Spike Jonze and Jeff Tremaine are having a jumping competition. There is nothing overly weird in that. It's just what people resort to once they've finished directing and producing a movie full of extreme stunts, and start Jonesing for a fix of taser pain or to be shot into the sky in a flying portaloo. So we jump, and Spike announces that he's won. Vice comes last. Maybe this is because Vice didn’t make $100 million this week. Things like that tend to put a spring in a man’s step.
"What sparked this conversation," Spike intones, motioning out the window to a couple of men painting a roof the other side of a deep gully, "was that we were debating whether it would be possible to jump across to that roof." By sight it should be obvious to even the simplest parkour retard that death, disfigurement and strawberry jam are the only things awaiting anyone stupid enough to jump this urban ravine. Perhaps Jeff and Spike have had their logic boxes skewed after decades spent fucking around throwing their friends off roofs, through plate glass windows or into jet engines. Or maybe they're just happy and rich.
VICE: OK, so this new film's just stunts again. But would you be open to putting a plot in the fourth film? Here's my pitch – a version of Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, but all those outbursts of ultraviolence where they hit each other in the crotch would be done using wildlife.
[Jeff silently pulls back his jacket to reveal a Clockwork Orange version of the Jackass logo]
Jeff Tremaine: We were trying to make something representative of the English. We have different hats for the Skull n' Crutches everywhere we go. But we got in trouble. Apparently you can't mock up a "bobby hat", so we did that instead.
But they sell police hats in every tuppeny trinket store in the West End…
Spike Jonze: Yeah, but they probably don't have Paramount's nervous legal department.
So what do you think of the pitch?
JT: It's done.
SJ: We'll send you a cheque.
JT: Beyond Jackass, we do have a our own production company to fit things into the brand we've got. A horror movie isn't out of the question.
You start the film with Beavis and Butthead, totems of the age when MTV was all-conquering. Jackass always felt like the other bookend of that era to me. Do you think it's still as relevant today?
JT: It gets better with age. I think this is the best one we've made.
SJ: It's got a good spirit to it.
JT: It's doing well. We're happy with that.
But is it as relevant? I mean the whole thing is so closely linked to that Fred Durstian era in popular culture.
Both: Fred DURSTIAN?!
SJ: So you're giving Fred Durst that era? How old are you? 28? So as a teenager, Fred Durst was a big character for you? What era are you talking about, the late 90s?
Very late 90s: 1999, 2000… just before 9/11 changed us all on the inside.
JT: We weren't huge Limp Bizkit fans. We didn't like that stuff.
But there's an overlap that was very much good at the time, in that celebration of fratboy culture. A collective wish to embrace the dumb.
JT: A little bit. But we celebrated it with classic punk rock and a lot more great music.
SJ: We all came out of skateboarding, which was the polar opposite of that. Most of us guys were anti-frat.
I've got a friend who skates and he maintains that he's angry at Bam Margera, because Margera formed the image of skating that he had to put up with. Bam made skaters look like dicks.
JT: Bam wasn't the first to do that.
SJ: Skate culture is a wide swathe of personalities and aesthetics. For me, it's hard for anyone to represent the whole of skateboarding. If anyone does it's Mark Gonzales. But I know what you're saying. Mark didn't have an MTV show.
JT: I don't think Bam is bad for skateboarding.
SJ: I'd rather have him and us represent it than, say, Ryan Sheckler's show.
JT: Did you ever see that show? It was like he was plugging into The Hills or one of those other bullshit teenie drama shows.
SJ: The amazing thing was Ryan Sheckler is such a great skateboarder he skated his way out of that.
JT: The skateboarding characters that always appealed to me were the ones whose personalities were maybe bigger than their talent levels. Bam's a big character. There is always that side of skateboarding, what Bam and Big Brother magazine do. Then there's the more technical side.
SJ: Skateboarding is individual. Everyone has their own goal and idea of what they want to do with it.
JT: You tell your friend "Bam's alright". There's worse people that could be representing skateboarding.
Are there any skateboarding magazines around today in the same bracket as Big Brother?
JT: No. Trans was. And Thrasher, in the late 80s. Big Brother's the next step.
What is the next-next-step?
JT: Shit if I know. I'd make a mint if I knew that.
You two were childhood friends.
SJ: Yeah. When I was 12 I heard about this kid "Heffy" who was a BMX dirt-jumper. He was like the local legend. I met him one day at the mall where we'd all hang out. He had big tuck wheels – went big, landed really hard. We went riding and built ramps a lot together, and ended up going to the same high school. Though you were two years ahead…
JT: I took you to your first punk rock concert.
SJ: There was this place in downtown DC called the Wilson Centre where all the Dischord bands would play. We'd go hang out every weekend.
JT: Good times. Great times.
Wonderful times. But as a partnership, have you had any "Worst of Times" through all the years?
SJ: Me and Jeff have never had a fight. Knoxville too. We've had a really great partnership. The three of us make all the decisions about what goes into the movie.
JT: Paramount has no effect on what we decide.
SJ: We hear their voices and listen to them, but ultimately we've always controlled and owned what we've done. And it's the three of us, really – we'll never outvote each other. It's majority rules. Unless someone feels really strongly about something. I remember on the last movie I really didn't like the elephant stuff.
JT: People we showed it to didn't like it either. But you get together and the extreme behaviour comes out, and you sort of egg each other on, and sometimes when you show that to people who weren't there, it can seem too much. You gotta back it down, mix it all up.
It's still got a warmheartedness to it. A male bonding thing.
SJ: In our own world we have a very clear set of values. When I was doing the last movie I met some guy who said "Jackass is the end of Western civilisation." But we have our own set of values. Maybe it's Knoxville's Southern influence, but we're all very respectful of women. We're not homophobic, either. Even amongst each other, we might break a glass over someone's head, but we'll never insult them.
JT: As soon as we start getting mean it doesn't feel funny to us any more. We're not mean to people we don't know.
SJ: It's just a really decent, good set of guys. We worked with some people at the start but it felt a bit dark so we just didn't call them back. There was no plan in the beginning – just a handheld video camera pointed at us running around.
JT: I knew all these great personalities. I knew we could get great stuff out of them. It was just figuring out how to make it work. I think that's where the fraternity thing comes from – it's just a bunch of guys with a taste for penis [CONTINUED OVERLEAF, COMEDY ED] humour.
SJ: The good side of fraternities is the camaraderie. When I was young, getting tormented by jock dudes, they all seemed like meatheads to my friends and me. That's the difference with Jackass. We don't feel anti-outsiders at all. Skating isn't… I think somehow in the last ten years skating has become the cool thing, but we used to be the unpopular kids.
JT: I'd get made fun of at school for wearing Vans. Then Fast Times At Ridgemont High came along and everyone started wearing Vans.
OK. So, Jackass works great in 3D. Porn works great in 3D. Discuss.
JT: I didn't know someone'd made a 3D porn film yet. I guess it seems inevitable… They're even doing sports events in 3D now in America. The exciting thing for us was that we got playback on the film, on-set, in real-time 3D. It's not a post-production thing any more. That was very cool.
The amount of money this series has made, it's kind of like when your friend says "would you eat a dog turd for a million bucks?" except FOR REAL. Have you thought of breaking down your accounts in that way – paying precisely $30,000 for tying your cock to a helicopter, $50,000 for lying down in a truckful of snakes…
JT: The thing is we never did this for the money. MTV is notoriously the cheapest network ever. If we were doing it for the money, we'd do one every year.
SJ: You've gotta feel it. The studio always wants us to do it because they just want the money. But we go into every one thinking it'll be the last.
Well just keep the Clockwork Orange idea in mind is all I'm saying.
Both: Thanks. We will.