“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa” tells the story of Johnny Knoxville’s iconic character, 86-year-old Irving Zisman, who travels cross-country to deliver his 8-year-old grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll) to his father.
The movie’s plot was modeled after the 1973 film “Paper Moon,” in which con man Moses Pray (Ryan O’Neal) drives his possible daughter, Addie Loggins (Tatum O’Neal), to deliver her to her aunt in St. Josephs, Mo. Similar to the relationship in “Paper Moon,” Knoxville said fans will be surprised to see how great the relationship between Irving and Billy is in this movie.
Like previous Jackass movies, “Bad Grandpa” features hidden camera pranks on real people, which are nothing new for the 42-year-old Jackass star. Adding a child to the mix, however, increased Knoxville’s level of caution with each prank.
“Having an 8-year-old boy with you raises the stakes of the prank,” Knoxville said in a phone interview. “I usually size people up before I commit to a prank. If anything were to happen, I’m the kid’s first line of defense. But there is always someone close by just in case.”
Knoxville said he enjoyed pranking unsuspecting people with Nicoll, even going as far as saying he wished Nicoll’s parents had more babies.
“I can’t find a better kid than Jackson,” Knoxville said. “He’s fearless. I have done pranks with other kids who freeze up. I guess it was too much for them.”
Knoxville said Nicoll did a good job of adjusting.
“Jackson just goes along with it,” Knoxville said. “It took him one week to prepare for the dance scene where he was dressed in drag for the beauty pageant, but he was fully committed,” Knoxville said.
Knoxville said a lot of preparation went into each prank featured in the movie. The production crew had to get permission to shoot at each given location, hidden cameras were placed in vans, strollers and purses and Knoxville himself had to undergo three hours of makeup each day to transform into Irving Zisman.
Because “Bad Grandpa,” unlike previous Jackass movies, has a plot, Knoxville changed the way he wrote some of the stunts he performed in the movie. Instead of pulling random stunts, Knoxville explained, he had to write pranks that fit the movie’s plot. Pranks may be fun and games for most, but Knoxville said they’re something he must take seriously so they work.
“I remember I would laugh the first few times I did a prank, but if you laugh, you don’t get any footage,” Knoxville said. “I have to think of it as a job. Everyone else works hard at their job to make it work. It is my responsibility to do the same.”
While lawsuits may be expected for someone who makes a life by pulling pranks, Knoxville only recalled getting a lawsuit from one person in his career. A Montana resident legally named “Jack Ass,” claimed the MTV stars were ruining his good name. The lawsuit never went to court.
On several occasions, members of Jackass claimed to have called it quits only to do more projects. Knoxville said the love for what they do keeps bringing the cast back together.
“Jaskass Present: Bad Grandpa” opens in theaters on Oct. 25.
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