Johnny Knoxville on how to succeed without really dying.
It was nearly a decade ago that a gang of grown men and one “little person” thrust blunt instruments into one another’s rear cavities—and America laughed! Throughout three seasons on MTV and two outings at the multiplex, Jackass distilled the Marx Brothers, Evel Knievel, and punishing Seventies performance art (like Chris Burden, Johnny Knoxville willingly took a bullet on camera) into its own trash-culture moonshine.
These days Knoxville is pushing 40, yet the ribald ringleader and his merry band of masochists have just debuted a third installment, in 3-D no less. And whatever sophistication the professional slackers have gained in the past decade—the stunt pictured at right, for example, was inspired by contemporary Chinese art—they remain loyal to the principle that anything can be improved by self-flagellation. “I saw this artist online, Liu Bolin, who paints himself invisible against different backgrounds,” says Knoxville, “which is interesting but not enough for us, so we added a bull.”
In filming Jackass 3D, Knoxville suffered whiplash, a dislocated shoulder, a gash in his right hand that required stitches, a concussion (courtesy of the bull), and, he says, “a tooth knocked out by an exploding bowl of dildos.” Still, he counts himself lucky. “I almost broke my neck in this stunt,” he says. “But at the very last second, the bull kicked me in the back of the head, and it was just enough to alter my landing. I think he saved me.”