‘Grandpa’ Style: A Weekend in Las Vegas With Johnny Knoxville and ‘Bad Grandpa’
Just don’t get punched in the balls.
It’s rare that thought would go through your head as you prepare to spend a weekend covering a movie. I mean, interviewing Tommy Lee Jones might feel like getting punched in the balls, but never a movie star actually punching your nuts. Then again there aren’t many movies like ‘Bad Grandpa.’ The film stars Johnny Knoxville and is produced by many of his ‘Jackass’ cohorts, notorious for their behind-the-scenes nut-punches.
Armed with the knowledge that a potential smack to the groin lurked around every corner, I packed my bags to spend a weekend in Vegas, Grandpa Style. Could I survive a weekend with Johnny Knoxville and Team Jackass?
Even at the age of 42, people tend to take their game up a notch around Knoxville. Maybe, it’s because the ‘Jackass’ crew, for so many years, were known for notorious parties and non-stop fun and, well, when in Rome. This is first evidenced almost immediately after I arrive in Vegas. We’re meeting up for drinks before heading off to a ‘Bad Grandpa’ screening. There is a woman – a girl, really – who won a L.A. radio contest and has arrived to meet Knoxville. She is highly intoxicated, her arm draped over the shoulders of a male friend in a feeble attempt to stay upright. Eventually, she collapses in a chair, head slumped to the side and dress up to her hips. She is defeated.
“What happened to her?” I ask to someone who looks like they know what’s going on.
“She was partying with Knoxville.”
From most other parties, ‘Bad Grandpa’ would be eye-rollingly bad. You’d watch the movie, cluck your tongue and wonder aloud what has become of movies. But, from Knoxville and longtime collaborators Jeff Tremaine and Spike Jonze (just one of the Oscar-nominees associated with the film), ‘Bad Granda’ is a welcome surprise. Born from one of the least funny skits in the ‘Jackass’ movies, ‘Bad Grandpa’ manages to mine laughs (and there are lots of them) from a fairly simple concept: a debauched old man is left in the care of his 8-year-old grandson and must deliver him cross-country to his birth father.
Don’t worry to much about the framing device; it’s just an excuse to allow Knoxville to dress up like a creepy old man, pranking unsuspecting locals with the help of a cherubic little boy. Along the way he gets his dick stuck in a vending machine, sharts in a diner and, yes, gets punched in the (very saggy) balls.
’12 Years a Slave’ this is not, but as wildly funny, pseudo-real comedies go, ‘Bad Grandpa’ is a fitting entry into the ‘Jackass’ oeuvre.
That’s about how many times people were punched in the balls on the ‘Bad Grandpa’ set. Estimating a 30-day shoot, that’s an average of nine per day. I feel like I’m long overdue.
A sense of relief washed over me when I saw that Knoxville was wearing a large black brace over his left hand. Maybe my groin would be safe after all. I have peeked around every corner, jerked my neck around at footsteps behind me and have survived until this point.
Just as we are about to wrap our formal interview (seen above), Jackson Nicoll, Knoxville’s young co-star in the film, gets up to show me how, exactly, he was so successful at punching the adults. The camera (unfortunately) stopped rolling and as he and Knoxville stood up, he extended his arm and showed how it was the exact height of Knoxville’s crotch. And as Johnny and I start laughing, I see something in my periphery.
It’s a balled up little 8-year-old fist and it’s headed right for my balls.
‘Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa’ opens in theaters on October 25.