The pranksters that make up the Jackass crew are at it again in their third outing, but this time audiences get the added bonus of seeing all of the crazy and outrageous shenanigans in 3D. With director Jeff Tremaine at the helm once again, the use of the in-your-face technology seems to have made the guys want to push things even further with their stunts, skits and general all-around crude behavior.
At the film’s press day, Jeff Tremaine spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how Jackass came to be, having to always look over this shoulder anytime he’s around the guys, adjusting the process for 3D, and conceptualizing the incredible opening and closing sequences for the film. He also revealed that he’s currently reading feature film and television scripts, looking for what he wants to take on next. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
How did you initially get involved with the Jackass guys and start making the show and the films?
JEFF TREMAINE: Jackass was born out of a magazine I was doing called Big Brother. It was a skateboarding magazine, but really humor was the focus of it. For some reason, it just was a magnet for the big personalities in skateboarding that loved to just fuck off. I had [Chris] Pontius. He wrote for the magazine. We discovered Steve-O in the magazine, and Dave England. Bam [Margera] was a pro-skateboarder and he started making videos, at the time. Basically, we started making videos that went along with the magazine, every now and then.
When we were making our second video, [Johnny] Knoxville had started writing articles for the magazine and he came in and pitched the idea to me to go out and try self-defense equipment on himself. He wanted to pepper spray himself, taser himself, stun gun himself, and then go out into the desert and shoot himself in the chest wearing a bullet proof vest with a .38-caliber handgun. When he pitched that part of the idea, I said, “You know what? You should go film this. This is going to be great. Film it. I’m not filming it, but you film it.” I had it all set to send my cameraman, but then I started panicking about the idea of him shooting himself, partially because I knew the bulletproof vest he bought was the cheapest one on the market. He didn’t have any money, so that was the best one he could get. So, I didn’t let the cameraman go, but I made him give him his camera.
When he came back with that video footage, it was my big, bright idea moment and I thought, “This could be on TV.” Knoxville was the only one who could really talk to the camera. The rest of the guys could do these funny stunts and were really physical, but they didn’t communicate very well. You can see it in the early Jackass stuff. They’re a little camera shy about talking, but Knoxville has the Southern charm and he’s willing to do the craziest shit.
How often do these guys try to drag you into what they’re doing?
TREMAINE: They try more often than I get dragged in. They do get me. They’ll sabotage me whenever they can. I have to cover my nuts, at all times, around them. At the bar, if I ever get up and leave my drink, I’ll know that they’ll have peed in it when I get back. They get after me, but I try not to let them. I do my best to not be on camera. I hate it.
Are there moments that you wish you could just hang out with them, without having to always worry about what they might do to you and constantly look over your shoulder?
TREMAINE: Yeah, it’s stressful. Right now, we have post traumatic stress disorder. I hate hanging out with them because they do try to kill me, all the time.
At what point did you decide that this was going to be shot in 3D?
TREMAINE: Your third movie has to be in 3D. It’s part of Hollywood 101. Jackass needed to be in 3D. Paramount suggested it to us and I liked the idea of it, but then the idea of shooting it in 3D was really scary to us. Knoxville was really resistant to the idea of changing our process. We were just scared that it would slow us down too much and just kill all the spontaneity of the whole thing.
So, we did two days of testing and that’s when we realized that we had found the perfect company, this company called Paradise 3D, that could keep up with us. They just made it easy on us. And, we could see the 3D. Right after we shot it, we could go look at it, and we could see right away that Jackass was made to be in 3D. It’s perfect for it. So, after we tested it, that’s when both Knoxville and I got on board. I knew it was going to be more work for me, in preparation and keeping everything mobile. The guys have total ADD and they need to be spontaneous. They can’t wait around. So, it was a little more challenging for me, but for the most part, I think it feels just like another Jackass movie. I think the 3D really enhances it, but at the end of the day, I think it’s still funny because it’s a Jackass movie.
What was the period of time that you shot this in?
TREMAINE: We started filming in February and we didn’t stop shooting until August. We were supposed to stop shooting in June, but Knoxville wouldn’t let us stop, so we just kept going and kept going until finally, in August, I was like, “Motherfucker, it’s done!” Once he starts, he doesn’t want to stop, so we had to have a little shooting intervention with him when we just told him, “Hey, come in and watch what we’ve got so far, so we can make some decisions on the movie.” He came in and Spike [Jonze] and I pounced on him and said, “Look dude, sorry, but it’s done. We’re done shooting. We’ve got to put it together now.” That was preposterous. We shot a couple scenes in August, and the movie is coming out October 15th. I don’t think that’s ever been done before.
How did you conceptualize the opening and closing sequences for this?
TREMAINE: The openings and closings of Jackass are always more cinematic. We go a little bit Hollywood on those. It was a mix of ideas. Spike [Jonze] had the idea to shoot it on flat, colored backgrounds. He had the aesthetic in his mind that it would look really cool on these cartoony background colors, and I loved the idea of it just being tight impacts from the Phantom camera, knowing how cool that looked. And then, the rainbow concept grew out of that, and the little narration that there is grew out of that. I think the opening is our best one. I’m pretty happy with that.
With the closing sequence, did you just have one take to get that done?
TREMAINE: The closing sequence was supposed to be in one shot, and we did it in one shot. We thought it would be cool as an event, where the room blows up and then a wave comes through, and then, when we watched it, it was cool, but the explosions weren’t as dynamic as they could be. The tidal wave was great. We got that in one take. But, if you shoot it all as one event, it’s one camera trying to follow everything. And then, when we watched it, it was just a little underwhelming.
We decided, “It doesn’t feel right to have this thing that’s just slightly underwhelming when, if we just redid all the explosions and really went for it on those, it could be the best thing ever.” So, we did that. The guy who blew up the room the first time felt a little bit bad because we didn’t give him enough prep time to get enough explosive materials, so he overcompensated for it the second time around and blew the shit out of the room. He just blew the fuck out of the guys. The shot where the piano blows up behind [Ryan] Dunn and the glass blows up in his hand, and Steve-O is flying, there’s so much matter in the air. There’s liquid, wood from the piano, dirt from the plants and glass, and there’s so much shit in the air that it looks like you’re flying in an asteroid field, and the 3D of it is so spectacular. We’re really happy with that.
Some people see the Jackass crew as being totally fearless while some people see them as being totally sophomoric. How do you see them, and why do you think they’ve been able to achieve such a mass appeal?
TREMAINE: I think if they were fearless, you wouldn’t connect with them. I’ve worked with some guys that just don’t give a shit and they’ll go do something, and there’s just a disconnect there. These guys are scared shitless, but they’re doing it because they’re sophomoric. I don’t think they’re fearless. I do think they’re brave, but they’re not, not afraid. They just do it anyway. I think they’re very sophomoric. We’re all very sophomoric. I can’t stand up for that. There’s no justification for how sophomoric we are, but I think people like that. We take it to a certain low, but we have a very creative group. Everybody with our production is actually creative, down to the guy who gets our props. There’s a known aesthetic of Jackass. We have really talented people that almost have to dumb it down to make it look right for it. We don’t want it to look too pro, but they’re real artists working on it.
Are you totally surprised by the success of all of this, or did you always know that there would be an audience for it?
TREMAINE: I’m absolutely surprised. I pinch myself, every day. We didn’t expect it to ever get on TV. I was happy as could be, just making my skateboarding magazine. I never aspired to be a television producer and a movie director, and I’m shocked that this idea is still going on. But, it sure doesn’t feel old. Every time we get together, the energy is right there. We’ve gone through a lot together. It really feels like a family. For this movie, it was the first time we kept everybody together, everywhere we went. Normally, we would shoot just a few of the guys in Florida, or a few of the guys in Pennsylvania. With this movie, we kept the whole group together, and I think you really feel that. There’s more of a really fun, group bond that goes on in this one. We started to do it at the end of Jackass 2, but for this movie, they were always together.
Were any of the stunts a real challenge?
TREMAINE: Yeah, with the “High Five” bit where the giant hand comes, I didn’t even want to shoot that. Knoxville had that idea. He came to me and said, “Let’s just build a giant hand and, when a guy comes around the corner, we’ll hit them with it.” First of all, our guys are super-paranoid. They know shit is going on and they’re going to see a giant hand coming at them. I doubted that they could make a hand that would be heavy enough to knock them senseless and move fast enough to get them.
I was stupid to doubt that. We got every single one of them with it. It was on garage door springs and, for Bam, we added two extra springs and torqued it really hard. Some of the most adrenalin we get is when we’re going to prank the guys because it really requires everyone, from the P.A. level all the way up, to pull it off. That happened at our production office. We were supposed to go out and shoot on location. They thought they were coming in to get into vans to go to location. We studied their behavior. When the guys came to the office, they would always congregate in the kitchen, so that was the place to hide the hand. We just prayed on that repetitive behavior.
When the guys get injured, do you ever regret having done a stunt, or do you measure your success by the amount of injuries there are?
TREMAINE: There’s a concussion here and a tweak there. We’ve never dealt with an injury that was so bad. The worst injury on this, I do regret letting Loomis jump into the jet streak of the fighter jet and get slammed because he broke his collar bone really bad and it’s taken a long time to heal. And, he had to get surgery on his hand. He’s a guy that I don’t want to get hurt. He’s one of the guys we love having around, and we don’t really want him to get hurt, but he was dying to get in that bit, so bad. I felt bad about that. We haven’t dealt with an injury bad enough for me to say, “Man, I really regret doing that.”
Were you ever concerned about being able to get an R rating?
TREMAINE: We didn’t think about the rating because we don’t deal with the MPAA directly. There’s a middle man at Paramount who negotiates between us and the MPAA, when it comes time to turning in the final cut. We got the note, “They feel like it’s too much penis,” so I was like, “All right, let me figure it out.” We’ll find a way to get it how we want it. I’m tenacious and no is not a good answer to give me. We’ll find a way around everything. Especially from the legal end of things, the easiest thing for a big corporation or lawyer to say is no. They’d rather just cover their asses, but we’re tenacious about it. It almost inspires me when someone says no. Fuck that! We’re going to find a way to get the dick on TV.
Was it easy to get Weezer to be in the film?
TREMAINE: The Weezer thing was pretty easy, yeah. That was serendipity. We’ve known the Weezer guys for a long time and we’re really good friends with their manager. He and I talked and he said, “Weezer has got a whole new album, ready to come out right about when the movie comes out. You should hear some of the songs.” I was like, “Oh, that’s great!,” because we tried to do a Weezer thing on the second movie and it didn’t work out. So, they had this song called “Memories,” and this is our 10-year anniversary, so it worked perfectly. It was exactly the right vibe. It just worked out perfectly to do something with them.
Do you have any idea what you’re going to do next?
TREMAINE: No. I’m looking at scripts, but still haven’t found the right script. I’ve got a couple of TV things. We’ll see what I can find.