TMW talks 'Jackass 3D' with Johnny Knoxville, Jeff Tremaine

By Peter Walters

Remember the first time you saw a man get his butt cheeks pierced together? Or a goldfish returned safely to its bowl after a lonely minute or two in someone’s gut? Yes, Jackass brought us all the visceral images we didn’t have the pleasure of seeing in our day-to-day lives. It has been a few years since “Jackass Number Two” hit theaters, and members of the Jackass gang have kept things relatively quiet. We had a chance to break the silence and catch up with the infamous Johnny Knoxville and producer Jeff Tremaine about their newest installment, “Jackass 3D.” TMW: How do you usually prepare yourself for particularly dangerous scenes?

Johnny Knoxville: Before I’m doing like, a big stunt, I’ll probably, just about five minutes, about 20 minutes before it’s on-I’ll just go sit and listen to my cousin’s music. Then when it’s on, I’ll say, “Just come pat me on the shoulder,” and I’ll walk right in and do it. Because I want to just get it out of the way.

TMW: Jeff, how do the 3D cameras compare to cameras you’ve previously used for shooting?

Jeff Tremaine: The 3D cameras were a lot bigger and bulkier, but man, once we got all the guys together, it just felt like we were shooting a normal “Jackass.” [In reference to] the process-we had to be a little more prepared. You know they took a little more prep time to get everything ready so when the guys show up, we can just shoot. They don’t have to wait for all the, you know, the extra bodies to get set up. But for the most part, it felt the same.

JK: My request to Jeff was if we shoot 3D, I don’t want to have to worry about the cameras one time during filming because we just need to be able to do what we do. And Jeff and Dmitri absolutely set it up where we filmed it just like a regular “Jackass.” We did not think about the cameras once.

TMW: And what was the prep time like?

JT: You know the call time for the crew was a little bit earlier just because the crew almost doubled in size to shoot it in 3D. Each camera had, like, three people assigned to that camera, you know? And then what’s funny is we had these really expensive 3D cameras, but I would put our half-ass cameraman to shoot it.

TMW: How is 3D adding to the “Jackass” experience this time around?

JT: It feels like you’re right in the middle of a stunt or prank with us. It really elevated the movie to a whole other level. Like, this bit, “The Beehive Tetherball,” we’re playing tetherball with a beehive, and it feels like 50,000 bees are swarming around the theater or around your head. It really works in 3D.

JK: And it just makes a dumb idea even dumber.

JT: Yes.

TMW: So, what inspired you to shoot in 3D?
JT: The city suggested it and we resisted. But after we did some jump tests or some camera tests with the cameras, we – it didn’t slow up the way we shot, and that was our big concern and it would get – shoot it just like a regular “Jackass.” That took the pressure off, and we had a ball with the cameras.

JK: And also it gave us a good title for the movie right away. You know your third movie-got to be in 3D. That’s just the rules.

TMW: What makes the third installment in the “Jackass” anthology stand out among the crowd?

JK: The relationships with the guys are just-you know we give each other hell, but you can really feel how close we are, and that just seems to be there. It was there in the other films, but it was in this film bigger than ever. And really, we think that naturally elevates the stunts and pranks in each film, not super consciously, but just it takes a little more to make us laugh.

JT: There’s a competitiveness that goes on when we shoot those. There’s a real natural one-up-man-ship that happens with the guys, so everybody wants to get the best footage, and then once you start getting really good stuff, they realize how hard it’s going to be to get in the new movie, so everyone steps up, you know?

TMW: Bam Margera says at the end of “Jackass Number Two” that he hopes there won’t be a “Jackass 3.” With the new movie coming out do you ever think of when “Jackass” will come to an end? Do you think you’ll get to a point where you no longer have to wear a costume for the “old man falls” skit?

JK: Yes, right, on the first movie it took like three hours to make me an old man. On this one, it took like 15 minutes. The Three Stooges did it until they were 60. I don’t know how long we’re going to do it because we shoot each movie like it’s our last, but we’re not going to make any predictions anymore, we just have a ball. And Bam, too, did wish that this wasn’t going to happen back then and now that it did, I’m sure he wished it didn’t happen [since] we killed him pretty bad.

TMW: Is coming up with new ideas tough after having already made so many of them realities?

JT: No, coming up with ideas, this movie seems like, man, we were just bursting with them, man, it-this one happened more naturally than any of the ones before, kind of.

JK: Yes, it was easier coming up with-for ideas for this movie than any of them. But we have a stockpile of ideas that we never even got to because we ran out of time.

JT: Even the 3D lent itself to writing some jokes you know.

JK: Yes. You know, and the ideas, they come from like, the fact that it’s been kind of the same crew together for so long and it’s been cast that, you know ideas come from all over the place. Everyone kind of – even if an idea starts somewhere you know everyone piles onto that idea and by the time you see it shot, there’s been a lot of fingerprints on that idea.

TMW: Johnny, has there ever been a moment during the filming of any Jackass that you’ve felt the need to call off a stunt?

JK: You know the only time that we won’t do a stunt or I won’t do a stunt, if like, there’s a negative vibe going around the set and it just kind of puts a dark blanket over everything and then I’ll just say, “Let’s not do it, you know, let’s not do it today.” We were filming this stunt up in Tahoe on this big huge ski slope and someone on that ski slope died that day. [It was] nothing associated with the production, but there was a death on that ski slope the day we were there, and then it was on the same mountain the Donner family cannibalized themselves on. So we’re getting ready to do a big stunt, and it just felt weird, man, we’re like, “Let’s call it off.” But that is super, super rare.

TMW: What’s been the worst injury on the set so far?

JT: [Our friend, Loomis] jumped off the trampoline-we had a fighter jet that we had parked on the end of a runway, and we were using the big thruster at the back, and we set a little mini-trampoline up and Loomis was jumping into the jet stream holding an umbrella. And that dude only weighs probably 63 pounds soaking wet, 68 with a hard on-and he comes to the ground pretty hard and he broke his collarbone and got his hand tore up.

TMW: Which stunt did you like the most from this film?

JK: Between Jeff and I, it’s kind of a tie between the high five where we built the five foot tall hand and spring-loaded it so whenever someone walked into the kitchen in the morning, they just got smoked by the palm coming around the corner. Between that and the port-a-potty bungee where we took Steve-O [in a] full port-a-potty and shot it 100 feet in the air with a bungee cord and a crane.

Jackass 3D opens in theaters everywhere Oct. 15th.