By Kevin Smith
Photos courtesy of MTV
Johnny Knoxville and company perform a larger-than-life version of their shopping-cart stunt. "Jackass: The Movie," a spin-off of the now-defunct MTV show, is set to open in theaters Friday.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday October 24, 2002
"Jackass: The Movie" is a "naughty 90-minute version" of MTV's internationally popular TV show. Johnny Knoxville, jackass extraordinaire, discusses the past and future of his show.
Cherished childhood memories. Everyone has them. Even TV stars have them. For instance, Johnny Knoxville of MTV's "Jackass" recalled a hallowed father-son bonding experience during a recent phone interview.
"I was probably around 15," Knoxville said. "I was asleep on the couch and he (his dad) got a hot dog and warmed it up 10 seconds while I was sleeping and ran it through my mouth and when I woke up, he acted like he was zipping his pants up."
Knoxville, who was born Phillip John Clapp in Knoxville, Tenn., reflected on days past while frenzied student journalists grilled his cerebellum in promotion of "Jackass: The Movie."
With the target "Jackass" audience being a younger crowd, the Arizona Daily Wildcat thought it would be clever to get a local perspective on the TV-to-movie evolution of "Jackass."
UA media arts and anthropology senior Colin Simning, ponders a pressing question: "How are they going to make a movie with a plot from a TV show that had no plot?"
Knoxville seeks to alter all preconceptions of a traditional movie-going experience.
"'Jackass: The Movie' is going to be like ╬Jackass' the TV show," Knoxville points out, "but a naughty version of it ¸ a naughty 90-minute version of ╬Jackass,' the TV show. No plot, no narrative, just one naughty idea after another."
"Naughty," defined for virgin "Jackass" viewers, might best be conceptualized when Knoxville revealed his most horrifying day at work.
"The most miserable thing I've ever been a part of was the Playgirl (Chris) Pontius shoot," Knoxville lamented, "where we shot Pontius for Playgirl. We shot him in various states of undress and cowboy boots and nothing else at all, but he finishes off the photo shoot by lying on a lawn chair and finishing himself off in front of six men.
"Afterward, he jumps out of the lawn chair, still a mess, and tries to hug everybody. He was chasing me and I had a sprained ankle and he almost caught me. That was the most frightened and horrified and depressed that I ever was on the show."
The premise for the TV show was born while Knoxville was a writer at a skateboarding magazine in California called Big Brother. The magazine was already making skateboard videos before Knoxville wrote a single word. Knoxville's editor at the time, Jeff Tremaine, convinced him to film his articles instead.
Through the Big Brother videos, Knoxville was offered a TV show, but turned it down. Tremaine then suggested that they do their own show with Tremaine's old high-school buddy, director Spike Jonze. Thus, the seeds for "Jackass" were sewn.
Photo courtesy of MTV
Knoxville watches as a fellow Jackass is sent flying into the air from a speeding golf cart.
However, an ensemble cast would be needed, and Knoxville had some ideas.
"We were doing the Big Brother videos on the West Coast and Bam (Margera) was doing the ╬CKY' videos on the East Coast and Jeff (Tremaine) knew them because they interviewed Bam for Big Brother, so when we decided to do the show we called Bam up and he said ╬yeah,' he's into it. So he got him and all his West Chester (Pa.) crew and we got some other guys from "Big Brother" and before you know it Ě "
The rest of the casting was a mere matter of chance.
"We got Steve-O out of the circus inside a flea market in Florida," Knoxville said.
"Jackass" nay-sayers abound, especially when presented with the numerous teenage imitation instances that arose and eventually led to the show's death rattle.
"When all the copy-cat incidents arose," Knoxville said, "Washington came down on MTV, which trickled down to us, and I saw that we weren't going to be able to do the show like we had been doing it. So I decided it was a good time to quit."
Local anti-"Jackass"-ers chimed in with concerns. Education junior Jill Bentley was distressed at the show's affect on children.
"I'm just afraid that kids look up to the 'Jackass' guys," she said, "and that's sad. I don't see how watching people hurt themselves is entertaining, and making a movie out of the TV show will just make this idea more popular and acceptable. It makes me wonder what the future will bring to children's images of humor."
Even more bluntly, senior Amy Verreault, an English major, thought the popularity of "Jackass" might be part of a wider societal problem.
"I think ╬Jackass' is a show for people Ě who don't like to think," Verreault said, "starring people who want to make a living out of being morons. I can't help but make certain assumptions about people who watch ╬Jackass,' and I definitely cannot understand a person who will pay $8 to go see the movie."
Knoxville understood the worries, but reassured that the proper precautions had been made with the movie.
"We have an ╬R' rating," Knoxville said, "and that's going to weed out a lot of the impressionable kids because you have to have an adult to get in with you.
"We were leery to put anything that's easily imitate-able in there, but this is what the show should have been. It's the show to the 10th power."
Knoxville went on to defend the cautionary advice displayed with each TV show.
"We've done as much as we can," Knoxville said. "We have warnings before and after the show, and during the show. Any interview I've ever given, I've stressed don't try this at home, and we mean it."
It's interesting to wonder, then, what parents of kids in Troon, Scotland, think of the "Jackass" gang's antics.
"Apparently, it's really big in England right now," Knoxville said. "It was big in France, Japan, Germany, most places in Europe and Latin America. I have Israeli kids come up and shake my hands, people from New Zealand. It's done well all over the world."
The international flavor continued with the movie-making process, providing different locations and settings for the jackasses to run amok.
"We went to Japan, Mexico and England and all over the country for the movie," Knoxville said. "People in Japan said we acted worse when the cameras were off."
Outside viewers may debate whether Knoxville's merry men are on all of their elements when they staple their buttocks closed with a piercing gun.
"All of our stunts are performed sober," Knoxville said. "Some of the guys in the peanut gallery watching, they might not be so sober, but whoever is performing the stunt is always sober."
Women's studies and creative writing senior Lydia Hallay revealed her kinship to the "Jackass" sensibility when recalling the one episode she's seen.
"The only thing I really recall about it," Hallay said, "was that they dove into a baby pool of horse shit and that they made some pseudo-punk kids eat eggs until they vomited. Or maybe that was Tom Green? The point is, if ╬Jackass: The Movie,' consists of little more than poop and vomit gags for an hour and a half, you can count me in. Because there's nothing funnier than poop and vomit."
Taste limits placed on the content of "Jackass: The Movie," were minimal.
"We tried to see if we could put Steve-O's head up an elephant's ass," Knoxville said," but they (lawyers) regretfully declined. But other than shoving Steve-O's head up an elephant's ass, we shot the moon."
Media arts senior Mike Jin summed up the American ingenuity of "Jackass."
"If them boys can make money off of it," Jin said, "then do the damn thing."
Likewise, Knoxville had a simple answer when asked what other career choices might have been up his sleeve had he fallen short of stardom.
"I'd probably be asking people if they want me to check under their hood," Knoxville said.
Regardless, Knoxville insists the "Jackass" movie is the last firework in the "Jackass" display, including any sequels.
"I think Jackass is better if it lasts a shorter amount of time," Knoxville said. "I love it too much to draw it out and do ╬Jackass: Part 7.' It's better if we quit while it's still special. I think the movie will be that lasting impression. The movie will be our statement. This is the exclamation point on ╬Jackass.'"
"Jackass: The Movie" opens nationwide tomorrow.