Extreme stunt star Johnny Knoxville (Jackass) sat down to talk about his passion project “Being Evel,” a documentary he produced about his hero Evel Knievel, the famed stunt jumper. Here are five things he shared about his memories of his idol, the surprising things the film shows, and whether or not they ever met.
Johnny Knoxville on his earliest memory of Evel Knievel:
I just know in the seventies for me he was there. He really got into my bones and really I don’t think there’d be a “Jackass” without Evel doing what he did. He kinda watched his career, showed up to watch him crash. So all our stunts are designed to fail. So we appreciate Evel doing all that work for us ahead of time.
What you might find surprising about Evel taking place before his fame and legacy:
There was a lot of things that I found surprising. I kinda became obsessed with his life before he started jumping. You could have done a whole documentary on just that portion. He didn’t start jumping till age 25. Evel was such a character growing up. He was an excellent athlete too, and ski jumper. He started a semi-pro hockey team at 19 years-old.
Johnny on whether he’s performed any stunt inspired by Evel:
Not successfully. But, in my business I call that a success. At Matt Hoffman’s tribute to Evel Knievel for the 24-hour takeover for MTV, I tried to back-flip a motorcycle, and I don’t know how to ride a motorcycle. Travis Prastana had to (figure how to) land the clutch for me when I was riding. That’s as bad as you can possibly get. I broke my dignity trying to back-flip a motorcycle because I came off the ramp and it went 20 feet in the air, and broke off its handle bars in my crotch.
What he hopes audiences will learn about Evel that they didn’t know before:
I want them to know about a man who meant a lot to me in my life, and whom I consider one of the most important characters in the twentieth century. And,
to know the complete story of him, to celebrate all of the things he did and inspired. But also be honest about the person he was. Some of it is great. Some of it is hilarious and some of it is disappointing. You pull back the curtain on anyone’s life, you’ll get your share of that. Evel had everything times a hundred.
On whether he ever had the opportunity to meet his idol:
I had a chance to. When “Jackass” first started. Me and the guys were gonna present an award to Matt Hoffman, who’s an ESPN producer, and already considered the Evel Knievel of his generation. And Evel was gonna be there so we were very excited–maybe a little too excited. As we walked out on stage, and someone kicks Wee Man across the stage, he goes tumbling on his stomach. One of my friends, Chris was on stage with us–I don’t know why–he was trying to puke on stage, and Pontius walked on stage wearing nothing but a little thin belt doing the helicopter with his penis. We were asked leave right after, Evel was upset, the way we acted. They cut us out of the remaining show. but Matt told me downstairs, I didn’t know this until today, he said that when Evel talked to him about that once, he thought I did all of those things. That I tried to puke on stage, that I kicked Wee Man, he thinks I did the Helicopter. I don’t think that Matt told him I don’t have the ability to do the Helicopter.
“Being Evel” is in limited release and available on V.O.D.