I’m a huge Johnny Knoxville fan. I think that the Jackass movie is actual genius. And I don’t mean that in some kind of hyperbole way (I would direct you to my DVD review, but I think it got overwritten by a review of the TV show on DVD. Curses!). Knoxville himself is affable, with a real screen presence. I just wish he’d pick better films to show that off.
In real life Johnny Knoxville is wiped out. Well, that was my experience anyway – the guy had been doing press all day and my roundtable was at the tail end of his duties. Even obviously exhausted, Knoxville worked hard to be personable and funny. And he has some damn fine taste in movies – check out his recommendations in this interview.
Dukes of Hazzard opens everywhere today.
Q: Johnny, there were a lot of rumors flying around, a lot of talk about what was going on on set. I was wondering if you could tell me – is it true that Willie Nelson smokes pot?
Knoxville: The strongest pot you’ll ever want to smoke.
Q: Did you ever smoke with Willie?
Knoxville: Fortunately and unfortunately. I do not know what he puts in that. It’s a real commitment. Hope you don’t mind the room spinning for the next four hours.
Q: Can you tell us about the moonshining and cornholing on set?
Knoxville: Cornholing? That’s always good to work into a conversation. Cornholing is always funny.
I had some moonshine shipped down from Tennessee while we were filming, for the cast and crew. It was delicious.
Q: What’s in it?
Knoxville: It’s made from corn squeezin’s. It’s about 190 proof – highly flammable. You got to drink it out of a glass jar, preferably a Mason jar, because you put it in a paper cup or something it’ll eat the bottom right out. Which basically is what it does to you.
Q: So what’s the truth about you doing… sexual things to Seann?
Knoxville: 100% true. My pants kept falling off. My zipper must weigh about a hundred pounds. It keeps getting pulled down.
Q: Did he do anything back to you?
Q: Do you see this film as a parody of the original series?
Knoxville: No, I don’t think it’s a parody. It’s not like a Starsky & Hutch parody. We strived for a more Smokey & The Bandit tone, we’re not parodying anything at all.
Q: Did you ever smuggle anything across state lines?
Knoxville: Up til this point I haven’t violated the Mann Act. Steve-O has a funny story – he got caught smuggling weed and hash from Norway into Sweden. He got a bunch of weed and hash and rolling papers and put it in a condom and he swallowed it in the airport at Norway and flew over into Sweden just so he could get to Sweden, let it pass through his body and be able to say it was the best shit he ever smoked. The authorities went on line and read his plan – his devious plan – and promptly went to his hotel room and arrested him in Sweden.
$30,000 in lawyer fees later he was like, “Dude! No six publicists could have gotten me that much publicity for that amount of money! It was awesome!”
Q: What was the most revolting thing you’ve ever done?
Knoxville: I witnessed some things on Jackass that no man should have to witness. There are ladies at the table so I don’t want to go into it.
Q: As you’re moving into a film career and you’re taking more roles – some serious – do you find that the Jackass stuff, where people expect you to do wacky and gross things, do you think that’ll be a problem for you?
Knoxville: It hasn’t been a problem so far. I’m proud of Jackass. It’s what got me here. It’s something me and my friends did that took off, and I don’t want to outrun it all. But with that said, I want to do other things, and I want to do some other things.
Q: Mark Zupan of Murderball said you had started doing Jackass again and that you had done some stunts with him.
Knoxville: No. By the way, Murderball is wonderful. We’re doing a special with some of the guys from Murderball, some of the athletes. It’s definitely in the vein of Jackass. Getting together with those guys – in the documentary they’re very funny just hanging out together, doing the kind of stuff that we did and that everyone does when’s it six guys in a room hanging out. We thought it would be good to get together and do some things with them.
Q: Are there restrictions on what you can do now that you’re making regular movies? Can you still shove things up your ass?
Knoxville: No, I can do that. But yeah, when you’re doing things it’s on everyone’s contract that you can’t do certain stunts.
Q: You ever consider driving the General Lee?
Knoxville: I didn’t. You know, in my head that was Seann’s thing. I didn’t even do it when we practicing stunt driving with Bobby Orr. I didn’t even think about it.
Q: Did you ever get hurt jumping in the window?
Knoxville: A couple of shinners. I remember showing up on set and seeing that for the first time, and the windows are really narrow. But the stunt guys worked with me and showed me how to do it.
Q: What was it like working with Jessica?
Knoxville: She was so on point. I remember after the first take that she did, she went ‘That was my first take in a film.’ You never would have known it. She was completely composed, hitting her mark, knew all her lines. God, maybe I need to take some notes from her.
Q: Jessica spoke about how it was liberating for her to be away from her family and to have some fun, and that she got a little more free-spirited. Did you see that evolutiona nd did you contribute to that?
Knoxville: Well, I saw the video. She seemed pretty free-spirited in the video. And there are some moments in the film where she seemed pretty free-spirited. Most people would have wilted under the pressure, but she did great.
Q: There’s a scene where you’re riding a safe. Did you do your own stunts with that?
Knoxville: I was on it most of the night but when it got to last call, I just begged Jay to get me out of there by last call.
That was fun. We shot that first in the night, flying 75 to 100 feet in the air.
Q: So Sean Penn’s a fan, huh? He showed up when you got revenge on Bam on his show – how did that work out? Are you friends now?
Knoxville: When I met Sean that time, his son Hopper Jack was a big fan of Viva La Bam. I think I had met him before that once. That was Bam’s show he came down for. But yeah, I’m a huge fan of Sean Penn.
Q: I heard you had a horse cum incident in Russia with the Wild Boyz.
Knoxville: [breaks down laughing] That was un-believe-able.
We were at a horse insemination facility, doing a little bit with how horsies are made. We were extracting semen from the horsie – the stud horse comes out and there’s a filly in the middle of the field, with her feet tethered down. He comes out and tries to do what horsies do to make other horsies and we’re standing there with what looks like a leather shotgun case. It’s a faux horsie thing.
So he goes to mount… and… in… and there’s a gaucho there, an Argentine cowboy, who steals the horsie’s penis and puts it in the fake one. We extract the stuff and I have it and I’m like, ‘Pontius, will you check this out and see how it is?’
There was a dialogue between the star and the director:
‘Jeff, if I do this, do I get a bad night?’
‘No, you were bad last night. You can’t have another bad night!’
That goes back and forth until Jeff’s like – ‘You can half a bad night.’ This goes on five or ten minutes and I go, ‘Jeff, will you just shut up! He’s gonna do it! Pontius, you can have a bad night!’
Q: What’s your best Burt Reynolds story?
Knoxville: He’d come on the set and be a sweet guy, he’d hug ya, he’d hug Seann. Then we’d wait around because we knew the stories were going to happen. Waitin’ for the stories! Like waiting for Hickey in The Iceman Cometh. Enrich our lives, Burt!
Q: Is Willie as laidback as he seems?
Knoxville: I’m surprised he’s still standing, he’s so laid back.
Q: There’s going to be the R-rated version for DVD?
Knoxville: We’d do a take and get the PG-13 take, and then Jay would call cut and we’d do the R-rated one. A lot of that stuff was already written, but sometimes we’d come up with something naughty.
Q: Will there be a Jackass 2?
Knoxville: I always said never, but it’s awful fun going and shooting with the Wild Boyz and with Bam. I don’t know, I find myself jotting stuff down now and again.
Q: You worked with Spike Jonze a bunch on Jackass. Are you guys in touch, do you ever consider doing a project together?
Knoxville: Spike and I and Jeff, the director of Jackass, just had dinner last week. He’s a friend of mine. I’d love to work with him. There’s one thing that might happen.
Q: How well do you have to know somebody before you can punch them in the balls?
Knoxville: The guy from Inside Edition or Extra I knew for about five minutes. The director had said something to him, and he was like, ‘Oh man, we used to play Mitch Cupcheck all the time back in college!’ He was sitting there covered, just asking for it. On leaving I went for him and just barely missed and he was laughing. Five minutes later I was walking down the hall, four floors down and some guy comes up and hits me from behind and takes off running and it was him.
So about five minutes.
Q: Does that happen a lot? Do people think that they can just come up and smash a bottle on your head?
Knoxville: Sometimes that happens. When girls do it, it’s a little uncomfortable because really there’s no retaliation. They put out a cigarette on your arm or punch you in the chin. But when guys do it, it’s on!
Q: Was there anything MTV wouldn’t let you do on Jackass?
Knoxville: We probably edited ourselves more than MTV did for the movie, trying to take out imitatable stuff. I never liked pulling pranks on women and kids. Sort of like Al Pacino in Scarface when they’re going to blow the place up – ‘No, there’s kids!’
Q: You have a couple of movies coming up. Can you tell us about them?
Knoxville: Daltry Calhoun comes out in October, it’s a Miramax film that Quentin Tarantino produced. The script is by Katrina Holden Bronson, and she directed as well. It’s a great script and I saw the movie and I love it. It’s a drama and I play a father, where basically the mother is dying and I haven’t seen the kid since he’s been born, I’ve been trying to find them. She’s dying and she brings the kid back for me to raise.
Q: Do you cry?
Knoxville: I did when I saw it.
Q: But as an actor?
Knoxville: Oh yeah. I’ve been really lucky, I’ve been able to do a number of things and I hope I continue to be able to do that. And after that I have The Ringer coming out, a Farelly Brothers comedy, coming out December 23rd.
Q: What’s the first movie you remember making a big impression on you?
Knoxville: That’s a good question, because I remember having favorite movies growing up… My father loved old Westerns, and my mom loved John Wayne. Cool Hand Luke… My family ate dinner around the TV, watching old movies. That’s one of the ways we bonded as a family.
My favorite movie, period, I think is Face in the Crowd with Andy Griffith. It just came out on DVD. I think Vernon, Florida is about to come out too. Have you seen that? It’s a documentary by Errol Morris – oh boy, please see Vernon, Florida. There was a place in Florida, Vernon, where there was the highest rate of amputees in the country because people would go down to the train track and put their limbs on the tracks so they could get insurance. He tries to do a story on them but nobody will talk about it. He’s there for a while and he realizes that the people in the town are crazier than the people losing their limbs on the tracks. It is great.