One of the more fascinating aspects of the ‘hidden camera’ gag happens after the cameras stop rolling and the joke has been revealed. In order to use any footage with civilians, one must first get them to sign a waver – thereby allowing the show/film the ability to use the footage just shot. As someone who has been on his fair share of ‘hidden camera’ sketches, I can attest to just how difficult sometimes it can be to get people to ‘sign’. There’s no telling how someone will react when they discover that ostensibly they’ve been made a fool of. So I can only imagine what that process was like on Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa. There are genuine moments where Johnny Knoxville pushes unknowing people to the very brink of violence. But what happens after the prank is revealed? What goes through these poor people’s minds? How do they react to the ‘joke’?
Earlier this week I interviewed director Jeff Tremaine, in accordance with the Unrated Blu-ray release of Bad Grandpa, about these very matters. In addition, the filmmaker also discussed what footage was added back into the Unrated Cut, the difficult editing process on the picture and, briefly, his next directorial project: the Motley Crue biopic Dirt. For the full interview, hit the jump.
JEFF TREMAINE: Well – it’s hard to say. I wouldn’t call the unrated cut a director’s cut because the director’s cut is really the cut that went to theaters. The unrated version adds a lot of stuff we struggled to cut out. There’s about ten minutes of additional footage. But for us it’s always about faster, tighter, funnier. There are a couple things I wish we had [kept in the unrated cut though]. After we locked picture, we started looking at the footage again and I thought ‘God-damnit, I wish we used that.’ But I wouldn’t say it’s the director’s cut, only because I think we turned in the director’s cut. I would say that I’m glad both versions are out there.
How involved were you in forming the unrated cut?
TREMAINE: Oh — 100%
What was the sort of things you added back in?
TREMAINE: Well – my very favorite thing, the thing I wish I put back in the movie, is in the male strip club where Johnny Knoxville is chasing everyone and his pants fall down and the prosthetic comes out. There’s a dance pole – it’s a quick scene – but right as the chaos is happening, Knoxville takes it to the stripper pole. Oh my god – it’s just so funny. It’s a little bit vulgar, I guess, but it’s still funny. But it’s not so much adding new scenes as it is opening them up more.
How difficult is it editing these films? I assume you have just tons and tons of footage…
TREMAINE: It’s hard. When we do things – and the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack has a lot of this on it – we shoot the same scene probably four or five different times with different people. The best reaction will make the cut. But if we’re set up in a restaurant, we’ll do the same scene three or four times, hoping to get the very best reaction. We don’t know which one’s going to be the best. We show a lot of the other takes with the other marks on the Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack. So editing is tough. Sometimes it’s obvious [which reaction is best], but sometimes you have two really good ones. You just have to figure out which one you like better. We always overshoot everything we do. Then it’s cutting it down to what’s funniest in the most efficient way to tell the story.
Do you know how much footage you shot for this one?
When you’re doing these sketches, are you looking for a particular reaction from the ‘marks’?
TREMAINE: It just depends on which sketch it is. When we did the biker scene, we’re hoping they’ll get involved, that they’ll do their job and guard the child. But other times, we’re just fishing around. For example, the scene was so simple – Irving’s a bad driver. We went around and had him crash into things. It’s just a fun way to put a little action into the movie. So one of the things we did, was we put this penguin in front of a café and he drives up and runs the thing over. The only reaction we’re hoping to get is a stupid look on people’s faces. That’s what we thought. But this one guy just gets so mad about it. Knoxville loves it when he puts a guy on the hook. At that point in the movie, there’s a cheat where we cut in reactions from Jackson Nicoll (Billy) as if he’s sitting in the car. But at that point, we had already shot the end of the movie where Johnny Knoxville and he ran over the motorcycles.
I probably shouldn’t say this but Paramount got a little mad at us for having Jackson in the car when we ran over the motorcycles. He wasn’t allowed to be in the car for any more of those stunts. So basically we got a little boy mannequin doll and we put a wig on it [for the Penguin crash stunt]. Knoxville goes and crashes into the [Penguin] and then he gets into a big argument with the guy. We had to cut this part out – but the guy sees that there’s a mannequin in the car. I don’t know what’s going through his head because he’s fighting with this old man and then he looks and there’s this little boy doll. It had to be creepy to him. He starts yelling at Irving about the boy doll and he pulls the mannequin out and actually starts beating Irving with it. It’s the funniest crap I’ve ever seen but we couldn’t use it – because it’s not part of our story. One of the cool things we did on the Blu-ray and on the DVD is we put these features on how we did things and we show all that footage. It couldn’t make the movie because it broke the story. But to me it’s hilarious – he’s chasing the guy around with a little doll.
How difficult is it to get people to sign wavers and allow the footage to be used?
TREMAINE: Sometimes it’s harder than others. Sometimes we never get those wavers. That’s the stressful thing about shooting this movie – you get this golden moment and then after you get the golden moment you still have to go get the release form. We have a good team and a good system about how we go about doing it. But it’s never a sure thing.
TREMAINE: That’s actually our 1st AD. He’s really good at [letting people in on the joke]. I’m terrible at it. But he comes out and he’s got this very warm personality and he broke the ice very nicely. His name’s Joe [Osborne]. We use Joe especially when we’re shooting with groups.
Are there any segments you couldn’t use because you couldn’t get a waver?
TREMAINE: Yeah – there’s a guy in the beauty pageant. He was one of the dads of the girls competing. He was really mad…
Speaking of the beauty pageant, was it always the plan to make that the climax of the film or is it after you shoot the segment and you see that it works that you fit that into the story as the end?
TREMAINE: It’s funny you bring that up because the Jackass style is always just to put the very funniest thing in the movie at the end. Jackass is totally modular. You can shift things around like a puzzle very easily. But with Bad Grandpa we’re telling a logical story. If you think about the story logically, the pageant used to live as [Irving and Billy’s] last fun moment together before he has to drop Billy off. But we knew that that scene was the funniest, biggest moment. It really was the peak of the movie, I thought, so we manufactured it to be later after Irving takes Billy back. It shows that they’re going to keep having fun together. So we had to retool the story a little bit to accommodate making it the last beat. But once we did that, it really made [the whole film] satisfying.
Are there any future projects you’re currently working on?
TREMAINE: Yeah – my next feature project is going to be the Motley Crue biopic. It’s a scripted feature.
How far along are you into pre-production?
TREMAINE: We’re in the scriptwriting and casting process. We’re just cruising right now.
Bad Grandpa is available on Blu-ray & DVD Tuesday, January 28th.