INTERVIEW: Jackass 3D, "Success Equals Failure."

INTERVIEW: Jackass 3D, "Success Equals Failure."
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to watch a preview of Jackass 3D, released nationwide today. Having not seen any of the Jackass movies, I can flat out guarantee that this will dwarf the success of the group's previous cinematic outings - not only because of the 3D component (which is made excellent use of), but as much due to the sheer inventiveness, outrageousness and utter hilarity of most of their stunts. Dubbed by some as nothing but a bunch of gloriously deranged lunatics (they are, but that's beside the point), the members of Jackass are equally entitled to be seen as a crew of modern day daredevils, constantly pushing themselves to perform ever more dangerous feats for the pure thrill of doing so. After watching the movie, I joined a roundtable interview with this colorful cast of characters (Johnny Knoxville, Bam Magera, Preston Lacy, Jason "Wee-Man" Acuna, Dave England, Ryan Dunn and Ehren McGhehey). 

There are one or two small spoilers, but nothing major, so read on... 

Take us through the process, from start to finish, of one of these things. Do you just brainstorm at some point and then come up with the means to do it?

Knoxville: I don't know if there's a lot of brains involved. But personally, I just write a lot by myself. I don't work as well when we're all together  - I prefer to just sit in my house and think of ideas, or watch a lot of cartoons. Tom & Jerry, Buster Keaton, things like that.

Magera: I spend a lot of time on aeroplanes, so I just sip on red wine and think of the most stupid things that I could possibly come up with. You know.

How do you decide who's going to be performing each of the stunts? Is it always the person who came up with it?

Knoxville: Sometimes. Or sometimes it's the guy who's the most scared of it [coughs] Bam.  You know, it just depends.

Magera: I do get sabotaged a lot. Tremaine was just sitting in the back of the 18-wheel trailer and they told me, "Look how vulnerable he is right now... Go and do the Rocky on him," which is a move involving a splash of water and then coming in with a boxing glove from behind. And so I did it, and then I fall into a pit filled with a hundred snakes because they know I hate snakes: That's my most terrifying fear. This was the second movie I cried on.

Did it help you conquer your fear of snakes?

Magera: Absolutely not. 


So how do you guys sleep at night while you're shooting? Is there any time that's not fair game?

Magera: That's the worst part. There's a masseuse on set whom you might use if you've just done a difficult stunt: But that's just another vulnerable position in which you might get stun gunned, or peed on, or something similar. Even during lunchtime, if you're like, "Oh, macaroni and cheese, hell yeah..." and then you go to scoop it - some kind of bomb will probably blow up in your face.

Who's the biggest prankster in the group, then?

Magera: Well, I punched and peed on everybody, so that's why I got the snake pit treatment.  It was well deserved, I suppose. Sometimes the best pranks came in between takes, since the 3D cameras were so big and would often take two hours or more to move. That's when you get bored and say to yourself, "Man, I need to pee. Maybe I should go do it on someone and hopefully get beat up."

Knoxville:  Do you remember when we called the cops on Aaron on the second day of shooting? I get there at like 9am and there's already hell going on...

Magera: Yeah, well I had had a rough night, and you know, I was still drunk when I showed up in the morning, and I had the brilliant - in my head, the brilliant - idea of calling 911 on Aaron and saying that there's a guy here in a red shirt who's claiming that he's filming in a movie that we're shooting, but he's ruining the flow of what we're trying to do.  I told 'em he wouldn't leave, and we needed to get him the hell out of there. And so now the police are on their way...

Knoxville: A damn helicopter flew over. I said, "You gotta call them back, man, and tell them someone did it as a prank."

Magera: Yeah. I figured the prank was something that Tremaine [the director] would be into, but they were gonna shut the whole production down that day, so they made me call 911 back and I was like, "Look, I know I just called about the crazed fan who's claiming he's in the movie, but he actually JUST left, so you coming here would actually be pointless." So it ended up working out.

Knoxville: When Aaron found out that Bam had called the cops on him, he ran and hid like a kid, as if he'd done something...

I'm like, "Where's Aaron now?" and everyone's like, "He's hiding. He thinks he's done something wrong." That was pretty terrific.


Having seen the movie in 3D, what were you most impressed by? What came off really well?

Knoxville: I hadn't anticipated how it just puts you right in the middle of the stunt or a prank. It feels like you're right there with us. Also, we loved shooting with the Phantom camera this time, which shoots 1000 fps, and you can just see every inch of someone's face getting rocked.

Magera: Right. Even if you splash water on somebody, you see every drop of water. One second in real life turns into twenty seconds of pure gold with the Phantom.

Knoxville: They also went and made a Phantom 3D camera for us. There wasn't one before, so they went and made us one, so we could film shooting a dildo bazooka with it. We were using the world's most expensive camera to shoot the world's dumbest stuff. It was great.

Magera: Right. We have a camera that's worth a million dollars and the first thing we shoot is us throwing a ball at Pontius's wiener. He's trying to hit it, and I'm trying to catch it in my mouth.

Was the writing process any different?

Knoxville: We wrote ideas that had to be funny in 2D first. If it wasn't funny in 2D but we thought it might be funny in 3D, we wouldn't shoot it. The dildo thing came up when we were at a football field and we had Bam bent over and we were shooting the dildo bazooka into his ass. But I wanted to capture the jerkiness of the dildo as it flew through the air, so we used the Phantom for that, and it was just hilarious. I was like, "I want to build cities for this thing to fly through... And then after the cities, we could do a lot more stuff, too."

Magera: That's a good idea. We could have it going through the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Pyramids in Egypt, space...

Knoxville: I spent days with that camera doing some not-very-intelligent things.


What are you criteria for including ideas?

Knoxville: It just has to make us laugh. An idea gets shot if it makes us laugh - and if it makes us really laugh, it has a good chance to get in the movie. That's how it's always been.

Magera: Yeah. I mean, we'll just film every bit that anybody has an idea for. We spent literally three hours trying to do this thing called "The Incredible Nut Shot," in which you'll take a basketball and try to like, bounce it off the side of the wall, ricochet over there, and then have it land on your nuts.

Knoxville: We actually shot well over thirty different "Incredible Nuts Shots." I spent eighteen hours over three days on one nut shot involving a bridge. We set the world record for riding a ferris wheel in Long Beach for thirteen hours while trying to pull off another one. Altogether, it's the most time we've ever spent on any bit we've ever shot - and then it didn't even make it into the movie! We had to kill a lot of babies. I love that bit, and at least it made it to 3.5 [the extended DVD cut].


Do you ever employ any safety professionals when you're doing these stunts?

Knoxville: Oh, yeah. When we're working with alligators, Manny Puig  is our safety guy, who swims at night in swamps with alligators and grabs them underwater. When we're working with bulls we have Gary, who's a world champion bull rider and finds us the meanest bulls possible. We have safety guys.... They're just not that safe.

Magera: You can have as many safety people as you want - you can't control a bull's hoof landing on your face.

Knoxville: Yeah. Any good ideas we have usually get shot. You know. Someone will do it...


Which gags are you guys most proud of in the movie? Which of them do you feel really nailed the Jackass ethos?

England: For me, it was "The Poop-cano." I just loved it. It's one thing I really wanted to do.


You've said you're a professional shitter, right? That you can do it on demand? Is "The Poop-cano" the most professional stunt you've pulled with that?

England: It is indeed.

McGhehey: It was very artsy.


How does it make you feel to be the go-to poop guy?

England: It makes me feel great. I'm pretty convinced that more people have now seen my shit than any other human's shit in the history of the world. I mean come on... Who else's shit have you seen?


Because of your status as a professional, do you have to eat anything to get the right consistency?

Lacy: Actually, he eats shit.

Dunn: Right. It's crazy how that works. It's like recycling.

England: No. We had a craft service on set, and I knew that at the end of the day we'd be doing this stunt, so anything and everything that I could grab from there. The most colorful stuff... Just everything.

Dunn: He even ate a utensil.

England: During the stunt, they insisted on Pontius giving me an enema while I was bent over and upside down.


Which must have explained the thin consistency...

England: Right, that was before the cameras started rolling. And then, just... BOOM.

Lacy: Yeah. That story's pretty accurate, except I heard it as "Can somebody get Pontius to give me an enema?"

Dunn: Yeah, you did say that. Nobody forced you into that situation.


Who came the closest to dying, or possible mutilation?

McGhehey: I went to hospital a couple of times, but I didn't die.

Dunn: Yeah, we were all pretty unsuccessful in our attempts on Ehren's life.

England: Last time around, with Knoxville and that rocket... Man, he was so lucky to walk away from that. He was basically six inches away from death.


Do you keep a medic on set, then?

Dunn: Sure. He's usually looking at us and saying things like, "I have no idea what to tell you. Good luck."


How do you guys generate ideas for stunts?

Lacy: I'll usually call Tremaine and say "Hey, Tremaine, do you have any good ideas?" and he'll say "Yeah, I have a couple." Then I'll call Knoxville and tell him, "Dude, I just had the best idea."

Dunn: He's not even kidding.

England: The funniest time was when Preston and I came up with the idea for Chinese penis cuffs at exactly the same time... You know, like Chinese finger cuffs, but slightly bigger. Not that much bigger in my case. But that was really weird.


How close are you guys when you're not filming?

McGhehey: We're tight when we're close to each other, but I mean, I live in Philadelphia - we all live in different areas. Ultimately, we only really get to see each other when there's work to be done. We have a good working relationship.


Whose idea was it to do a new movie in 3D?

All: Paramount.

Dunn: This movie was actually more fun to film, for me, then any other. I laughed harder, I felt like we all got along better. There was a lot more camaraderie on this one than in the past.


Did you have to change anything about your approach because it was in 3D?

Dunn: The opening and the closing we choreographed and did especially for the 3D, but the rest of the movie we did pretty much like we always do. The only difference was that the cameras were bigger and there were more people operating them.


What drives you guys to do this stuff? It's not like skateboarding, where you're trying to perform a cool-looking stunt and the injury is just a by-product...

Dunn: Right. If we try to land a trick, it's not gonna work. Success equals failure.

England: It's like last night - I was just trying to skateboard down the street here, and I ended up failing pretty badly. I didn't get to be in a movie, I just ended up hurt, in the dark. So we might as well do this stuff and at least make people laugh. I mean we're already getting hurt.


What happens when someone sends you a video or a DVD?

Dunn: We never look at them. Never have, never will.

Wee-man: And we go like this [sticks fingers in ears] "Lalala," when someone tries to tell us an idea.

England: If anyone catches us in a bar, then we'll usually be drunk and walking in circles. Then we're pretty hard to communicate with.


Jackass 3D will be released in theaters nationwide today, October 15. 


Jackass 3D

  • Jeff Tremaine
  • Preston Lacy
  • Harrison Stone
  • Johnny Knoxville
  • Bam Margera
  • Ryan Dunn
  • Steve-O
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Jeff TremainePreston LacyHarrison StoneJohnny KnoxvilleBam MargeraRyan DunnSteve-ODocumentaryActionComedy

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