Under the Radar

Director Jeff Tremaine Talks 'Bad Grandpa'


Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, the Oscar-nominated motion picture starring Johnny Knoxville, is out this week on Blu-ray and DVD. Knoxville, director Jeff Tremaine and co-writer/producer Spike Jonze have taken the Irving Zisman character from the Jackass movies, mixed in some plot and kept the hidden-camera gags.

Irving's daughter is going to jail and the old man takes his grandson on a road trip in hopes that the boy's father will take care of him while mom is incarcerated. The added plot elements breathe some new life into the series. We're not stuck with a bunch of guys trying to figure out outrageous new ways to top themselves and the plot elements seem to have given the team freedom to be more flexible and creative. If you love the other movies, this one still delivers the mayhem. If you never liked Jackass before, this one might win you over.


Director Jeff Tremaine talked to us about growing up in a military family, why he doesn't think of this one as a true Jackass movie and how the military brass have blocked the guys from doing USO tours.

Word on that Internet is that you grew up in a military family.

My grandfather was a general. Medical, but a general, and my father was a Colonel in the Army. We lived all over the place. You know, I grew up in the Presidio of San Francisco, on the base there until I was about 7 and then we moved to Colorado Springs. I lived there for a few years, then we moved to the suburbs of Washington D.C.. My dad was at Walter Reed. You know, we were in suburbs of D.C. for my high school and junior high school years.

How do you get from an upbringing like that to where you are now?

That’s a good question. I got into riding BMX and skateboarding. I was always into art but I wasn’t a very motivated student. I found a high school teacher that really cut through my bullshit and we connected. So luckily in high school I put together a really pretty solid art portfolio and that got me into college. I went to Washington University in St. Louis. I was a Bachelor Fine Arts there.


Jeff, Johnny Knoxville & Spike Jonze at the 'Bad Grandpa' premiere.

I went to high school with Spike Jonze. Right as I was finishing college, he was out in California working for a BMX magazine and we knew each other through riding BMX. It just timed out perfectly that I was finishing school and they needed an Art Director at the magazine. I kind of moved straight from school to L.A. and I've been here ever since. I started in publishing and now here I am in the Hollywood business.

So you’ve had three theatrical Jackass movies before Bad Grandpa and two different “.5” releases in-between. Do you count this one as the fourth or the sixth movie in the series?

I don’t really count this as a Jackass movie, to be honest. I would say there's three Jackass movies and the .5's are sort of – there's a Jackass 2.5 and a Jackass 3.5, and those are sort of just all the stuff that didn’t make the movie, but more like little documentaries about each of those movies, with a lot of all the extra stuff we filmed. We never felt this movie was a Jackass movie. It's just Irving, you know?

When I think of Jackass, I think of all of the guys and doing that kind of crazy stuff. So I think it's the Jackass sensibility, the Jackass sense of humor, but this is a narrative, you know? And it's a character that was born out of Jackass, so, you know, that’s why we put "Jackass Presents" on there. One, so our audience would know where he came from, but we don’t view it as a Jackass movie.


Do realize how popular the Jackass movies are with a lot of active-duty military?

We've been told. You know, we've tried to arrange a couple of USO tours with the guys, and we always get shut down by the military, I think because we are a bad influence on some of the soldiers. But like Wee Man does it all the time. They’ll let Knoxville go by himself. They’ll let Wee Man go by himself. I don’t know if any of the other guys have done it, but they’ll never let us go as Jackass, you know? So – but, you know, if you’ve got any pull there, we'll do it, man. I would love to do that.

My brother-in-law was in the Marines and we went to visit him at Pendleton. He didn’t really get permission. I think he was a captain at the time and they were about to ship off to Iraq. We visited his unit and hung out with those guys and just had a little party with them. It was me, Johnny Knoxville, Wee Man, Preston and Chris Pontius. I think Steve-O was there. We all went in there and basically snuck on to Pendleton and hung out with a bunch of Marines. It was pretty fun.

What are you planning to do next with Jackass or are you moving on to something else?

There is no plan next right now. We never have a next plan. That’s probably what makes us terrible businessmen. No, we've done every Jackass movie as if it's the last. We don’t have an intention to do a sequel, but I don’t think that it's impossible. We could come around and do another sequel.

I think this movie definitely opened our eyes and opened the door to doing other movies like this, a scripted movie set in the real world where you kind of control the story, but you also use people who have no idea what the hell is going on. A combined hidden-camera/real movie is a cool idea. I don’t know what's next as far as the Jackass franchise goes. For my next project, I'm doing a big biopic on Mötley Crüe based on their biography The Dirt. It's a totally scripted movie. I want to shoot it this summer, so hopefully it all falls into place and we can do that.


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