movie. However, there are moments when being naked makes something funnier. Therefore, there is a significant amount of nudity in “4.5,” which is a planned collection of outtakes. And it’s wonderful. There are so many amazing sections that were cut from this movie, but it still has so many great bits. You can tell if the movie is good by seeing if it has a score of 4.5 out of 5. There were some aspects of it that we didn’t want to remove, but we were forced to do it nonetheless.
I was unaware that you had produced only 24 or 25 episodes of the MTV show until just now. Even after two years, it had not even entered production. I always had the impression that you guys were going to be producing that show for a tremendously long time.
We were only broadcasting for something like nine or ten months in total. We lasted around the same amount of time as the Sex Pistols. After that, I walked away. But leaving MTV while we were still under contract with them led to the birth of the movies because the network wasn’t pleased when I left, and after some back-and-forth, someone proposed that we adapt the show into a movie instead. Both Jeff and Spike believed that it was possible to accomplish.
In my brain, I was thinking something along the lines of, “Well, we’re going to have a scripted version, aren’t we? What on earth does that even suggest? They responded by saying “No, we just do a racier version that we can’t show on TV.” In addition to that, I thought to myself, “Oh, that’s a fantastic idea. Let’s get that done.
Do you find it surprising that the term “Jackass” has continued to be used in popular culture after more than 20 years?
Sure. Even the idea that it would be broadcast on television was laughable to us. Due to the fact that our pilot was canceled, we had no reason to believe that it would ever be shown on television. After that, we had the idea that nobody was going to watch it. And then we had a movie, and after that, we were like, “Well, no one is going to come.” Therefore, we never cease to be shocked, but at the same time, we are quite grateful for what we have been able to accomplish. The reason for this is the audience members.
What leads you to believe that is the case? What do you think has contributed to the enduring popularity of the show “Jackass”?
Well, I think it brings back a lot of people’s memories of the ridiculous things they did when they were kids. That settles it, then. You can tell that we all adore one other, and others enjoy hanging out with us because of that. But at the end of the day, I have the impression that it is a unique bunch of males, and now girls as well. Everyone keeps coming back because of the spirit and the sense of togetherness.
While I was watching “Jackass Forever,” it really struck me how often you’re watching a group of people laughing at someone else, and even though it should appear to mean or even kind of cruel, it never does. This is something that really hit me as I was watching the show. There is usually a sense of camaraderie and friendship present in the atmosphere. That is truly incredible to hear.
Okay, well, I appreciate it. We are quite aware of the tone, and in addition to that, we are all working through it together. Every single person will, at some point in their life, be put through hell or be subjected to some form of torment. Everything eventually finds its way back to everyone. Therefore, it’s not as if we’re singling out anyone in particular.
The themes of growing up and getting older are explored in depth throughout this particular film. To have it still be you guys now that you’re older, does that impact the show’s meaning in any way, and does it alter the nature of the jokes in any way?
In the movie, we had a discussion on aging because it is something that needs to be addressed. There is no need in pretending. Because of this, we decided to recruit some new cast members that were younger than the rest of the cast. Because if it had just been the two of us, it could have become quite sticky. And we had a test; Spike Jonze was keen that we have a two-day test in December of 2019, and he wanted to see not just how well the new cast members are doing, but also whether or not it is sweating with the previous cast members. How does everything appear when all of us are together and doing the things that we do at this age? And after only an hour of shooting, it was already looking fantastic. It gave off a wonderful feeling. It’s like we hadn’t even stopped. Therefore, all of our worries were finally put to rest.
Do you think “Jackass” sounds different now compared to how it did in the past? How is it going to be different in the year 2022 compared to the year 2000?
My opinion is that the world has evolved. Even if the world has evolved since “Jackass” was made, the show still maintains the same vibe to it. Every single unpleasant thing said or done was directed toward the other person. We’re not attempting to make anyone else look like jerks. We are simply directing all of our misdeeds toward ourselves at this point. Therefore, I believe that it will play just as well in 2022 as it did in 2002.
Given everything that you’ve gone through together, including the highs and lows with Steve-O and Bam Margera and the passing of cast member Ryan Dunn, does it feel more emotional than it normally would?
Yeah. The friendships have not only persisted but also grown deeper over the course of time. We’ve been through, as you mentioned, a lot of different experiences both on and off screen, and it’s a very, really close-knit bunch of people. We put each other through hell, but at the end of the day, we love one another. It’s more like a family.
And in terms of your career as a performer, what does that entail for you? Although it appears that you are not performing as many of your own stunts in the new movie, you are still involved in the more dangerous scenes. How are you digesting your own development as a performer and how has that affected your performance?
Well, I do make it a point to keep the more difficult tasks for myself, and because we waited until the very end of the movie to capture the riskiest of my stunts, I had a few difficult stunts to perform after the bull attack. Due to the fact that my head was foggy for a few months, I was unable to carry out some of the activities that were important to me. Therefore, I did not have as many large stunts as I had planned since they were simply postponed or disappeared from view because I was the only one who was going to perform them.
Is it necessary for you to not ask anybody else to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself? If so, you shouldn’t ask anyone else to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself.
Because I don’t like to see my friends get seriously wounded, I choose to participate in the more dangerous stunts.
What is it about bulls that makes you want to perform dangerous stunts on them, like the one in which you were gravely injured? What is it about performing dangerous exploits with animals that compels you to do it again and again, especially given how risky it is?
God, bulls detest you with a passion, and they can’t wait to show you their skills. When you buy a bull, you know precisely what you’re going to get out of it. You can look forward to getting gold. You need only to keep moving while standing in the same place. They are not interested in color or anything else other than movement. Holy hell, I have a thing for bulls. They have never failed to meet expectations.
You mentioned how challenging it was to get back on your feet after that stunt. What was it like living during that era? Has it turned into a time for introspection and has it caused you to question why you continue to do this?
No, because I was so confused and disoriented while I was going through it. There was no time to reflect on the past or to try to intellectualize the actions I take in those instances. I was simply attempting to become better. I believe that my neurologist made it clear to me that I am unable to sustain any further blows to the head, and I get that. I have nothing else to demonstrate at this point. I felt like I’d done enough. I could still perform smaller feats—a broken wrist is a relatively minor injury, for example—but the days of taking blows to the head are finished for me. I could still perform some of the larger stunts, however.
And how would you describe the experience of attempting to construct a “Jackass” movie using COVID protocols? When you’re creating a movie like this, it seems counterintuitive to take extra precautions to protect yourself and your cast and crew from harm.
You are very literally producing the riskiest film you possibly can in the most secure manner imaginable. Maintain your disguise until you reach the arena where the bullfighting is taking place. You make it to the bullring, remove your mask before jumping in, get smoked by the bull, and are afterward transported away in an ambulance. However, before you get in the ambulance, make sure the mask is on your face.
Because we didn’t want our movie taken offline again, we gave the COVID protocols the serious attention they deserved. And fortunately, there were no large outbreaks of the disease. It was strange, but everyone in the globe is going through it at the same time, and it was just refreshing to come back to doing something that is considered to be normal. After being cooped up in our house for such a long time, even if what we do is odd, it felt amazing to just be doing it again after being confined there for so long.
It’s funny how the term “Jackass Forever” may sound exuberant and celebratory in one context, while in another one it can almost seem like a threat. Both of these interpretations are correct.
To be honest, I don’t see it as a threat at all. I really hope that people will be able to appreciate it for a very long time. Even today, “Tom and Jerry,” “The Three Stooges,” and “Buster Keaton” are popular entertainment choices. People will hopefully be able to enjoy us for years to come, regardless of whether or not we decide to do another one. That is the goal.