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Jackass 3D - Jeff Tremaine interview

Jackass 3D, Jeff Tremaine

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JEFF Tremaine talks about directing Jackass 3D in a 3D format and discovering the painful joys of the super slow-motion cameras, as well as his surprise at the continuing popularity of the movies, especially in light of the US success of the most recent film which has already out-grossed the combined totals of the first two films put together…

Q. Is there ever a point when you think this is not a good idea?
Jeff Tremaine: Most of what we do would be considered not a good idea for most people. So, ‘not a good idea’ is how we make a living.

Q. But presumably you weren’t always professionals… you were just a bunch of guys who were good at the various things you did?
Jeff Tremaine: We paid each and every one of them so they were technically professional. One of the first things we spent any money on was printing up T-shirts that said ‘Professional’ across them.

Q. But did you find that they had to work harder to nerve themselves up as they’ve gotten older?
Jeff Tremaine: There’s a great moment with Steve-O in this one where he’s trying to get the nerves up and get hit with that ball [in the nuts] and he was super-clear in this movie… he’s been sober now for two and a half years. So, he was psyching himself up for this and it took a really long time. You can see that when he says: “God, why do I have to be Steve-O?” It’s a really, really funny moment.

Q. What made you decide to make this one in 3D?
Jeff Tremaine: The studio suggested it and we did some tests and it worked out really well for us and we thought it could be fun.

Q. Was it harder to film in 3D?
Jeff Tremaine: No. We hired a great 3D company. In some ways it was easier, and in some ways it was more difficult. The 3D cameras are big and bulky and they come with three or four people per camera. So, there was a little getting used to that but really on this test we shot just a few things and the energy was such that it was so obvious that it was time to shoot a movie. Johnny [Knoxville] and [Chris] Pontius and Steve-O got together and the energy was so big that it didn’t matter what kind of camera we were going to shoot on – it was going to happen. But we started really getting into the 3D because you could see it right there, on location. Right when you shoot, you can go and watch a replay and see the 3D.

So, we started really falling in love with it. It was about halfway through that we discovered the phantom camera, which is the camera that shoots 1,000 frames a second in super slow-motion and that we ended up writing more ideas for than we did for 3D. Once we discovered the face comes off the skull, we thought it was cool! We had a custom built Phantom 3D camera and we just shot the stupidest things you can think of with the most expensive, highest tech device out there!

Q. Is it easier to get away with stuff now that you’ve established a reputation? Are the censors less strict?
Jeff Tremaine: For us, I think the movies get more outrageous naturally. So, it might not be that we’re getting away with more, it might just be that this is where we’re at and this is the footage we have. Whereas, the first movie was just as outrageous as it could be then but that wasn’t as far as we needed to go for the second movie, and now the third movie. We didn’t intentionally try to go out of our way to make things better and crazier than before. When we start, I always try and calm the guys down and say: “Don’t get caught up in your head trying to outdo anything you’ve done in the past; just try to be funny. Write funny ideas.” And almost by doing that, what’s funny to us now maybe wasn’t as funny to us four years ago, or eight years ago. So, there’s sort of an evolution of humour… or de-evolution of humour [laughs].

Q. Was there any stuff that didn’t make it past the blackboard stage? Or a stunt that didn’t work out?
Jeff Tremaine: Sometimes we’d shoot something and you know if there’s a crappy feeling when you’re shooting it, then that’s how it’s going to turn out. Sometimes when we want to prank the guys, if we can tell that they’re in a certain mood then we’ll decide not to do it today because everyone is going to be sour. It doesn’t happen a lot. Steve-O wanted to shoot himself in the nipple with a BB Gun and it just sounded dark and didn’t have a purpose. We filmed it and it was dark! But it just wasn’t in the spirit of what we do.

Q. How do you select each person for each prank?
Jeff Tremaine: A lot of times things are written for an individual because we know either they have the skill set to do this or they have zero skill set to do it, which is even better! And then some ideas are just out there. The jet engine… we didn’t have a whole lot planned. We had the Ryan Dunn sitting in the chair thing planned but after that it was sort of a free for all. We have a lot of those things. We had the swing shot where we didn’t have a whole lot of plans, just a lot of toys and it’s one of those ‘think of clever ways to throw people up in the air and let gravity sort it all out’.

Q. Do you continue to be surprised by how popular these films are?
Jeff Tremaine: We’re baffled by it… especially the opening weekend [when it grossed over $50 million].

Q. Didn’t you drive around various cinemas as well on opening night?
Jeff Tremaine: Yeah, we went cinema to cinema, snuck in and sort of felt the vibe. Early on, you couldn’t tell. People seemed to be into it. But then we went to the 10pm show, the later show, and we did it in a cinema that had this racially mixed crowd, and they were going crazy. I talked to the manager of that theatre and he said: “We just added three more shows for Jackass that night!” So, the theatres were putting more out there than we’d originally planned, so it was really cool. I could tell that something was in the air and it felt great.

Q. Johnny Knoxville’s daughter turns up at the end of the movie. Do you have to shield her when she’s on set from some of the stunts?
Jeff Tremaine: She comes to the office periodically but we get early warning. In our office, we have photos of everything we’ve ever done all over the office… a lot of naked photos, so anytime she visits we have to have a PA go around the office with little post-it notes to cover all the dicks.

Read our interview with Johnny Knoxville