Being old never looked so fun…or painful. The UP catches up with Johnny Knoxville to talk about “Bad Grandpa”

Maddy Mesa

UPWEB_BadGrandpa“Jackass” is back after three long years with a new kind of movie, “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.” Slightly different from the short skits and dangerous stunts seen in the past three “Jackass” movies, “Bad Grandpa” has a plot to it — albeit a crazy, stunt-filled plot.

A favorite “Jackass” character from the earlier movies, 86-year-old Irving Zisman (Knoxville), is in charge of taking his eight-year-old grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) across country to live with his dad after his mother has been thrown in jail. Along the way the two find themselves crashing a wedding, disrupting a funeral and entering a little girl’s beauty pageant.

On Oct. 4, the University Press was one of 27 student media outlets to participate in a conference call with Johnny Knoxville.

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Q: Based on the trailer, “Bad Grandpa” looks like more of a story. In the previous “Jackass” films, you pulled pranks and stunts. Why the sudden change in “Bad Grandpa?”

A: Well, we did a lot of pranks on the public on the TV show and as we became well — more well known, we kind of have to focus. But when we do pranks on the public, when I would think the public, it was primarily the old man as the movies went on.  So we’ve been thinking about this movie for a long time doing a whole movie with the old man.  And we just decided to commit to it.  I’m glad we did because I think you guys are really going to like it.

Q: What was the most exciting part about this movie?

A: I think you’ll be surprised at how much you’re going to be invested in the relationship between me and my grandson. There’s a loose narrative in the movie, you know take my grandson across country, deliver him to his father and across the way we prank people.  And the reactions we get in the pranks are really surprising, but I think the most surprising will be how much you like our relationship. And Billy like — he’s Billy in the movie, Jackson is his real name — is unbelievable.

Q: Were there any difficulties with this film compared to the other projects you’ve done?

A: Well, yes, because we’re trying to service a story as well.  But with this, we have a story and we’re doing pranks on people but sometimes we’ll try to work story points into the pranks.  And everything has to connect and makes sense.  So that was — it was very unique to this film.

Q: It’s been a number of years since you first started doing “Jackass,” and your career has changed a lot since then.  What it’s like to coming back to “Jackass” and doing the pranks again?

A: I mean we had a [ball] making this film.  And it’s — it pertains the, you know, there’s a couple of stunts and a lot of pranks ala “Jackass” but it’s own unique thing because of the story.  So it’s a natural progression.  But one we managed the pull off — so I’m very proud of that and I’m just happy to be shooting again.  I like doing pranks and stunts.

Q: So in the movie, you dressed up as Irving, a grandfather, but in real life you have three kids of your own. I was wondering if and when you do become a real grandfather, is this character going to become a full time thing?

A: Oh I hope that I’ll be a much better grandfather than Irving Zisman but hopefully I’m years away for being a grandfather, but I — yes, I think — yes, I won’t be downing beers with my grandchildren.

Q: “Jackass” skits are usually pretty short.  How do you make the transition from short skit into a whole movie with just this one character?

A: Jesus, it was over a year of writing and coming up with gags and coming up with story.  And even as we’re shooting like we’re still refining the story and writing more gags.  It was a lot of work.  I mean it’s fun.  We love what we do but we’ve really had to spend a lot of time on story and myself just creating — flashing out the character even more. So, yes.

Q: How did Jackson Nicoll respond to playing your grandson in the movie?

A: We could not have found any kid more gifted than Jackson.  He is eight years old and completely fearless.  You know, we’ve done pranks with kids in the past and sometimes they just freeze up and they just — and when they’re trying to prank an adult, they cannot — it’s just too much.  But never do we enter a situation where he was intimidated or frightened.  He just looked forward to it.

And sometimes, if we were pranking someone and we didn’t get the desired result, he would yell an insult at them and they walk away.  “Alright, Jackson, you can’t do that.  You know, we can’t yell at people like that, so they don’t know — if doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”  “Oh, OK.  I’m sorry.”  But he just fearless and he’s — I mean, in the little kids beauty pageant, where he’s in drag and hadn’t learn a whole weeks and weeks for a dance routine.  And I — he’s unbelievable.  He’s unbelievable.  I can’t wait for you guys to see Jackson.

Q: Was there any reaction you had during the filming of “Bad Grandpa” that you were not expecting?

A: Yes.  There were many.  There were many reactions.  You know, sometimes you’ll go into a prank like we had this one where – I don’t want to drive Billy across country at one point in the movie.  I’m just going to ship him.  So we put him in a cardboard box and try to ship him.  But before the prank, I’m like “OK.  This one is way, way in [left field].”  No one is going to fall for this or buy it because soon as he pops out of the box, so they hear him talking in the box, they’re just going to “OK.  Where are the cameras?”  But we found two ladies in North Carolina who — I mean — I was pranking them for 30 minutes and I had to stop because I didn’t know what else to do.  It was a really unbelievable reaction.

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So those — yes, it was pretty, pretty magical.  I mean, at one point like, I was like people would walk in the store and in he’d broken out the box by then and I’m like “Cover up the box, cover up the box. We don’t want anyone to see.”  And they were covering up the box like they were trying to hide Billy in the box.  It was great.

“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” premieres in theaters Friday, Oct. 25