Johnny Knoxville wants an Oscar nom for ‘Bad Grandpa’ -- and may get it

A scene from Johnny Knoxville's "Bad Grandpa," in contention for a hair and makeup Oscar.
A scene from Johnny Knoxville’s “Bad Grandpa,” in contention for a hair and makeup Oscar.
(Paramount Pictures)

In “Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa,” Johnny Knoxville gets bucked headfirst through a plate-glass window by a coin-operated ride, sticks his genitals into the business end of a vending machine and generally puts his body through a series of eye-shielding, R-rated stunts.

Naturally, he thinks the film should be nominated for an Oscar.

The crazy part? Voters may well agree.

“Grandpa,” the movie that has the “Jackass” star tricked out as octogenarian Irving Zisman for a series of cross-country pranks, is on the six-film shortlist for the makeup and hairstyling Oscar. Artists from each of the films will present their work to the approximately 150-strong branch of makeup artists and hairstylists on Saturday. Members will then vote to nominate three films for the Oscar, with their selections unveiled as part of Oscar nominations Thursday morning.


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Knoxville says he thinks there’s only one way voters should mark their ballots.

“Not only do I think our movie deserves to be in the mix in the category, but it deserves to win,” he told The Times in an interview.

“The makeup on this film was held to standards that other movies aren’t, " he added,” “because it not only had to look good on-screen but it also had to look good up close and personal. We’re pranking people for real. If they don’t believe I’m an 86-year-old man, there’s no movie.”

The makeup in “Bad Grandpa,” as it often does in movies that use a lot of it, required three hours in the chair every day for Knoxville, as prosthetics of silicone and other apparatuses -- along with sweat ducts to keep Knoxville’s secretions from ruining the getup -- were affixed to the actor.

Knoxville also had to wear an ear wig so he could communicate about his undercover pranks with director Jeff Tremaine, who kept a distance. And since every good makeup problem begets another one (we’ve, um, heard), ear hair had to be lain in by hand every day to cover up the ear wig.

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Because of the Paramount film’s real-world setting, there was also nothing as bourgeois as makeup trailers: Knoxville’s face and body were adjusted between takes in a minivan that waited around the corner, guerrilla style.

Oscar voters have typically honored hard-core genre movies in the hair and makeup category -- winners in recent years have included “The Wolfman” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

But those who worked on “Grandpa” say their film presents a tougher challenge. “With a lot of monster movies,” said Steven Prouty, one of the artists who helped create Knoxville’s getup, “you have a lot of latitude, because nobody knows what those monsters look like. We had to make Johnny really look like an 86-year-old man. Everyone knows what that looks like.”

None of the pranking victims, he noted, ever saw through Knoxville’s disguise.

The ribald nature of the film may jolt more staid academy members, and some of the other shortlisted films -- such as “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Hansel and Gretel” -- fit more neatly into the wheelhouse of the academy and its hair and makeup branch.

But Prouty and the other “Grandpa” artists could be in luck -- the branch may already be thinking outside the box this year. One of the category front-runners is “American Hustle,” which revels in all manner of ‘70s hairstyles and, like “Bad Grandpa,” has plenty of over-the-top comedic moments. (The branch is, it should be said, also partial to movies, such as last year’s winner “The Iron Lady,” that have similar age-up qualities to “Grandpa.”)

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To convince these voters, Prouty has been busy cutting a minute-long clip of “Grandpa” makeup that highlights the most adventurous moments from the film. Well, some of those moments.

“I got some advice to maybe leave things out, like the vending machine scene or a strip club scene, because it may not play that well in the room,” he said, then deadpanned, “I listened to that advice.”

Knoxville said that he hadn’t been thinking much about the Oscars but that when he received word that “Grandpa” was among the finalists, it began to creep into his brain.

“I got an email one day that said, ‘You’re on the shortlist for best makeup.’ And I said, ‘Let’s go for this because no one is more deserving than our guys.’ ” He added that the idea of a youth-skewing comedy getting an Oscar wasn’t as hard to believe as it once was. “Times are changing. I hope the academy sees and respects that.”

So though a nomination would go to Prouty and his team, would Knoxville pull a Sacha Baron Cohen and head to the Dolby come March 2? Perhaps character?

“If they wanted to invite Irving Zisman, I’m sure he could make time,” the actor said. “Irving would be wide…open to attend the Oscars. He is tan, rested and ready.”

And what would the character’s ambition be once there?

“I’m sure Irving would love to hook up with Helen Mirren,” he said. (Mirren, it should be noted, is not at present expected to be nominated for an Oscar or attend the event.) “I know,” Knoxville said when this was pointed out. “But come on. It’s Helen Mirren. She could turn a shrimp into a blimp.”


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