Long before the Jackass crew turned dumb stunts into must-see viewing, daredevil Evel Knievel made death-defying feats an art form. It’s fitting, then that Johnny Knoxville serves as one of the producers on Being Evel, a in-depth documentary that focuses on the daredevil’s life and reexamines his craziest stunts. The head Jackass stopped by Rolling Stone‘s headquarter at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah to discuss the film.
“When [Evel] was on TV, that was the biggest thing, like everyone knew what we were doing on that day or that night when Evel was jumping,” Knoxville says. “In the Seventies, it was Muhammad Ali, Elvis Presley — and Evel Knievel. He was that big.” The Daniel Junge-directed documentary was made with the cooperation of Evel’s oldest son, Kelly, and the rest of Knievel family.
“Evel was such a big influence on my childhood, nothing stuck with me like that. Just on my life, as far as influence, it’s my father, Hunter S. Thompson and Evel,” Knoxville tells Rolling Stone. “No one went for it like that before Evel Knievel, I say that in the documentary but it’s true.”
Knoxville names the Caesar’s Palace jump in particular, where Knievel tried to jump the Las Vegas casino’s famed fountains in 1967, as “in my mind, one of the most famous pieces of footage of all time.” “He came up short, he hit the top of the ramp, and he’s just tumbling. No human can live through the way he’s tumbling,” Knoxville says. Knievel suffered a crushed pelvis and femur, a concussion plus many more fractures following the attempted 141-foot Caesars jump. “He had many, many accidents, and his spirit hovered over Jackass for sure.”
Check out our Sundance page for complete coverage of the 2015 festival.