Published May 24, 2018
Through the Jackass TV series, films and spinoffs, Johnny Knoxville subjected himself to all manner of physical abuse, to the twisted delight of viewers. As Knoxville now tells it, all the bumps and bruises sustained in those productions can't hold a candle to what he went through shooting his latest comedy.
In Tim Kirkby's Action Point, Knoxville plays the role of D.C., a crackpot owner of the wild Action Point amusement park, which prioritizes fun at the expense of safety. Speaking with New York Magazine, Knoxville's laundry list of injuries sustained while shooting included four concussions, a broken wrist, two-and-a-half missing teeth, stitches, whiplash and popping his left eye out of its socket.
Looking back on Knoxville's work with the Jackass crew, it's hard to imagine him facing these physical (and medical) challenges with anything more than a laugh and a smile. Before Action Point arrives in theatres June 1, look back on eight stunts that undoubtedly prepared Knoxville for his latest pain-filled feature.
A segment in which the Jackass: Number Two stars looked to launch themselves over a lake using rocket-powered bicycles and wheelchairs culminated with Knoxville riding aboard a "big red rocket." As you can see in the clip, his attempt required two separate takes, with some malfunctioning explosives nearly giving Knoxville some nasty injuries.
"That one got so much scarier in post when we watched it frame by frame and saw all the rockets flying out and these metal rods," director Jeff Tremaine told CanMag in 2006. "Plus, right as this happened we had a couple of prop guys two hundred yards back and it whizzed right past their faces."
The Cup Test
The use of an athletic cup has surely saved more than one Jackass crewmember from some serious damage before, but Knoxville was charged with testing their quality in the first episode of the show's second televised season.
A rigorous six-stage test found Knoxville first getting kicked in between the legs by five children to test the cup, before lining himself up in front of a tennis ball machine to determine the protective gear's true athletic performance.
Knoxville's "for balls, by balls" approach was also tested with a croquet ball, a paintball gun and an eight ball, which was dropped onto the cup from the roof of a building. A trio of sledgehammer tests was also conducted for good measure.
Golf Cart Crashes
As Wee Man told Rolling Stone in 2015, this bit was born out of finding an abandoned mini golf course while filming on the East coast. As you can see below, the crew push the course, carts and obstacles to their limits, with Knoxville experiencing a particularly gnarly crash at the 1:45 mark.
Crewmembers quickly rush to Knoxville's aid under the crumpled golf cart, but he seems to walk away visibly unscathed. "I don't know what happened," he says in the clip. "I just remember we went in the air, and the next thing I know, I'm just fucked."
"I still can't believe Knoxville made it out alive," star Dave England told Rolling Stone. "The best footage ever. Those things were there since the '60s. I mean, 40 years of being out there in the sun and these guys come along and destroy it."
Anaconda Ball Pit
This Jackass: Number Two bit found Knoxville, Wee Man and the late Ryan Dunn in a ball pit with two anacondas, described as "ambush hunters" and camouflage experts by their handler. Knoxville's wrestling match with one leaves him a bit bloodied, while all three forget about the second snake lurking in the left-hand corner until the clip's end.
"I had electric tape around my wrists because I didn't want the snake to bite through my arteries," Knoxville revealed to Rolling Stone in 2015, adding that he also wore a cup for the occasion. "Then after we shot, the guy was like, 'One of these snakes took someone's calf muscle the other day.' Thanks for telling me afterwards."
Knoxville's battery of self-defense tests — in which he uses pepper spray, two types of stun guns and a small calibre pistol on himself — predates Jackass as a 1998 video release for skateboarding magazine Big Brother, at which Tremaine was an editor.
Some of the more graphic footage from the segment finds Knoxville pulling Taser pins from his chest and peeling off his layers to ensure the point blank handgun shot hadn't torn through the vest. As he told MTV in 2010, "I was really hoping the vest worked, because I didn't have any money at the time, and I could only afford the cheapest vest possible."
In a Reddit AMA three years later, Knoxville wrote that the pepper spray test was the most painful stunt of the bunch. "Excruciating pain for at least 20 [minutes]," he recalled. "It feels like someone started a fire in your eyes and put it out with kerosene."
Sure, the crotch shots shown earlier in this list were probably painful enough for Knoxville, but the actor nearly lost his member after trying to backflip a dirt bike while shooting an Evel Knievel documentary in 2007. As he told news.com.au in 2013, "I would say breaking my jim-dog was the most psychologically damaging thing I have ever done."
As you can see in the footage, Knoxville's skills in the air weren't quite as sound as required. "I came off the ramp and I let go of the bike and it went 20 feet up in the air and came down and I broke the handlebars off in my crotch," he told the site in 2013. "I had to catheter twice a day for three and a half years afterwards."
Catch Paramount Pictures' Action Point in theatres June 1.