Interview with Johnny Knoxville
Film: "Big Trouble" and "Jackass, The Movie"
By Ross Anthony

Film: Big Trouble and Jackass, The Movie Sunday March 17, 2002 St. Regis Hotel, LA, six journalist sit at a roundtable awaiting Johnny Knoxville. Other actors (even the director) from the film "Big Trouble" are available, but the consensus among the press is that Johnny is the man we're all here to see. Interestingly enough, Director Barry Sonnenfeld had nothing but kind words to say of Johnny, "He's a very talented actor ... We can always cut to him ... I'd recommended him to other directors ... He calls me sir."

Johnny eventually arrives with a smile and a "just woke up look" unshaven face. Wearing a 1982 Rick Springfield T-shirt and sporting a blue circle tattoo (with 3 stars) on his wrist, he sits with both elbows on his thighs, leaning into the table. Smiling, he stares into a blank spot on the table while occasionally looking up at us. His demeanor is pleasant and straight, his answers frank and sharp.

[Click here for my "JACKASS the Movie" Review]
[Click here for my "JACKASS 3D" Review]

Q: What is your real name?

A: PJ Clap.

Q: And when did you decide ... somehow this name wouldn't work?

A: When I had it on my letters jacket in high school and I used to get made fun of. No, I was just writing for magazines under Johnny Knoxville and I thought it was a ridiculous enough name. Just for underground mags that are probably out of business now.

Q: What did you write?

A: Participatory journalism type stuff, I would go on a trip and write about it. I tested self-defense equipment on myself and wrote about it.

Q: What other stunts have you done?

A: Pepper spray, stun gun, taser gun, and I shot myself with a .38 while I was wearing a bulletproof vest.

Q: How'd that feel?

A: My adrenaline was pumping so I don't remember the impact except that it felt like someone hitting me in the chest with a shovel because the vest dispersed the impact.

Q: And the mace?

A: The mace was horrible. It felt like someone lighting a fire in your eyes and then trying to put it out with gasoline.

Q: did you ever think 'I gotta stop doing this'?

A: Everyday.

Q: How's the movie coming?

A: It's going great.

Q: Can you call it "Jackass?"

A: Yeah "Jackass, the Movie." Yeah we can. It wouldn't be too unfunny if we had to blur it, but yeah we can.

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: In Tennessee ... Knoxville! You see how clever that is.

Q: And how old are you?

A: I'm 31.

Q: Did the BBQ lawsuits kill your show on MTV ... did you have to go to trial?

A: No. I never went to a trial and as far as I know, I don't know any law suits that arose from that ... but that's a question for MTV.

Q: Were you under fire for that?

A: We were under fire from Washington DC, DC - Hollywood - same thing. So that did take a toll on the show. But we did do as much as you could on TV. And from the beginning of the show it was my opinion that it should last a short amount of time, because people become [disinterested] in things after a while.

Q: So how many shows did you end up doing?

A: 24, plus one special, lasted 10 months. Actually we did 2 specials. They wanted us to do some video countdown show, but we didn't think that was a great idea so we did the worst version of that and turned it in. (snickers)

Q: Were you organizing your own stunts or did the producers concoct these ideas?

A: I produced the show, so it's my fault. It's all our fault.

Q: Your brainchild?

A: It was a collective, it wasn't just me.

Q: What gave you incentive to this show?

A: We were just doing skateboard videos for ourselves and eventually word got out and ....

Q: What were some of the daredevil stunts you used to get into as a child?

A: I didn't do that many stunts because I was asthmatic and I was sick most of my childhood. I would just kinda like sit next to my mom watchin' TV and movies.

Q: What were your hobbies?

A: Uhm, TV and movies and I played baseball and sports so I wouldn't let the asthma get the best of me. I played sports until I graduated high school.

Q: And now it's gone?

A: No, I still, have... believe me people have worse problems than me.

Q: Are you trying to use "Jackass" as a vehicle to get into the acting/movies?

A: No "Jackass" has kind of evolved and so did the movie thing.

Q: Do you think Washington should just calm down?

A: I think parents should spend a little more time with their kids and view what they're watching. I have a 6-year-old little girl and we screen everything she watches...

Q: Her name?

A: Madison.

Q: If it was a boy? What would you?

A: I'm so smitten with my daughter, I don't even remember what we would have called it if it was a boy.

Q: Is your wife a performer?

A: No, she told me she'd sue me if she ever ended up on "Jackass."

Q: Do you let Madison watch?

A: I let her see certain parts of the show. Parts that are naughty or where daddy gets hurt, she's not allowed. But, things like the Oompla Loompa ...

Q: Anything else you working on?

A: Yeah I just finished "Men in Black II" where I play a two-headed alien.

Q: Barry Sonnenfeld says you're a really good actor, did you study?

A: Oh, I never thought I had any talent. I don't know. I literally was sick growing up and I just sat around watching movies and that's all I knew.

Q: Favorite movies?

A: "Harold and Maude," "Face in the Crowd," "Cool Hand Luke" "Cinema Paradiso..." I don't know, there's so many.

Q: Who's your cinematic idol?

A: Slim Pickens! He's so good in "Flim-Flam Man." And "Blazing Saddles." Strother Martin, I love too. As far as leading actors .. God, George C. Scott is great.

Q: Tell us about your parents.

A: My mother was a housewife. She stayed and raised myself and my two older sisters. My father owned a tire company and he was a professional liar as he said. He was constantly pulling pranks and stunts on me and everyone at the tire company.

Q: What kinds of stunts?

A: I don't know, he would make chocolate shakes for everyone at work and fill them with Ex-Lax. Or stage gun fights at work between employees but have them be blank guns. He still writes me like naughty poems and signs them the unknown poet, but you know its him because no one else actually does that obviously, and he makes all his "Y's" backward.

Q: Were you a troublemaker in school?

A: I talked a lot, constantly, I guess. I I I... was a pain in the ass, that's what I'll say. Obviously, I got in trouble in school, but I don't think I was any worse than anyone else ... you know everyone's a little excitable. It was funny, dad came to school one day because I was getting in trouble and says, 'anytime he does something out of line ... paddle him.' So anytime after that I got paddled... you behaved a little better.

Q: When'd you get out of Tennesse?

A: 2 mo's after high school I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena, but I didn't stay there long, just because they didn't want you to audition while you were there ... it just wasn't for me.

Q: How'd you support yourself?

A: Job to job, waiting tables, bartending. I umpired little league, which was the greatest job I ever had to this day.

Q: Why?

A: The kids were really sweet, it was in the Latin community in the Valley. Where I grew up, the parents were really into it and yelled at the umpires. [But here] I would blow calls and they were so polite. And I was like 'Oh, this is sportsmanship!'

Q: How did you break into MTV?

A: We just had this show and a few people wanted it so it ended up on MTV.

Q: How do you get to feel so comfortable on camera?

A: You're really not thinking about the camera, because some imminent doom is coming your way so the camera's the least of your worries.

Q: Do you get hurt doing these things?

A: No, not really, just some concussions and some breaks.

Q: What'd you break?

A: God, I've broken so many bones ... just from childhood to now. I did my ankle like three times.

Q: Do you regret doing the BBQ scene?

A: I don't regret doing the BBQ suit, I do regret that the kid took it upon himself to imitate what he thought was his interpretation of the stunt which wasn't our stunt at all. From the beginning we've always emphasized 'don't try this at home,' in interviews and on the show and we mean it. When someone sends a tape in, we send it back.

Q: What did you do in this stunt?

A: I affixed steaks to a suit and laid on a grill.

Q: Did it hurt?

A: Yeah, it got hot.

Q: Did you eat the steaks afterward?

A: Yeah, unfortunately! They were the cheapest steaks and they weren't cooked very well; I'm surprised I don't have some kind of E. coli?

Q: Now what about "Big Trouble?" And working with Tom Sizemore?

A: (laughs) I didn't know what to expect going into it with Tom because. I've seen his role, he's an intense guy. But he's actually super nice to me and he helped me out a lot. I'm not just saying that ... he did! So I have nothing but good things to say about Tom Sizemore.

Q: How about playing this sweet, but dumb guy?

A: Yeah, just working with Mr. Sonnenfeld and everyone, this was my first, so everyone was really supportive. And it was a lot of fun. Yeah, you're in Miami for 3 mo's with per diem. Ensemble movie, you're off half the time - what's not to like?

Q: Did the director ask you to improvise or what?

A: His note is 'faster and funnier' ... that's his main bit of direction.

Q: And what about the 9/11 thing? Is this movie sort of sideswiped by that tragedy?

A: You know, one thing that I dislike is when actors pontificate on things especially something like that. And so I don't want to be evasive, I just hate when actors get self-important and talk about something especially of that magnitude. I mean, this is just a movie and we're just trying to make people laugh...

Q: What about the "Jackass movie?"

A: An hour and half long, much much naughtier version of the show. It's going to be an R-rating and we're going to take full advantage of it. Only adults will be allowed in ... more mature themes ... or immature themes (laughs).

Q: Can you tell us one of the stunts?

A: No, I don't want to give anything away. I hate to be like that, but...

Q: Casting?

A: It's the entire cast of the TV show. And we'll have Brad Pitt, and Shaquille O'Neal cameo, we had them on the show. I just hate to find out too much information about a movie.

Q: Who collaborated on the script?

A: There's no script. Just a lot of bad ideas rolled into one. (snickers)

Q: How about your young guy fans?

A: A lot of male attention. (Laughs)

Q: How do you spend your weekends?

A: Mostly with my kid.

Q: Any stunt someone suggested you do on the show that you just refused ... like hanging yourself?

A: What? You don't think I'm hung? (snickers)

Q: Does your wife ever say ... 'come on you cannot do this'?

A: She'll be happy when it's all over, we don't talk about it. I made the mistake of telling her what I was going to do the first stunt I ever did and she worried for two weeks. So after that ... Plus, after I got home she went on a big shopping spree. So I won't make those mistakes anymore.

Q: What's the best thing about the success coming quickly?

A: I like the life I can give my daughter. She can travel; she's been to Paris and Amsterdam.

Q: What was your best vacation when you were a kid?

A: Going to Daytona beach, playing in the sand, my dad always made me Rice Krispies with bananas and that was good.

Q: And "Jackass" is out when?

A: This summer. my

[Click here for "JACKASS the Movie" Review]
[Click here for "JACKASS 3D" Review]

[More interviews]  |  [Big Trouble Interviews]  |  [Big Trouble Review]

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Copyright © 1998-2023 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: or call 1-800-767-7186. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.

Last Modified: Thursday, 21-Oct-2010 16:37:50 PDT