Johnny Knoxville ended up in the hospital during the Jackass 4 shoot multiple times. For most actors, even a quick trip to the emergency room from an on-set injury would be enough to make them question their professional choices, but for Knoxville, it wasn’t even his first injury from stepping in the ring with a bull. The now fifty-year-old Jackass frontman has built his career out of putting his body on the line for our entertainment, and that’s not only been appreciated by fans, it’s appreciated by his co-stars too.
The incident in question involved the actor and writer doing a magic trick for a bull. It didn't go as planned or then again, maybe it went exactly as planned and he ended up with a broken rib, a broken wrist, a concussion and a hemorrhage on his brain. During his time in the hospital, Johnny Knoxville got a text from Steve-O. In it, his longtime co-star and friend called Knoxville the “backbone” of the Jackass franchise and said he’ll be forever grateful for the risks taken in service to the franchise. You can read the text below that came out as part of a wonderful write-up in GQ...
Knox, while it's actually happening, watching you play with bulls (and yaks) has always been my very least favorite part of this thing called Jackass. But watching the footage after the fact has always made me profoundly grateful. The ultimate risks you have always taken for this team truly set you apart, on your own, as the backbone of it. You're not just a shockingly pretty face. You are the craziest fucking stuntman ever to live.
That’s a good lens into what has always been so spectacular about Johnny Knoxville. Most people soften with age and soften with fame. When they get a little change in their pockets, they lose a little bit of the drive and hunger to push themselves. You see it with sports all the time. You even see it with actors who often start choosing less adventurous, higher paying projects as they get older, but despite being the clear figurehead of Jackass, Johnny Knoxville has always gone as hard or harder than the other guys on the team. That’s always seemed clear from my perspective as a viewer, and it’s fascinating to see at least Steve-O recognizes the same thing.
Don’t get me wrong. Almost everyone associated with Jackass has put their body through tremendous torture or at least through extreme emotional awkwardness. There’s no one who has escaped without at least some wounds, but there’s always been something about Johnny Knoxville’s stunts that feel a bit more unhinged and dangerous. It’s like he’s repeatedly proving why he’s the first name most people think of. Here’s another quote from Steve-O that outlines it pretty well...
There's nobody else on the cast who's ever going to roll the dice with their life like that. Fuck no. It's so counterintuitive.… You've got your main guy not only not having a stunt double, not only doing his own stuff, but putting himself in the most reckless jeopardy that you can. It's just so fucking backwards, you know?
Jackass 4 is scheduled to hit theaters in October, though there are still some questions about who will be in it. Johnny Knoxville has been pretty clear this will be his last contribution to the franchise. We’ve all heard lines like these from the guys in the past, but there’s something about this time that really does feel like final. If that’s truly the case, then Knoxville should feel nothing but proud of how hard he’s gone for the sake of our entertainment. None of it has ever felt phoned in or less than what it could be, and if Steve-O of all people is impressed with how hard you go, I can’t see any way to top that.