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Johnny Knoxville turns ‘Jackass’ old school in ‘Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa’

‘Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa’ is slated to hit theaters nationwide Oct. 25.  Credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

‘Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa’ is slated to hit theaters nationwide Oct. 25.
Credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

A three-hour makeover process every morning, attempting to ship a human in a cardboard box and more than a year of preparation for an hour-and-a-half product might be enough for some to turn in their two weeks’ notice.

For Johnny Knoxville, it’s an average day on the job.

“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” is scheduled to release in theaters Friday. Rather than the usual short skits and pranks that identify “Jackass” movies, “Bad Grandpa” is more narrative, with Knoxville playing 86-year-old Irving Zisman — ensuring hours of makeup for the “Jackass” star each morning.

As Zisman is forced to take his grandson Billy, played by 9-year-old actor Jackson Nicoll, across the country, the pair encounter unsuspecting people, putting them through both awkward situations and pranks alike.

“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 make sense,” Knoxville said in a conference call with The Lantern and other college media outlets.

Not only is the structure of the movie changing, but the characters are as well. Instead of being flanked by the usual “Jackass” crew with Steve-O and Bam Margera, Knoxville’s partner in crime is Nicoll.

Working with someone not of legal drinking age — let alone under the age of 10 — is new for Knoxville, but he said he enjoyed the experience.

“We could not have found any kid more gifted than Jackson. He is … completely fearless. You know, we’ve done pranks with kids in the past and sometimes they just freeze up … But never do we enter a situation where he was intimidated or frightened,” Knoxville said.

But with “Jackass’” reputation for crude humor, inserting a child into the “Bad Grandpa” mix might make for a tricky situation.

Yet, Nicoll’s parents didn’t see a problem with their son’s role in the movie.

“There is a reason he is solid and fearless and competent, and just — he’s just a brilliant kid, and it’s because he’s got great parents and they trusted us,” Knoxville said.

Through that mutual respect and trust, new pranks were born — with some set up, that is. While the reactions to the pranks are all real and in the moment, capturing those reactions takes a lot of work behind the scenes.

“We would have cameras inside baby strollers … sometimes we will get permission for pranking employees of a … certain place. We’ll go in the night before and put up two-way mirrors. And so, it’s a whole involved process to hide the cameras so no one knows what’s going on,” Knoxville said.

The crew for “Bad Grandpa” went to great lengths to ensure people’s reactions were real. Knoxville said not a single person featured in the movie is fake or placed.

The pranks range from a fake funeral to Irving attempting to ship his grandson in a box, to Billy dressing up as a girl in a child beauty pageant — much to the chagrin of the mothers present.

“We’re not trying the (to) push boundaries, we’re just trying to … make each other laugh,” Knoxville said.

Another key aspect in making the pranks both funny and plausible was making the character of Irving believable.

“I’m trying to get the right walk and everything down and, you know, trying to imagine what it would be like to, you know, be 86. But my body is so banged up that I was almost (walking) like Irving (anyway) … it’s really more of a version of myself,” Knoxville said.

More than a decade of stunts has given his body a beating and helped him in getting into the character of Irving.

Transforming into a grumpy curmudgeon who has a knack for getting into odd situations, Knoxville creates an interesting relationship with his on-camera grandson.

“I think you’ll be surprised at how much you’re going to be invested in the relationship between me and my grandson,” he said.

A natural parental feeling might add to that relationship. “Bad Grandpa” will be his first “Jackass” movie since the birth of his youngest daughter in 2011, but he said he didn’t even begin doing stunts until the birth of his first daughter born in 1996.

“It’s not like having the kid calms me down,” he said.

His pranks might not have changed, but his emotional connection with Nicoll might be influenced by his own fatherhood.

Some students agree that the addition of a child into the pranks will create a different style of “Jackass” movie.

“I think it will be funnier and probably less crude,” said Kaleigh Mackay, a second-year in biochemistry. “The humor coming from the characters is dynamic and not necessarily gross humor.”

While not the average grandfather figure, Knoxville takes the typical grandfather figure and turns it upside down in a road trip across America with his grandson.

“I hope that I’ll be a much better grandfather than Irving Zisman, but hopefully I’m years away (from) being a grandfather, but I — yes, I think … I won’t be downing beers with my grandchildren.”

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