CRACKED: How'd you get into film and TV? You started off as a professional BMX rider so, obviously, you used to take some risks yourself.
Jeff: I wasn't exactly a professional, but I was good at it. Yeah, I took some risks. I wasn't a smooth rider. It was more like I would go as high as I could and hope for the best. I rode a little bit beyond my ability.
Do you ever participate in any of the stuff that Knoxville, Bam and the rest of those guys do?
I'll do a lot of it. There is definitely some of it that I would never do, but somehow I usually find one of the nine guys that is willing to try my bad ideas. Fortunately, a lot of the bad ideas come from the guys themselves. Knoxville is willing to do just about anything dangerous. He' been really ridiculous on this movie.
How has he been more ridiculous than he was on the first one? Is that even possible?
Well, factor in that he makes $5 million for movies where he is not in any kind of physical danger. For him to come back to doing this is pretty crazy.
Why do you think he came back?
We were doing (the MTV show) Wildboyz and periodically, if his schedule allowed, Knox would come on a trip. So he came to Russia with us and we were out shooting in a really remote suburb of Moscow with this anti-terrorist training group. They agreed to show us some stuff and kick our guys' asses. The first thing they showed us was a gun fight between two guys where they're shooting rubber bullets out of .38 calibers, and they have all of this ghetto body armor on. There was a car window that got hit by a rubber bullet and shattered, which is when we realized, 'Holy shit, you don't want to get shot by rubber bullets.'
So we watch this go down, and we're all horrified, and all of the sudden Knox was like, 'Just shoot me in the ass with it.' And I was like, 'It' going to go right into your ass and we're going to have to get it surgically removed.' And he' like, 'Come on, just shoot me in the ass and we'll go to the bar and have fun.'
So I pulled him aside and said, 'Know, if you still have this in you, if you want to really put everything on the line, the let's not do it for MTV2, let's do another movie.'
A lot of these guys are now famous in their own right. It seems like there' a huge physical risk to any one of them coming back to do a sequel.
We don't fake shit. We don't rig shit. If one of them puts knee pads on, or some sort of padding, they get ridiculed by the other guys.
Does anyone ever come up to you and say, "Jeff, this is too risky. I'm just not going to do it."
I get that quite a bit.
Luckily, there are nine guys so when one passes, it usually trickles down to another one who' willing to do it.
Who would you say is the craziest one out of the bunch?
They all have their certain expertise and lunacy. I'd say Knoxville is the most willing to do a death-defying stunt. But, you know, I was really surprised on how big and ridiculous Bam has gone on this movie. Because Bam is a huge show for him, and he is just growing and growing to the point where I thought, 'Shit, he might not want to do half this stuff.' On his show he plays my role where he bullies friends into doing things he doesn't want to do. But this time around, more than ever before, he has just thrown himself on ridiculous grenades.
In another interview, you compared yourself to a used car salesman who has to figure out who' best to do one of these bits, and then how you're going to get them to do it. You have to sell them on it.
I would even up used car salesman to a psychologist. I got called out by Aaron in India. He pulled me aside and I was sort of talking him into something and he said, "You know what, you're just a used car salesman and I've bought five cars off of you already and three of them have worked." I was trying to get him to lay down on a bed of nails and we were going to put cobras on his chest and have snake charming-combining all the stereotypes of India.
Did you send him some Indian food, and give him diarrhea to top it off.
Yeah, exactly. We put a painted elephant in the shot to make it really Indian looking. I call him over to sort of talk him through the idea and he' like, 'Lay on a bed of nails, fuck no.' So I was like, 'Look, I'll show you. I sat down on it and it was sort of not built right. The key to a bed of nails is that you have to have a lot of nails.
This one didn't quite have enough nails on it. I sat down on it to show him it' ok, and I'm like, fuck, that does hurt. And I stood up and our executive producer Trip Taylor was right there. I'm like, 'Hey Trip, lay down on this bed to show him that it' not that bad.' So Trip starts to lay down and all of a sudden he panics and slams his hand down and just impales it on a nail. Aaron is just looking like, 'Fuck this, let' get out of here. You can get Indian tetanus; there is no way I'm doing that.' And he walked me aside and that' when he called me out as a used car salesman so I had to sleep on it. He was basically the last guy who that idea trickled down to and he was the last guy I thought would do that idea. And I had to go to sleep and think of a new way. The next day, I figured, 'You know what, I'm just going to approach him real calmly about it.' I just walked him through it, we added some nails, and sure enough, he did it.
That' more than just being a psychologist.
That was because I was surprised. He called me out on my tactic and yet I somehow got him
Do these guys just love the adrenaline rush?
They just love seeing their face on TV, you know. That outweighs the hell they have to go through to get it.
What' the toughest stunt out of them all? I mean, you told me about the nails, but is there one that is more outrageous?
Oh man, we had this horrifying experience. Knoxville wanted to play with rockets. And we're talking about rockets that will propel you from point A to point B. So we built this huge Wile E. Coyote-looking rocket. And he basically just goes up and straddles it and flies. On the first test, we set him up on there and basically it' like a cardboard cylinder, a really dense, hard cylinder.
It had six powerful rocket engines, held by a piece of plywood at the back and they told us, 'Look, if the rocket engine is going to fail, it' going to shoot you forward or backward, so don't be in front of or behind the rocket.' Well, the rocket is on a 45 degree angle on the launch ramp and sure enough, the first, well we had done tests, the tests are horrifying because the rocket is flying about 50 feet in the air and about 130 feet out into a lake but it' doing backflips. So, at some point, we were like, shit, Knox is going to get knocked off that thing. The rocket weighs about 100 pounds, so if you land on it or if it lands on you, you're fucked, and you've got to get away from it at some point but it' backflipping and really awkward. You know, there' not really a clean way to ride a rocket. So he lays on it and all of a sudden the thing just blows apart and we didn't realize how dangerous it was when it first happened. It just blew apart and he slid up the ramp and back down and he just walked away and he was laughing about it. We're all laughing, like, 'Oh shit that was crazy.' But then two of our prop guys who were about 300 yards away, working in the parking lot, said a rocket flew by their heads that could have killed them. They were all in shock and we didn't even see it. It was so fast that this little metal tube just buzzed by their heads and then we watched the footage and Knox was straddling this rocket and it goes right between his arm and his leg about two inches over from his ribs. We watched it with a high definition camera frame by frame and it would have blown right through him. We're thinking about it: 'Holy shit, this is so dangerous.' And Knox was not going to let that one go unresolved, so we went back a couple of days later and did it. Boy.
What kind of staff do you have that actually puts this stuff together and tries to make it as safe as possible?
Well, we don't. I think half of what' charming about Jackass is we're a little bit incompetent in all facets you know. From my direction to the guy filming it to the guy building the props, I've kept the same crew the entire run. Pretty much everyone who was working on the TV show was working on it, and everyone who worked on the last movie was on it, and it' pretty much the same crew that worked at Wildboyz.
They have some experience.
We are doing better at certain things, but half our crew, instead of working on something they are supposed to, is out at the bar drinking with the guys because we are all friends.
What' the worst injury that has happened?
Well, Aaron broke his finger, it was pretty bad. He has had surgery and it didn't go well. He can't move his pinkie right now but I think he is going to get it operated on again.
Well, if that' the worst, you got off pretty easy.
We had three people cry in this movie.
Wow. Is that a new record?
We had one cry last movie. We had three in this one.
Which three cried?
I'm not going to name names. You'll see.
OK, I have two words for you: Pubic beard. What' that about?
Well, that' a doozy. This movie we have double-crossed the cast quite a bit, more than we did before and that' been sort of tough. I thought, after we pulled the first prank, that would be the last one because no one was going to trust me or they'd see the cameras. There is a huge paranoia when we start rolling, but we've thought of ways to play into these guys' personalities. And Aaron, that one you are talking about with the pubic beard, if you will, was a triple-double-cross on him. He really had a bad day.
Explain to me what a triple-double-cross is.
I was like, there is no way this is going to work because he will either see through the first part or the second part or the third. It had so many levels where it could have failed and yet it went all the way through, and beyond our expectations. Just him, in a life or death situation, the funny shit that he was saying was unbelievable. He thought that we had put him in a situation where he was in a life or death situation in his mind. And, god damn, he' funny.
Did you come up with most of the outrageous stuff?
I came up with a lot of it but it' really a collective effort. You know, I was saying how we have the same crew as from the first movie, but it goes back even further than that. It goes back to Big Brother Magazine. That' basically where Jackass came from, and between the cast and the staff of the magazine, most of them have been working on the movies all the way through. So Jackass is a real team effort. I'd say I'm the head coach. I come up with a lot of the ideas but they come from a lot of sources.
Were you surprised by how well the original show resonated with people?
Yeah, I was baffled by it. And then I was baffled that the movie was popular.
What do you think it is about people that we love to see stuff like this?
It' basically one exceptional group of idiots. The faces, the personalities of the guys are exceptional. It' like a team of superheroes in my opinion. We're cartoon characters. And I think people respond to the fact that the cast and crew are friends. The guy behind the camera, a lot of times, is the guy who ends up being the butt of the joke. Like the line gets crossed so often with us.
I'm really curious about how you made the transition from being an art director and editor at Big Brother to this, and how hard it was. I mean, you're a creative person at the end of the day, but to move from a magazine to film?
Well it wasn't intentional. It' called sneaking through the back door. Basically with the magazine, it was a humor magazine hiding behind skateboarding. We were more about doing ridiculous things and putting it on a skateboard so people would buy the magazine. We started taping a lot of the articles and putting up video. After we did our second video, I met Johnny Knoxville. He was writing for the magazine and I convinced him to film. He basically wanted to try self-defense equipment on himself. The stun gun, the taser and the pepper spray you saw on TV, but also a bullet proof vest. He went out to the desert and shot himself in the chest with a 38-caliber handgun while wearing a bullet proof vest. He was poor at the time, so he got the most expensive one he could afford, but I don't think it was the top of the line. And he told me the idea, and I'm like, 'Oh man, we got to go film that.'
I gave him a camera instead of a cameraman. He went out and, half-assidly, him and his friends filmed it and came back with the most compelling footage.
I already had Pontius, David Yoon and Bam. So when Knoxville came back, I actually had a guy who could talk to the camera. And so he came back with that footage and we put that video together. I called up Spike Jonze who is someone I've known since he was 11 and I was 14. So I called him up and said, "We can make a TV show out of this." And he knew what we were up to, so he was like, 'Yeah, that' a good idea.' So I talked to Knoxville about it and got him to commit to the idea, and basically we put together a tape of Big Brother stuff, some of Bam' stuff and a few other things. We shopped it around using Spike' connections and MTV got it.
It took a long time to get through the whole process from start to finish, but then we half-assidly started to film a TV show.
Are Bam' parents in this one too?
Yeah they are. Surprisingly, we were able to pull it over on them again. I figured by the time Bam' done, there was no way, but we figured out ways.
There were always scenes of the crew vomiting, or almost vomiting, in the first one. Do you guys lose it again in this one?
Surprisingly, this crew is still sensitive enough to vomit if you do something gross enough in front of them. I don't know. It would really take something special to make me gag because I've seen so much. But the crew vomits, or they gag at least. There was a scene that we shot with this leach healer from India.
What was he?
He puts leaches on people. But he does it in a more homeopathic way. We did it more in a homosexual way. Basically, he' like, 'Here are the leeches. I'm not going to do this, but have fun guys.' And we put one on Stephen' eyeball and it was just horrifying. It' just a human eye and letting them bite your eye is really fucked up. So that was hard to watch. I would say there are five solid crew pukes and that was one of them.
Biggest difference between 2 and the first Jackass?
Really, we were trying to one-up it. That was my selling point to all of the guys. And that was the way to get everyone invested in it. Everyone has gone into it with that attitude, so the level of the stunts is ridiculous. It' also a naughtier movie. But the stunts alone"even the g-rated stunts are bigger.
So it' bigger and filthier? You kind of did one-up it then.
If you put everyone together, it' just going to happen. Everyone' back and the spirit is still there and magnified. When everyone knows it is a movie, they go so much crazier.
It' beyond more of the same. But also, we're not trying to turn it into anything new.
Do you think there is going to be a Jackass 3?
You know, when we did Jackass, we really felt it needed Knoxville and Spike. We thought that was it, we ended on a perfect note. We stopped doing the TV show and it didn't feel done. So that' when we came up with the idea that we will make the movie. Then we all believed that was the end. All of a sudden here we are finishing up a sequel, so I'm never going to say never anymore. But we are making this one as if it is the last. So I doubt there will be another one. But I'm not going to say no because we already did that and lied.
Do people recognize you now? You couldn't go to the car rental agency"
You still can do that. You have to be smart. You basically need a mole on the inside of where you're going to shoot. You can do a little research and they can tell you who is an un-hip person who may have never heard of the show. We can find those people. The other way around it is go to India. Like this for movie, we went to India, knowing this show really doesn't play there.
Yeah, you went to Japan in the first one.
Japan is just so mellow compared to India. I love India.
But the stuff you were able to do was a lot crazier than in Japan.
Are you blacklisted in India now?
I thought there'd be no way we would be allowed back after Wildboyz. But they were psyched to have us back. I truly do love India.