Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Untold Truth Of Jackass' Jeff Tremaine

When people talk about the "Jackass" crew, the first names that come into the conversation are usually Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Wee-Man, Bam Margera, and the rest of the on-screen miscreants. Co-creator Spike Jonze gets some attention as well — if only because he's transcended that miscreant world into big-budget features. Jeff Tremaine, though, could be called the king of the jackasses. As the executive producer of "Jackass," its various spin-offs, and other series no doubt inspired by the global phenomenon, Tremaine didn't only help bring together the merry band and pitch the projects — he had a cultural impact most producers could only dream of.

Tremaine's life has also been just as unpredictable and dynamic as the lives of any of his cast members. His roots in extreme sports and underground counter-culture media give him OG street cred equally uncommon in the rare air of mainstream mega-success. Tremaine has lived his life seemingly on his own terms, refusing to "grow up" in the conventional sense — instead, he still revels in painful pranks and BMX. Sure, he's directed and produced a wide assortment of projects, including even some dramatic projects, but Tremaine's Cinderella story will forever be grounded in being the chief of the jackasses.

Tremaine and Jonze, BMX punks

Jeff Tremaine's journey to "Jackass" began as a kid riding a BMX bike in Maryland. One of his co-misfits was Adam Spiegel, who would become director Spike Jonze. "Spike Jonze and I were outcasts; we rode bikes and skateboards and listened to punk rock," Tremaine wrote on the website for his Mat Hoffman biopic, "The Birth of Big Air." He went on to add, "We got our first jobs together at the premier BMX shop on the East Coast, and later we ventured across the country to Los Angeles."

One can only imagine the behind-the-scenes masterminds of our modern merry pranksters as two young, rambunctious BMXers with big dreams and a dislike for rules. No doubt, whatever antics they got into evolved into the vibe that makes "Jackass" and every other project they've touched so fun and rebellious. Tremaine has since admitted that he is afraid of pranking Jonze because his old friend will always win with the comeback.

His first media job was in publishing

As they entered adulthood, Jeff Tremaine and Spike Jonze briefly parted ways, with Tremaine going to Washington University in St. Louis before eventually rejoining his friend on the West Coast. Pro skateboarder Anthony Pappalardo prefaced a Slam City Skates interview with counter-culture magazine legend Mark Lewman by tracing the roots of BMX and skateboarding magazines. After discussing flipping through magazines like BMX Action and Freestylin', Pappalardo gave a history lesson. "As my dive into skateboarding continued into the '90s: Andy Jenkins, Spike Jonze, Mark Lewman, and shortly thereafter, Jeff Tremaine kept popping up. Freestylin' became Go."

Tremaine's director's bio reveals that Go was his first big move into the legendary early years of extreme sports media, explaining, "Tremaine headed out west to join back up with his childhood friend Adam, now known as Spike. Tremaine slid into the layout jockey position on Go, the result of a collision between Freestylin' and BMX Action." Since print magazines are increasingly being replaced by online media these days, it may be strange to think of a time when they were an essential cornerstone of the culture they represented. It may be even more surprising to find out that Tremaine's next magazine would give birth to the cinematic brilliance of "Jackass."

Big Brother magazine was the proto Jackass

Tremaine's early career in the world of media moved fast. After his first big magazine work in Go, in an interview with VICE, Tremaine explained that he also worked with Spike Jonze on Freestylin'. It was this magazine that ultimately landed him the position as art and editorial director for Steve Rocco's new underground magazine Big Brother.

Big Brother's impact on American culture was so big it warranted its own Hulu documentary, "Dumb." Not only did it influence actors like Jonah Hill, but it also brought together a ragtag crew of misfits from the outskirts of the skateboarding world. For example, the VICE interview delved into how Tremaine hired Rick Kosick, eventual "Jackass" cinematographer, for the magazine and its subsequent movies. Plus, Johnny Knoxville first gained fame by shooting himself with a gun (he was wearing a bulletproof vest) for Big Brother; Pontius had his first big press in the magazine (appearing naked, of course), and eventually wrote for them; and Wee Man was there too, along with Steve-O. Of course, the biggest proof that the "Jackass" dynamic began there is the fact that their antics were orchestrated by Tremaine and Jonze.

Tremaine helmed Rob Dyrdek's projects, too

One could argue that "Jackass" created a new genre of irreverent "reality" shows centered on skateboarders and whatever wild adventures they wished to film. A show that comes quickly to mind is Rob Dyrdek's MTV show "Rob and Big." So it should come as no surprise that Tremaine executive produced the show. As Dyrdek explained in a Medium interview, "Jeff watched the documentary [of Rob and Big running the Gumball 3000] after it was done and suggested we try to do a show."

A quick glimpse of Tremaine's credits reveals it wasn't just a one-time thing to collaborate with Dyrdek. Tremaine would go on to produce Dyrdek's next show, "Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory," and his subsequent comedy video clip show "Ridiculousness." That makes for hundreds of episodes of Dyrdek content that Tremaine has produced, all while being the ringleader for the "Jackass" series and movies, as well as its spin-off "Wildboyz." Obviously, he must not sleep.

Tremaine suggested they do Jackass 2 after Knoxville tagged onto Wildboyz

According to a "Jackass" oral history at The Hollywood Reporter, when Johnny Knoxville abruptly quit the series, Spike Jonze and Jeff Tremaine started brewing up the movie. A simple film of a bunch of guys doing stupid stunts ended up making $80 million. Tremaine and two of the stars, Chris Pontius and Steve-O, went on to create their nature show "Wildboyz," which followed the two friends as they traversed the world doing silly and dangerous things with wildlife and native cultures.

Eventually, Knoxville had a few cameos on the show. On a trip to Russia, his exhibitionism took over. As Steve-O explained in the oral history, "We were on this trip in Russia at this counterterrorism training camp. Knoxville says, 'Have the dog bite me and shoot me with the 9mm gun while the dog's biting me.' And Tremaine says to Knoxville, 'Hey, whoa, let's not do this for MTV2. If you have that in you, let's make another movie.' And Knoxville had it in him. And that was 'Number Two.'"

Tremaine's favorite stunt was the car in the butt

It would be a daunting task to catalog every "Jackass" stunt. Whether Jeff Tremaine could run them all down off the top of his head is a question for a later date. He does have a favorite, however. As he explained to MovieMaker, "In the first movie when we shoved the toy car up Ryan Dunn's butt stands out as an all-timer — just how simple and stupid the idea is, and how far along we got to actually get him an X-ray with a real doctor. So that's probably my favorite."

The stunt was simple: Dunn stuck a toy car up his rear, then went to a doctor to examine it and feigned confusion as the doctor slowly discovered it was lodged up there. Tremaine's point, that the best of their stunts are the simple and stupid ones, has obviously become a mantra for the whole crew who even now, in their 40s and 50s, still love to act, well, simple and stupid.

Tremaine claims Jackass Forever was an experiment in COVID filming

Making feature films from 2020 through the present has been a unique undertaking, following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. For a franchise that centers on stunts that often involve bodily fluids, it must have been especially difficult for the "Jackass" team. As Jeff Tremaine explained in an interview with Box Office Pro, Johnny Knoxville first announced in summer 2019 that he wanted to come back for another round. They got the green light for the new movie, which would become "Jackass Forever," in December. They got five days into shooting in March 2020 before coronavirus-related shutdowns affected the production.

The team continued to meet over Zoom and develop ideas. In October, they started shooting again. Tremaine explained, "we were probably one of the first movies back to shooting, at least in L.A. We were sort of guinea pigs as far as, what are the safety protocols?" So he and the merry band helped get the film world back shooting.

Tremaine returned to his BMX roots

Jeff Tremaine got his start on the path to eternal youth as a BMX kid in Maryland. As he explained on the page for his "30 for 30" documentary "The Birth of Big Air," Mat Hofman had been a legend to him even back then. " Even at age 16, Mat was the best rider anyone had ever seen," Tremaine wrote. "I watched him take punishing slams and get back up time and again. He was a gladiator whose spirit couldn't be broken."

Perhaps one of the greatest marks of success is getting to pursue a real passion project, and Tremaine used his success to direct a documentary about Hofman. In a very open Tribeca Film Festival interview about the documentary, Tremaine explained how BMX was his first love, how art got him into college, and how his trips to visit his old friend Spike Jonze showed him, "This is what I want to do with my life. I want to get into publishing." So he did just that, then moved onto TV, then film, and eventually got to make his movie about a hero from his roots.

As he explained his reasons for filming Hoffman, "What he says, he does, and nothing's impossible to Mat. And I don't think like that, so I just like being around him to see that."

Tremaine approaches every movie like it's the last

"Jackass" started in 2000 and given the fact that it's still running strong, you'd think that they had serious long-term plans from the start. But Tremaine and the "Jackass" crew apparently shoot everything as if it'll be their last time. "The only way we can make these movies is as if we were making these as if it was the last one," Tremaine explained in a Collider interview. He and Knoxville said that they can't approach it as if they were saving something for the next one.

It makes sense. They regularly risk life and limb for their stunts. Also, Knoxville seems to be a big catalyst behind whether to go on again for more tomfoolery or not. As a GQ article about Knoxville revealed, "Jackass Forever" may be his last.

Tremaine filed a restraining order against star Bam Margera

Bam Margera was one of the core stars of "Jackass" from the beginning. His "CKY" films provided some of the footage for the original series and his popularity was such that he earned his own solo spinoff series, "Viva La Bam." Margera brought Ryan Dunn, Brandon DiCamillo, and a few others to the "Jackass" fold with him. Yet Margera has struggled with addiction and depression in recent years, even leading to a mental breakdown as he told Dr. Phil.

Despite the fact that Margera has been seeking treatment, he isn't in the newest movie. Tremaine filed a restraining order against Margera after Margera was let go. As an article in the Philly Voice revealed, "The restraining order is intended to protect Tremaine from violence, stalking, harassment and threats of violence." Margera was apparently upset by the fact that he was fired from the project for not meeting Paramount's requirements to prove his sobriety and mental stability.

Steve-O was quoted to state in the article, "Everyone bent over backwards to get you in the movie, and all you had to do was not get loaded. You've continued to get loaded, it's that simple. We all love you every bit as much as we all say we do, but nobody who really loves you can enable or encourage you to stay sick."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Tremaine introduced Pete Davidson to Machine Gun Kelly

In addition to being a headline-making star of "Saturday Night Live," Pete Davidson is also known for palling around with Colson Baker aka Machine Gun Kelly. Their oddball friendship led to them taking over Calvin Klein's Instagram for a candid bit of social media mastery. While their friendship might seem a bit odd, they were actually introduced to one another by Jeff Tremaine.

As an article about Davidson explained, the two met in 2017 during the production of "Wild 'N Out," when Tremaine challenged the "SNL" star to rap one of Machine Gun Kelly's hits, "Breaking News," and he didn't miss a beat. The two went on to work together on "The Dirt," a biography about Mötley Crüe that was directed by — you guessed it — Tremaine. Ever since this unique introduction by Tremaine, Davidson and Baker have shared a bromance for the ages.

Tremaine had the brilliant idea to revisit the cup test

The "Jackass" shoots are pretty egalitarian. Everybody comes up with ideas and then some really things come up in the moment, but it's tough to tell what will hit or miss. Jeff Tremaine really wanted to redo the cup test, leading to one of the funnier sequences in "Jackass Forever." As he explained to MovieMaker, "'Jackass Forever' was shot — kind of — on our 20th anniversary. And so I wanted to redo at least one of our really signature bits from the TV series. I came up with the idea to redo the Cup Test, which we shot way back in 2000."

In the original iteration, Knoxville was wearing the cup, and it consisted of some low-level talent hitting his nether region: kids kicking him, some croquet balls, a paintball gun, and so on. Given the evolution of "Jackass" from lo-fi shenanigans to being a franchise that has earned millions of dollars in ticket sales alone, the cup test stepped up. Ehren McGehey wore it, and UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou delivered a punch; a pitcher from the Mexican softball team threw a softball at it; and an NHL player dinged it with a hockey puck. One could argue that there is no better way to display how Tremaine has gone from counter-culture BMX punk to mainstream super-producer than the fact that he could get elite athletes from extremely impactful sports to hit one of his stars square in the tenderest region.