For a few short years in the early noughties the hidden camera show Jackass took the world by storm. Taking its cue from such worldwide phenomena as Candid Camera and Beadle’s About, the show, which made its debut in 2000, ostensibly brought MTV’s reliance on music videos to an end and caused the network to shift its focus to reality TV, ushering in a generation of entertainment that would result in the likes of Geordie Shore. And while the original Jackass series would come to an end after only three seasons, the following year after its cancellation it would make the transition to the big screen with the highly anticipated Jackass: The Movie. Two more sequels would follow but by the release of Jackass 3D almost a decade later its mastermind Johnny Knoxville had already turned his attention to acting in a host of Hollywood productions.
Despised by critics yet adored by audiences, Jackass became a cultural zeitgeist and would soon inspire all manner of imitators that MTV were eager to capitalise on, from Ashton Kutcher’s celebrity prank show Punk’d to the Welsh copycat Dirty Sanchez. But the overnight success of Jackass would come at a price and soon its host of players would begin to struggle with both the temptations and pitfalls of the industry. ‘I did a lot of cocaine and I drank my ass off pretty much seven days a week,’ co-star Chris Raab confessed to Page Six when looking back on his involvement with the show. ‘Jackass was a perfect time for my addiction to manifest; it’s an obsessive lifestyle. I didn’t realise how much I became a slave to drugs and alcohol. I had to pull out of Jackass’ stuff. I didn’t do the second and third movie. I got paranoid about friends and I got darker into drugs and drinking and wanting to be alone.’
The popularity of Jackass and the celebrity status it afford its stars would take its toll on its young cast, with both skater Bam Margera and former circus performer Steve-O struggling with addiction while 2011 would see the premature death of Ryan Dunn, whose life would be tragically cut short following a high-speed car crash at the age of just thirty-four. The remaining cast would express no interest in producing a further sequel and each participant would move onto new projects, with Knoxville co-starring alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the underrated action flick The Last Stand, only to return to the Jackass franchise in 2013 with the motion picture spinoff Bad Grandpa. Yet the likelihood that fans would get the chance to see the cast reunite for a Jackass 4 seemed unlikely and with almost a decade having passed since the last instalment the series appeared to have been laid to rest.
Come on guys, let’s make another movie. Everybody wants it
Even as recent as January 2019 cast members revealed that there was little chance of a new feature, with Steve-O discussing the future of the franchise on In Depth with Graham Bensinger. ‘The short answer is that Knoxville is not interested in doing that,’ claimed his former collaborator. ‘There’s been emails from some of the other guys, particularly one guy who periodically has sent group emails. ‘Come on guys, let’s make another movie. Everybody wants it, I get asked everyday if we’re gonna make another movie.’ Knoxville responded to the last one with, ‘I get asked everyday if we’re gonna make another movie as well, but I would rather people ask for another movie than, ‘Why did you make that last movie?’’ He wanted to sort of keep the legacy intact and I can’t really argue with it.’
The previous summer Knoxville had indicated that there may still be life left in the series, particularly as his acting career had begun to stall. ‘It’s possible, for sure,’ he claimed in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. ‘It’s not like we’re saying no. If we did do a new one, we’d have to bring in some new younger guys, just to bring some fresh blood into it. But it’s possible.’ By the following July Raab had insinuated to Loudwire that there were indeed talks among the ranks about bringing the series back to the big screen to inflict their crude and dangerous shenanigans on a new generation of cinemagoers, many of whom are too young to remember Jackass the first time around. ‘I get the feeling that everyone’s pretty interested in it,’ he insisted. ‘I’m not sure that it would ever happen. Ryan was a huge part of that, so it’s sort of weird without him.’
Despite the personal struggles that the cast have had to overcome following the success of the original series and the loss of one of its own, it has now been revealed that Jackass will finally return with a fourth feature film that is set to arrive a little over ten years after the trilogy had concluded with its outrageous 3D finale. Deadline have announced that the cast will reunite, once again spearheaded by Knoxville, for Jackass 4 that will make its way to the big screen courtesy of Paramount Pictures on 5 March 2021. By the time of its release it will have been over twenty years since the show had made its debut on MTV and with its cast now in their forties, how much life the franchise has remains to be seen. ‘God help me, I love stunts,’ declared Knoxville to Vulture. ‘After the first movie things got a little fuzzy for a while. I felt like I had to be that wild guy. You don’t even know at the time that you’re only doing what you think people want you to do.’