ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, SEPT. 21, 2006
By Steve Newton
HOLLYWOOD–Who’s the better movie star: Humphrey Bogart because he embodied macho cool in Casablanca or Johnny Knoxville because he put on a red shirt and a blindfold and offered himself to a charging bull in Jackass: Number Two? Bogie may have been more deserving of an Oscar, but you gotta give Knoxville full marks for putting his groin on the line for Hollywood.
When he shows up at a Tinseltown hotel to chat about Number Two (opening Friday [September 22]), the lanky Knoxville has taken Casual Friday to the extreme. His feet are bare, and he’s wearing cheap blue work pants with ragged cuffs and an old blue shirt that’s been spattered with what appears to be white paint and chalk. He dressed a lot fancier than this when he played a redneck hick in The Dukes of Hazzard.
Turns out that part of the mess on Knoxville’s shirt is flour that’s been recently applied by his 10-year-old “spitfire” of a daughter, Madison. She was only five or six when Jackass: The Movie was released in 2002, too young to view much of that raunchy film.
“Back then, she would never see anything where Daddy got hurt,” Knoxville notes, “but I showed her some parts of this one, like the stunts with the bull and the yak, and she just laughed. She just knows me as big sissy Daddy, and after seeing the movie she really knows me as big sissy Daddy.”
Some sissy. In Number Two, Knoxville does everything from wrestling anacondas in a kids’ ball room to exploding off a ramp on a rocket bike. His daughter might not be fully aware of the dangers her pop faces to make the Jackass films, but his wife, Melanie, sure is.
“It’s tough on her,” he says, “because for six months I’m gone, and when I’m off she knows I’m probably doin’ something not very safe. So the whole time I had to tell my family…’I’m gonna leave all the dangerous stuff to the other guys.’?”
Knoxville’s Number Two cohorts include Acuna, Steve-O, Bam Margera, Chris Pontius, Ryan Dunn, Preston Lacy, Dave England, and Ehren McGhehey, most of whom have been pulling pranks and stunts with him since he created and hosted the unconventional Jackass series for MTV in 2000. When it comes to thinking up their twisted shenanigans–which get increasingly stupid, gross, and risky–Knoxville confides that “we check our brains at the door.” Actually, he and returning director Jeff Tremaine made sure they had some decent ideas in the can before committing to the project. “We had some top-secret writing sessions,” he says, “and it was only after we compiled enough ideas for the movie that we called Paramount.”
Paramount Pictures was only too happy to see another Jackass film in production. What better way to make a ton of money at a low cost than by hiring a bunch of fearless goofballs to go out and film themselves doing crazy shit? The dangers are real, though. Knoxville’s nasty bruises and branding scars are not applied by makeup artists.
So what keeps him, already hugely successful at the age of 35, coming back for more abuse? (He was reportedly knocked unconscious three times while making Jackass: The Movie.) “I don’t know,” he replies, “it’s what we do. Travelling around the world with your friends and just getting loaded–I love it.”
The freewheeling lifestyle of the daredevil jackass seems to suit Knoxville and his party-hearty pals. For one thing, there’s no discipline involved, no following a strict regimen of diet and exercise in order to pull off those mindless stunts. “I was in bad shape then and I’m in bad shape now,” he points out. “Like, all you gotta do is stand there, you know. You don’t have to be in good shape to get run over by a yak or a bull or hang on to a rocket.”
When the first Jackass movie came out there was talk that it would also be the last, but if Number Two turns out to be a raging success, who knows? Knoxville might still be getting flipped by bulls when he’s pushing 40. His parents can hardly wait. “They love it,” he claims. “My father always loved pulling pranks on people. And my mom loves it, but she probably wouldn’t love it if it was someone else’s kid. But with that said, I was like, ‘Mom, you saw the last movie, but you might want to think about not seeing this one. It’s a little naughty.’ ”