‘Jackass Forever’ Star Johnny Knoxville Reveals Why He’s Done With Death-Defying Stunts for Good
Fearless daredevil’s new film opens Feb. 4January 25, 2022
It’s said scars are just tattoos with better stories. If that’s true, the beaten down body of Johnny Knoxville could tell enough stories to fill a book series. The actor, filmmaker, and seemingly incorrigible daredevil returned to the Stern Show Tuesday morning to whet listeners’ appetites for “Jackass Forever,” the long-awaited fourth installment of his popular stunt and prank franchise. While the new film is sure to leave audiences in stitches, shooting the movie left Knoxville in far worse condition. In the trailer alone, he’s shot out of a cannon and mauled by a bull. The incident with the bull resulted in a broken rib, broken wrist, concussion, and even brain damage, which is part of the reason the 50-year-old performer has sworn off death-defying stunts for good.
“I’m not saying it’s the last ‘Jackass,’ I am saying I can’t take any more hits to the head,” Johnny told Howard. “I’ve done enough for myself and my family. I’m officially retired from that.”
In addition to leaving him with a new lease on life, the run-in with the bull left Johnny with a rough road to recovery. “I got a brain hemorrhage … so my cognitive abilities were in steep decline after that hit,” he said, explaining his neurosurgeon tested his attention after he sustained the injury, and he only scored 17 out of 100.
“Does that scare the fuck out of you?” Howard asked.
“I laugh now. At the time, I was like ‘Oh no,’” Johnny recalled, explaining he endured months of invasive treatments, like a transcranial magnetic stimulation in which doctors “buzz your head with magnets for 30 minutes at a time.”
The bull fight trauma also induced clinical depression. “It was a tough one to come back from. I was trying to edit the movie at the time, but I couldn’t sit still,” Johnny said, later adding, “It was a really hard recovery … but I’m great now. I feel like I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been.”
The Future of “Jackass”
Johnny may be personally dialing back the danger, but that doesn’t mean his hit franchise needs to end. “There could be another ‘Jackass’ with a younger crew, and then just pepper in the old guys here and there. It’s possible,” he told Howard, before singing the praises of Jasper Dolphin, Eric Manaka, and Rachel Wolfson, three new cast members who made their debut in “Forever.”
“We knew we wanted new talent because it would probably look weird if it was all the old guys,” he said, adding, “Rachel is tough. We would have her do things—she licked the stun gun—and it didn’t really faze her. If it was one of the guys who’d done that they’d be screaming and falling over.”
When Toilet-Papering Goes Wrong
“Jackass Forever” is also a star-studded affair, featuring cameo appearances from recent Stern Show veterans Machine Gun Kelly and Eric Andre, among others. The trailer for the movie shows both celebs getting pranked hard, and Howard wondered if every special guest gets that kind of warm welcome.
“They got the full treatment,” Johnny said, explaining “Jackass Forever” director Jeff Tremaine, who had worked with both Andre and MGK before, assured him the two would be down for anything. But Knoxville assured Howard things would be different if the King of All Media were to ever make a “Jackass” cameo. “You would be safe on our set. I guarantee that,” he said.
Johnny went on to say he and Andre have become close since working together on “Jackass Forever.” So close that when Andre was sick over the holidays, Johnny visited his house to cheer him up with a classic prank. In the end, Knoxville was the one who almost got shot.
‘I’m toilet papering his house and he kept yelling out the door, ‘I’ve called the cops! … I have a gun!’ and I’m doubled over, right? And then I put my face against his glass door, and he’s screaming at me, and he walks up and sees me, and he goes, ‘Aw, you motherfucker.’” Johnny recalled. “He goes, ‘I could’ve shot you, you know?’ I said, ‘That would’ve been even better.’”
Salaries, Sobriety, and Steve-O
A “Jackass” movie would hardly be a “Jackass” movie without fearless stunt performer and franchise mainstay Steve-O, but his involvement was in doubt at one point after he and Knoxville got into a public spat about salary. Johnny admitted the ordeal tested their friendship.
“It was tense with the negotiations with Steve-O and us. It got to a point where he was angry at us and I got a little upset at him,” he told Howard, explaining it soon became about more than just money. “It got a little ugly, it got personal, and I would like to say I could’ve handled it better and Steve-O has admitted he could’ve handled it better.”
Thankfully, the two worked everything out before stepping onto the set. “You can’t go into [‘Jackass’] with resentment … Everyone has to be in a positive mood … If anyone is negative or off and we’re doing something dangerous, we bounce them,” Johnny said. “But Steve-O and I talked, and we love each other, and we got through it, and we had a wonderful time on the movie.”
Once celebrated as a wild man’s wild man, Steve-O has been sober for well over a decade. “I’m so proud of Steve-O and his sobriety—blown away by it,” Knoxville said. “People call me brave, [but] that’s real bravery to be where he was and just face it head on.”
Making His Dad Proud
When “Jackass 3.5” released in 2011, Knoxville didn’t have a timetable for another installment or if there would even be another one. “I didn’t know if I wanted to do another movie … I didn’t have that feeling like I really need to do another movie, but all that time I knew that I should keep writing just in case,” he said of his habit of coming up with new premises. “If I got an idea, I would put ‘Jackass 4’ in the subject line and email it to myself right then, and so I did that for 10 years.”
By 2018, Johnny knew he was ready to do another film. He wanted to break the news to one person first – his father, who had fallen seriously ill. “My dad loved ‘Jackass.’ He loved it,” he said.
Unfortunately, Johnny’s father passed away while he was en route to the hospital to say goodbye. “It was crushing to me because I just wanted to see him and tell him that I loved him and we’re doing another film and [see] how happy that would have made him,” he said. “That was tough. I still think about it, that I didn’t get to tell him, but he knew that I loved him.”
Johnny is an involved father himself these days, but while he’s happy to coach Little League and teach his kids how to skateboard, he refuses to involve them in any of his stunts or pranks. Until recently, he told Howard, they didn’t even know that was part of his job.
“They thought I was just [silly] dad, and then one day Rocko came home from school, and we were sitting at the table, and he goes, ‘Jackass!’” Johnny recalled. “I was like, ‘Yeah, dad has a show that has these silly pranks and stunts, but you can’t really see it because it’s naughty.”
That’s not to say Knoxville is in any way ashamed of what he and his colleagues have accomplished these past few decades. “I am proud of ‘Jackass,’ as silly [and] absurd as it is. It is something me and my friends did together, and we get to share it with the world, and the world has responded—they like it,” he told Howard. “But at the end of the day, I don’t want my son following in my footsteps.”
He’s Ready to (Royal) Rumble
While Johnny might be done inside of the bullring, he’s found another one to keep him busy—the wrestling ring. The actor has been a part of a storyline with the WWE that culminates Jan. 29 with the 35th Royal Rumble.
“I’m going to be slinging those wrestlers out of the ring like paper airplanes,” he said in perfect heel form. “They’re going to be flying Knox Airlines nonstop into the fifth row.”
Since being asked to join in during another event by the WWE’s head writer, Knoxville has taken the challenge seriously. “I’ve been training 24-7,” he boasted. “I’ve been flipping huge truck tires over the fence—the neighbors are so angry.” That’s not to say it’s all business. “It’s the most fun thing,” Johnny admitted. “Like, I wake up every morning and I’m talking shit all day long. I spend a lot of my time on the WWE Instagram arguing with people … Johnny’s not acting, Johnny’s fully on board. Johnny has left the building.”
Touch of Gray
Viewers of this latest “Jackass” might be surprised to see Knoxville’s gray mane of hair, but it’s something Johnny has been dealing with since he was a teenager. “In my mid-to-late 20s I had to start coloring my hair,” he noted. “It was every three weeks … it was just a hassle. And now I am gray, and I’m loving it, and if all else goes sideways in my life, I can get a job as a Jamie Lee Curtis impersonator.”
And, while the carpet mostly does not match the new drapes, Johnny implied there is some color coordination going on. “It’s dark down there, but there are a couple,” he said of gray pubic hair.