Phase9 Entertainment

GRAND THEFT PARSONS - Q&A with Johnny Knoxville

What is your role in the film?

I play the character Phil Kaufman. It's essentially about two days in the life of Phil Kaufman, about one man keeping his word to his friend.

Why did you get involved with this project?

I'm a huge Gram Parsons fan so I was really excited when I heard they were making a movie about this story, it's a famous underground story. I loved the script, met David Caffrey (director) and Frank Mannion (producer), got along with them and they said they wanted to show me one of David's films. I was a little scared that I was gonna watch his film and absolutely hate it but the film, called DIVORCING JACK, I watched and loved so was really excited about GRAND THEFT PARSONS.

How did you prepare for the role of Phil Kaufman?

Phil Kaufman is an amazing character. Just the basic story of him kidnapping the body from LAX and trying to get out to Joshua Tree to burn the body with all the wrecks and the police involvement and the stops for beer is an amazing story in itself, but I read Phil Kaufman's book, "Road Mangler Deluxe" and he's lived 5 lifetimes. His whole life should have a movie made of it much less those 2 days.

What was it like meeting Phil Kaufman?

After I read his book I met with Phil in New York and dressed kind of like him - like a picture in a book I saw when he went to court. I had a cowboy hat on and a shirt made that said "Gram Parsons the fallen angels" and I sat down to dinner with him, had the glasses on and the hat and he said "I saw you 10 minutes earlier walk into the restaurant" and he told his wife "look someone's got a Gram Parsons shirt on" and lo and behold that was me. I absolutely love him but it's really tough to have a conversation with him because anything you say to him he's gonna have a one liner for. He's really funny, a huge character. Kaufman has a lot in common with my father so I didn't play Phil Kaufman exactly, I kind of just tried to play the spirit of Phil Kaufman.

Tell us about the trike?

It was actually Phil Kaufman's trike at one point. It was supposed to be a motorcycle but I didn't know if I could ride a motorcycle that good. So I went to take trike lessons with this guy in the valley - an old Harley rider, Kaufman's friend - and I did really bad on my first trike lessons, so bad that 10 minutes into it the guy is like "that's it I don't think this is gonna work out" but eventually we worked it out and I learned to ride the trike although not very well. I probably went through a couple of clutches on this film, much to the guy's dismay, but Kaufman knew the guy and smoothed it all over.

Are your JACKASS fans gonna like this picture and why?

Yes, everyone I talk to who asks me what I'm doing, there hasn't been one person who hasn't been really excited about it so my fans will definitely like this picture. It's a true story and there are huge comedic moments that happened when Kaufman pulled this off which we've tried to recreate for the film. There are a lot of funny moments as well as a lot of dramatic moments. Phil Kaufman was Gram Parsons' friend and he died as Phil Kaufman felt he would - young, and Kaufman kept his word to Gram and did what he said. I respect him for a lot of things but I respect him most for that.

What was it like shooting the film?

Frank and David included me on every big decision on this film. They would consult with me and couldn't have made it easier for me. We shot really fast - 24 days. We would be driving in the hearse and we would do four scenes at once. It was crazy but it was fun and that hearse... I thought it was gonna die after the first day of filming, how it lasted the whole film I have no idea! On the second day we had someone come out and look at it and I said "is it gonna be alright?" and they said "well it's no longer a fire hazard". Apparently it could have gone up in flames at any moment. We actually had to evacuate the car once when we were shooting out in the desert coz there were sparks coming from under the car. Bernice (the hearse) pretty much stole the picture, every time you turned her off she would keep running and eat up as much screen time as possible.

You have a wonderful supporting cast - tell us how it was working with them?

The role of Larry, who I'm in almost every scene with, was played by Michael Shannon and we went through a lot of people to try and find that role and he was I believe maybe the last guy to come in and read and it was a stroke of luck he came in because he was perfect. He's such a great actor I really gave him a lot of shit in this film even when we weren't shooting. He may think I don't like him but I love him!

Marley Shelton plays Susie my love interest and she came in and just killed the role, she's so pretty. When I first saw her out in the desert in her clothes and her hair she looked like some desert cowboy angel. She was so pretty, really good to work with. Christina Applegate came in and she killed it as well, she's great to work with. I only got to work with her 4 or 5 days but wished I'd worked with her more because she's fun to be around, she's a great actress.

And Robert Forster, he called me John and I always called him Mr Forster until he informed me that was his father's name so I didn't call him that anymore... I didn't call him Bob but I called him Robert. Robert Forster's brilliant, every line he says is just so honest, he's such a pro, good to work with. Coming from JACKASS, going from Party Boy and Steve O to Robert Forster, that was something else!

Were any scenes particularly hard for you to do?

I've never had to cry on screen before. Preparing to cry for this was tough but I think it worked out alright. I would just think someone was yelling "last call" and I would just break into tears.

What about pranks on set?

Michael Shannon - I thought he had the most fungus infected toenails I've ever seen on a man and I'm like "make-up really did a great job on your toes" and he's like "they're real". They're disgusting, absolutely disgusting and it's not that they're just covered in fungus, they're long. I mentioned to the girls on the first night of the shoot to please look at his toes and they did and were absolutely disgusted. I had them clip some of his toenails and give to me. They put them in my hand and I went up to Marley and I put one of his fungus infected toenails in her hand and she didn't take it well at all. I did the same thing with Christina and I may have got punched for that one! They weren't remotely amused but they laughed after they finished beating me!

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