Johnny Knoxville Went Harder Than 'Jackass' for His Wild New Film 'Action Point'
"I thought of the most painful stunts I could, and we made a film."
(L-R) Johnny Knoxville and Eric Manaka
in the film Action Point by Paramount Pictures. Photo credit: Coco Van Oppens © 2018. Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved
It's 2018, and I'm on the phone with my boyhood hero, Johnny Knoxville. The 47-year-old daredevil is telling me about how his eyeball popped out during the filming of his new movie, Action Point. "The makeup ladies, two of them, they started crying," he laughs, recalling the final days of shooting. "I was like, 'It’s OK, it’s gonna be OK!' I had been to the ER so much by that point, I think everyone was over me going to the emergency room."
Knoxville co-wrote and stars in the narrative film punctuated by stunts, which hits theaters on June 1. In Action Point, Knoxville operates his own dangerous, poorly run theme park for his daredevil friends who are played by real-life stunt performers and Jackass alum Chris Pontius. As Knoxville tells it, the film features, "No pads, and no cutting on the action." During its production Knoxville suffered concussions, broken bones, a globe luxation, and more. Which means this is about as close as we're going to get to a new Jackass movie anytime soon.
Below, you can check out the first trailer for the film followed by an exclusive interview with Knoxville. He touches on everything, from the decor of his home office to what it was like writing this movie with the help of the Silicon Valley's John Altschuler, Dave Krinsky, and the legendary Mike Judge.
VICE: Where are you right now?
Johnny Knoxville: I’m in Los Angeles, California.
What are you looking at?
I am looking at my dirty ass red Chucks on the floor in front of me.
Are you at home?
No, no. I’m in my office.
You have an office? What’s that like?
Well, my personal office is pretty messy at this point. I have some pictures on the wall of Evel Knievel loading a pistol shirtless with a cane in his bed and his money and gold watch. I think it was taken when he was in England. I have a picture of Hunter S. Thompson behind me, passed out at a press table when he was in the service, and a suitcase with “Poon” written on it. In the outer office I have a bunch of ridiculous albums lining the shelves. It used to be an accountant’s office or something, so I have an enormous amount of shelf space we had to fill in some way.
What’d you have for breakfast?
I don’t know, some kind of egg thing with potatoes. I get meals delivered so I don’t have to think about it, and since I don’t think about it, I just consume what’s in front of me. So I can barely tell you what I ate.
So many decisions in a day, I like to take a lot out of the way. That’s why I have one pair of shoes, two pairs of pants, one style of socks, one style of underpants. I don’t have to think about it.
What’s on your schedule for today?
Well, the trailer for Action Point is coming out, so I gotta do some throws for the trailer. I had to rewrite those a little, and I’m researching David Allan Coe, ‘cuz we’re contemplating doing a documentary on him with Julien Nitzberg, the guy who did The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia with me. I’m reading his book, Just for the Record, and a couple of others.
Nice. Is it true that before Hurricane Sandy, I saw you walking around SoHo wearing a sailor’s hat?
I have a sailor’s hat right on top of this Captain Morgan–type thing—I think it’s for a wine bottle, but it’s got a sailor with his mouth agape and his hand right in front of his mouth. So, I put the sailor hat on him. You know, I wear sailor hats quite often, and I don’t know if it was before Hurricane Sandy. Quite possibly.
Glad we cleared that up. What can you tell me about this movie? When did you get started? Why’d you decide to make Action Point?
Derek Freda, my partner, sent me the documentary on Action Park, a theme park in New Jersey. It was an amazing theme park where the owner was like, Let’s not hassle the kids with a bunch of rules. Let’s leave safety up to them! And he did. And people got wrecked. That inspired us to make a film about a dangerous theme park, but we took the story from our experiences with Jackass.
I thought of the most painful stunts I could, and we made a film. And boy did it cost me: I got more injured on this than on any Jackass film I’ve ever done. Because all the stunts we did were real. I asked the stunt guys, “Look, we’re gonna do them for real. So no pads, and no cutting on the action.” I felt kind of bad for asking them to do that, but actually they were psyched because they never get a chance to do that. There was a good energy on set.
Why real stunts, rather than movie magic?
I’m not that interested in movie magic. I think it’s more exciting when you’re doing your own stunts. In movies I produce, I can do my own stunts. I get on a regular movie, they have stunt guys for me which I still don’t understand. With this, I could do what I wanted [laughs]. It got a little intense.
What was the worst injury?
Jeez, I don’t know. I had four concussions, I broke my hand, I busted my meniscus, whiplash... Maybe the worst one is I got back from the emergency room one night from a gnarly concussion and I had a little blood in my nose, so I went to blow my nose, and when I blew it, my left eye popped out of its socket. It freaked me out. I didn’t know what to do so I popped it back in its socket, and I called the producer and said, “Look, you have to come get me because my left eye just came out of my head.” He’s like “A-hahahaha.” I’m like, “I’m serious.” I had to go straight back into the emergency room.
What the hell?
What had happened is, unbeknownst to me, I had broken my orbital lamina bone in my eye. In fact I didn’t break it, they said it just disappeared on impact, and so when I was blowing my nose, I blew air behind my eye, and it was pushing it out. Wasn’t expecting that one.
That never happened before, huh?
That never happened. You’re not expecting that. Then they’re like, “OK, well you might have to do surgery, we don’t know, but whatever you do, don’t sneeze for six weeks.” And I have bad allergies, so I’m like, “I don’t know how to do that!” [Laughs] And it popped out again like a week later! I was walking around with Chris Pontius, because he’s in the film, and he said something funny and for whatever reason, I put both my fingers over my nose and laughed and blew, and it blew the eye out again, and I popped it back in. It wasn’t as bad as the first time, but still…
Does your vision get all weird when your eye pops out?
Yeah, yeah. It was double-vision for a while, but it corrected itself. But we had two or three days left of shooting, so on the last few days they could only film the right side of my face. I had an old pirate patch on my eye. We shot around it.
Did that affect the story at all?
You can’t really tell; you just turn your head to one side. But if you look real close in one scene, you can just catch a glimpse of my left eye. And it doesn’t look good.
How’d Chris Pontius get involved?
Well, I just asked him. I wrote the part for him and then asked him if he would like to do it, and he said “Yeah.” He’s amazing in the film. God he’s funny. Just, like, between takes. He’s obsessed with hatchets and the history of hatchets, so I kind of wrote that into the character. Between shots he was constructing spears for the makeup ladies or crew members. I mean, he made at least 30 spears for people while we were there. I don’t think anyone really asked for a spear, but that was his way of saying “I like you.”
Do any of the other Jackass members appear in the movie?
No, just me and Pontius, but the spirit of Jackass is all over the movie. It’s basically like me and the Jackass guys had our own theme park. It’s just that poorly-run and dangerous.
Why do you keep putting on old-person makeup?
This one was decided after the fact. It’s just my character is old, but since there’s Bad Grandpa, we had to try to make him not look like Irving Zisman. But the geography of my face only let them do so much, so we wanted to do a Princess Bride-type of past/present narrative.
You ever think that your reason for getting in oldface has anything to do with constantly testing the limits of your own mortality?
No… No. I don’t have to get in makeup to do that. But a little makeup always helps the lady.
Out of all your favorite stuntmen in history, who do you think would win in a fight?
Wow, I don’t know. Jackie Chan? I don’t know if Buster Keaton was much of a fighter, but he was a hell of a stuntman. He’s Jackie Chan’s idol. Stallone could fight. And I’m sure Schwarzennegger would be a handful. Me, personally, I’m 0–83 lifetime in fights, so me picking a good fighter is like me telling you who’s a good guitarist: I have no fucking clue.
How’d you pick the stunts for the film?
It’s a movie about a dangerous theme park, so they gotta be related to the theme park. So you just sit around and think of the worst things you can do to yourself in a theme park. It was about that complicated. There was a huge list.
How’d Mike Judge get involved?
You know, I told him about the idea so me and Mike met with a couple of the guys he works with—John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky—and we tossed around ideas.
How long did it take?
It took a long time. Three years, probably. Maybe three and a half. Six months to shoot, six months to edit, and the rest of the time trying to get the script right.
What were the biggest challenges to that?
Trying to get the tone and the story right, and just trying to get the fucker to work. It’s the first narrative film I ever wrote on, so it’s been about six months trying to figure it out myself in the end.
Would you write another one?
Yeah, I would feel more confident doing it now. There was many months of being too scared to even try, and finally I was like, “Fuck, I have to do something.” It’s funny what you’re scared of sometimes.
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