School of hard
JOHNNY Knoxville might be playing an inebriated octogenarian in his latest fi lm, Bad Grandpa, but that doesn’t mean the Jackass star is going soft.
“We’re still up for it,” the 42- year- old daredevil said of the bruising stuntwork that has driven his franchise for more than a decade.
“[ Fellow producers] Derek [ Freda] and Jeff [ Tremaine] certainly are, because I’m the one doing them,” he added.
Knoxville said there was less self- punishment in Bad Grandpa simply because the humour had to serve an overarching narrative.
Unlike its episodic predecessors, the fourth fi lm in the Jackass franchise follows a conventional storyline with a central protagonist, 86- year- old Irving Zisman, who is based, in part, on Knoxville’s father.
“I hope I have Irving’s spirit when I get to be that age. But a lot of the things he does you might get arrested for,” said Knoxville, who endured three hours’ make- up each day for the role.
When Zisman’s daughter is jailed for drug possession, the unreconstructed and recently widowed mischief- maker travels from Nebraska to North Carolina to dump his grandson Billy ( Jackson Nicoll) on his even less child- friendly son- in- law.
“We had a lot of stunts written, but we always back- end those, for obvious reasons,” said Knoxville, who has suffered many broken bones and concussions as a result of his very physical quest to deliver audience satisfaction.
“By then, we just didn’t need them. Everybody was responding to the grandpa/ grandson relationship.”
Bad Grandpa might start out in the vein of a confrontational, take- no- prisoners guerilla comedy such as Borat or Bruno, but by the time Zisman and his grandson reach the end of their raucous, boundary- testing journey, one could argue the fi lm has more in common with the feel- good Pixar fantasy Up.
Despite the relative lack of personal injuries sustained in this particular fi lm, Knoxville said Bad Grandpa was far from a risk- free project.
“Public pranks are the toughest thing we do by far and to have a whole movie based on that – well, it’s probably one of the least safe ideas we have ever had.”
Hurting yourself is one thing. Injuring an unsuspecting bystander is something else entirely.
The scene in which Zisman is hurtled through a plate- glass window by an out- of- control kiddie ride, for instance, would probably be described as an occupational health and safety nightmare.
But given time to recover, the victims usually prove remarkably good sports.
To be on the safe side, Jackass employs a skilled team of negotiators to help their post- prank subjects regain their sense of humour and give the fi lmmakers permission to use the raw footage they have captured.
Given the success of Bad Grandpa, which pushed Gravity from the No. 1 spot at the US box offi ce in its opening weekend, is there a good chance we can expect more narrativebased encounters from the Jackass team?
“It was tough because it was our fi rst time,” Knoxville said.
“We didn’t know how the hybrid thing was going to turn out there for a little while.
“But now we have done it, I think we could do it again.”
JACKASS PRESENTS: BAD GRANDPA Now showing Village Cinemas