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Jackass 3D Director Jeff Tremaine on the Three Rules to Creating a Painful Stunt

With its flip book of flying excrement, charging rams, and general reveling in the art of pain, Jackass 3D took in $50 million, setting not only a record for the franchise, but also for all October openings ever. It elicits the question — which can either be phrased admiringly or disbelievingly — how did they do that? For a literal answer to the question, we called Jackass 3D director Jeff Tremaine and asked him to break down the creative process behind coming up with a new round of masochism.


Embrace Spontaneity

“I’ll meet with each of the guys and try to get ideas out of them. And [Johnny] Knoxville and I share an office, so he and I just pass notes back and forth all day long with little stick figure drawings on them and stuff like that. But really it’s not until after you’ve shot it that you realize, ‘Okay, that one’s going to make the movie, and that one’s not.' On paper, the great ideas a lot of times don’t work out, and the spontaneous things are the best ones."

Sometimes Simple Is Better

“You know, I pretty accurately nailed one drawing. There's a bit called Roller Boogie — the idea was drawn for a guy to stand there with roller skates on holding a boogie board and get slingshotted down this runway, off this jump, and into an above-ground swimming pool." (See Tremaine's original sketch above.) "And it was funny because I pretty much gave that little stick drawing to my production designer and he built it exactly like the drawing. I mean, it looked exactly like the stick drawing in the end.

“All the ideas pretty much are just a stepping stone to get everyone's creative juices flowing. The ideas work best when spontaneity takes over and you end up with something completely different from what you originally intended. But that was one that was funny because the stick figure drawing I gave to Knoxville looked just like the stunt we ended up shooting.”


Be Willing to Be Proven That an Idea Is Good Stupid, Not Bad Stupid

“In general, we’re very onboard with the same idea, but luckily we don’t always listen to each other. There’s two examples in the movie where Knoxville doubted one of my stunts and I doubted one he wrote. And they're pretty much the two best things in the movie.

“The one that he pitched to me was building this giant hand that would swing around a corner and smash each guy. I thought it was funny; I just thought it wouldn't work. I was trying to put it off and not shoot it, but he stayed on me about it. Eventually I gave in and we shot it and it turns out that it's one of the best things we ever shot. So I was mad at myself for doubting him.


“And I had the idea called the Poo Cocktail Supreme. I thought, let's take a bunch of cords and attach them to a port-a-john, and throw it off a bridge or a building or something. The idea evolved into slingshotting it up 120 feet in the air. But he doubted it. Once he got to the set, he was like, ‘Okay, this is actually going to be pretty epic.’And once we cleaned the shit off the cameras and saw what was on them, it was unbelievable.”


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Movie Review: Why Jackass 3D Makes Me Laugh Like a Hyena

Photo: Paramount Pictures