You could call it a joke with one hell of a punch line.
At the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles, a table accommodating roughly 20 reporters sits in the dead center of an uncomfortably large room. A white tablecloth extends from end to end, upon which pitchers of water sit in anticipation. Our eyes wander the room, taking in the vaulted ceilings and the large windows that overlook Hollywood Boulevard, allowing as much LA sun to pour over the patterned carpet as possible. After a few minutes of quiet, a maniacal voice is heard across the room.
“Good luck talking to us, guys,” Johnny Knoxville said with a grin.
Damn the modern, luxuriant beauty of our surroundings, this is “Jackass.”
In rotations, Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O and the rest of the “Jackass” guys would take their seats at the head of the table and lean back with a drink – with the exception of Steve-O, who is maintaining his sobriety – to tell us about “Jackass 3-D.” The message was simple: No one expected the “Jackass” franchise to make it this far – let alone 10 years since the show’s debut in 2000 – and the cast and crew agree.
“We’ve made each and every one of these as if it’s the last,” director Jeff Tremaine said. Cast member Chris Pontius, softly playing a ukulele, agreed.
“But we’ve learned that saying it’s the last one, you end up sounding stupid every four years coming out with a new one,” Tremaine added.
After two years of the show’s television run and two films of stunts, the guys needed something new to keep audiences interested. When Paramount pitched the idea of 3-D, Tremaine was on board.
“Your third movie has to be in 3-D. It gives you the name,” Tremaine said matter-of-factly.
Although it was a natural decision, it would be met with skepticism from the cast.
“I just thought it would change the way we shot,” Knoxville said. “I thought it would take a long time, we wouldn’t be able to run and gun, and it would just change the movie; and I’m not up for that.”
A few tests with the cameras would quickly change their minds. With the help of Phantom cameras capable of shooting 1,000 frames per second, a simple prank would transform into a super slow sequence that allows the viewer to study each and every movement.
“It’s got to be the most expensive 3-D camera, and then the bright ideas we have with it are to shoot a dildo bazooka at the lens,” Tremaine said.
But knowing “Jackass,” that comes as no surprise. After all, it’s a show made famous for the immature pranks and reckless stunts that can – and sometimes do – go wrong. And yet, though the guys have been at it for years, they admit shooting the film entails an enduring sense of dread and, of course, physical pain.
“I never had the yearning to hurt myself, I just have the yearning to make people laugh,” Ryan Dunn said. “So whatever tools I have to make someone laugh, I use them. And that happens to be hurting myself.”
“It’s either die now or die boring later,” he added.
While the guys are by and large accustomed to the “Jackass” way of life, filming the new movie would present a challenge to Steve-O, who would film his stunts entirely sober for the first time. While his castmates initially questioned his ability to perform, the result was a pleasant surprise.
“Being present and clearheaded, I was dreading doing the stuff so much more than ever before, but at the same time, I was more eager than ever to do it,” Steve-O said. “So just that dynamic really lent itself to a good contribution on my part.”
With Steve-O’s performance assuredly better than ever, the question became, as it always does, how to push the limits of their personal health, their friendships and decency in general.
“We don’t want to make anyone else look like assholes,” Knoxville said. “We’ll make ourselves look like assholes… we don’t want to be mean. We’ll be mean to each other, but we love each other, we’re a family, we know what it is.”
“I won’t stick a hot poker up my ass and rip my dick off,” Margera replied.
“But we are talking to him about it,” Knoxville said. “That’s not a definite, final no.”
While fans know exactly the kind of material they’ll get during any “Jackass” venture, Jason Acu?a assures one thing will always stay consistent.
“It’s a good fucking time.”
“Jackass 3-D” hits theaters today.