In the early 2000s, Johnny Knoxville was something of a cult hero thanks to the ridiculously controversial reality stunt show Jackass. The show went on to spawn a number of spin-offs and a successful series of films, one of which was even filmed in 3D. Following the show’s end, Knoxville pursued an actor career consisting mainly of small, yet memorable roles.
This summer Knoxville stars in Paramount’s amusement park comedy Action Point, opening on June 1. Let’s take a look back at Knoxville’s past – here are his six best roles.
6. The Ringer (2005)
The Farrelly Brothers (There’s Something About Mary, Dumber and Dumber) took seven years to develop this comedy, in which Knoxville stars as Steve Baker, an ignorant thirty-something who rigs the Special Olympics in order to pay off a debt. Throughout the film, Steve learns that it’s wrong to dehumanize and invalidate both the mental and physical strength of disabled persons. The Ringer is a funny and heartwarming take on the awful stigmatization of the intellectually disabled and offers the hope that one day the stigma will cease to exist.
5. Bad Grandpa (2013)
This is a crude, vulgar, hidden-camera comedy from the makers of Jackass, and it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Makeup and Hair Styling. This is all thanks to key makeup artist Stephen Prouty, who seamlessly transformed then-42-year-old Knoxville into 86-year-old Iriving Zisman. Bad Grandpa is a fun blend of the Jackass “reality” feel with absurd scripted content that involves Knoxville forcing an eight-year-old boy into a beauty pageant, getting his junk stuck in a vending machine, and storing the body of his dead wife in a trunk. It’s funnier than it sounds, we promise.
4. Grand Theft Parsons (2004)
After a string of supporting roles in films like Walking Tall and Men In Black II (we’ll get to those in a moment), it was time for Knoxville to step up to the plate, shed his prankster image, and try his hand at “leading man.” Grand Theft Parsons is a black comedy based on the true story of producer and tour manager Phil Kaufman, who stole the body of country rock musician Gram Parsons and burned it in Joshua Tree National Monument. The film received mixed reviews, but critics praised Knoxville for his darkly humorous portrayal of Kaufman, with some noting that he was “surprisingly good” in his first leading role.
3. Walking Tall (2004)
Who knew Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Johnny “Jackass” Knoxville would make for a pretty badass action movie duo? A remake of the 1973 film, Walking Tall follows vigilante hero Chris Vaughn (The Rock) and his best friend Ray Templeton (Knoxville) on a mission to take back his now-corrupt hometown and restore its original glory. It’s raw, gritty, and interwoven with delicate emotion.
2. Men In Black II (2002)
The franchise is iconic, and Knoxville had a small part in the second installment as a two-headed alien named Scrad. (His second head was named Charlie.) Knoxville plays this role as a perfect creep; he’s adept at playing comically sinister. The best part about Scrad and Charlie might just be the shoddy early-2000s CGI used to keep the second head “attached” to the actor. It adds an extra layer of campiness to Knoxville’s boneheaded bad guy.
1. Jackass: The Movie (2002)
“Performance art” might not be the first term that comes to mind when thinking of Jackass, but it’s an accurate one. The stunts and pranks showcased in the film, featuring the entire cast from the original Jackass series, can easily be described as sickening, repulsive, cringeworthy, disturbing — and wildly entertaining. Knoxville is at his best and most comfortable when he and his buddies are blowing up sheds, attaching firework rockets to their roller skates, snorting wasabi, and filling their swim trunks with shrimp before diving into shark-infested waters.
Action Point opens on June 1.