It's been 15 years since Jackass: The Movie hit theaters and a lot has changed since then. The cast and crew have assembled to look back and celebrate the 15th anniversary while also sharing stories and secrets from the set. When Jackass started as a TV show on MTV, nobody, not even its creators thought that it would last longer than the first 8 episodes because there was nothing like it on TV and there was no precedent. As the show became outrageously popular, more lawyers got involved and kids started to try and replicate the zany stunts that the Jackass crew pulled off, which led to MTV placing restrictions on the show. At the height of the success, the crew decided to call it quits. The cast and crew including Spike Jonze, Jeff Tremaine, Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Chris Pontius, Steve-O, Wee Man, Ehren McGhehey, and Dave England spoke to Vice about the 15th anniversary of Jackass: The Movie. Spike Jonze was the mastermind behind the idea of attempting a movie. Producer/Director Jeff Tremaine recalls that Jonze thought that the show went away too early. He explains.
"We wanted to send it off with a proper goodbye, and doing the movie gave us more freedom, because one: it was going to be R-rated for a mature audience, so we could do more without little kids being influenced by it. Also: a bigger budget to do crazier s%$t."
Steve-O echoes Tremaine's thoughts, but also compared the show to MTV's Beavis and Butthead and Comedy Central's South Park setting the groundwork for a 30-minute series to do a big screen movie. Johnny Knoxville also credits Spike Jonze with getting the ball running and also equates the TV deal happening in the first place because of Jonze. When Jackass: The Movie ended up at Paramount, the team felt that they needed to step things up. Steve-O remembers Jeff Tremaine sitting the team down and had this to say.
"This is not a TV show any more. This is a movie and it's rated R, so everything needs to be bigger and crazier. Don't submit any half-assed ideas!"
Dave England remembers the feeling of stepping into production the very first day in Portland. The performer mentioned a feeling of freedom that had been missing from the final season of the Jackass TV show. He explains.
"It felt like it was a newfound freedom, because we had been so confined by the lawyers on the TV show, being told we're not allowed to do certain things, that suddenly those doors were all open again. It was back to anything goes, which is when we do our best. When we have no restraints."
While stepping it up wasn't necessarily a problem, the team reveals that they had some limits to how far they would take it. For Steve-O, he didn't want to do anything that would damage his spine. For Bam Margera, it was stunts that he felt he had no control over. Margera had this to say.
"I always tried to stay away from bulls, just because I like to do stunts that I'm in control of, such as dropping in on a skateboard into a brick wall. You can figure out how to fall right and make it look rad. But a bull stomping his hoof on your face, you can't control."
For Johnny Knoxville, he didn't like doing anything having to do with the cold, which meant no cold water. Knoxville also mentioned that he was too self-conscious to get into a speedo and left that to Chris Pontius and Steve-O. But when it came down to it, Pontius had the most thoughtful answer that pretty much summed up the whole unsaid mission statement for Jackass from the beginning. Pontius had this to say.
"I don't cower out of anything. Sometimes I think we have certain people who do things because it suits them better or they give a better reaction, but I just don't like doing stuff that - I think that all the guys would say the same thing.... Jackass is about us being the butt of the joke in the end. I don't ever want to do anything mean. It's supposed to just be mean to us. That's really the only rule."
When the movie finally hit theaters (and it apparently almost didn't) the reception was beyond expectations. Jackass: The Movie was made for $5 million dollars and ended up grossing over $75 million dollars and leading to 2 more movies. The whole story behind the movie is rooted in friendship. Jackass was a merging of two worlds: The CKY skate videos done by Bam Margera and the Big Brother skate videos that featured Johnny Knoxville. The blend between those two worlds created some of the most original comedy ever. Knoxville explains.
"We are authentic friends, and other people who try to do what we do think it's all about being gnarly and trying to prove they're tough, but not one of our cast members is under any illusion that we're tough. It's not about that; it's a special group of guys. We do some pretty offbeat things and sometimes it's a little naughty, but there's still a sweetness and innocence to it, and that's born out of the friendship, but it's also born out of the guys' natures. That can't be duplicated."
Jackass: The Movie perfectly captures a place and time that will never be repeated after the death of Ryan Dunn. It's hard to believe that it's been 15 years. Head over to Vice to check out the entire oral history of Jackass: The Movie.