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Johnny Knoxville's First Death-Defying Stunt Wasn't For Jackass

Arguably the most recognizable face from the "Jackass" brand, Johnny Knoxville is known for his willingness to throw himself headfirst into death-defying stunts. In this year's "Jackass Forever," the actor went so far as to sustain brain damage after being leveled by a bull (per People). Even when he's not running around with the "Jackass" crew, Knoxville still likes to attempt to defy the laws of physics and gravity, putting together an impressive list of injuries for the scripted 2018 film "Action Point," including popping his eye out of its socket (via Entertainment Weekly). 

While many might believe Knoxville's daredevil attitude began with "Jackass," his first foray into dangerous stunts actually came before the original series was ever put together for MTV. The most shocking part about Knoxville's first attempt at entertaining the masses with a sheer willingness put himself in harm's way is that the actor couldn't find much interest in what sounds like a stunt perfect for "Jackass."

Knoxville wanted to get shot

When Johnny Knoxville was still a young man chasing stardom in late '90s Hollywood, the actor felt the pressure of his 30s coming, as well as the pregnancy of his then-girlfriend, leading him to pitch a wild idea to get his career kickstarted. The pitch? A series where Knoxville would test out self-defense equipment on himself, which included being shot while wearing a bulletproof vest (via Variety).

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Knoxville said he could not find support for the idea. There was one man interested in the pitch, though, and that was future "Jackass" director Jeff Tremaine, then-editor of the skateboarding magazine Big Brother. Tremaine bought a stun gun, pepper spray, and a taser for Knoxville to use, while Knoxville bought the bulletproof vest himself. Tremaine also had the foresight to tell Knoxville to film the endeavor. 

Knoxville did shoot himself on camera, even using magazines to help cushion the cheap bulletproof vest he'd bought. "It's like someone took a shovel and hit you in the chest as hard as they could," the actor said of the actual shot, which no one else was willing to take for fear they would kill the young daredevil.

Videos of Knoxville's stunts, including the bulletproof vest shot, were distributed and created a following — one Tremaine recognized. Tremaine quickly called in filmmaker friend Spike Jonze to help produce more content. The tapes they all produced would eventually lead to the footage that became "Jackass," guaranteeing plenty more death-defying stunts for Knoxville in the years to come.