One of the key figures behind the wildly successful "Jackass" franchise, Jeff Tremaine served as co-creator for the outrageous stunt/prank series (MTV, 2000-02) before directing all three of its top-g...
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Born Sept. 4, 1966, Jeffrey James Tremaine came from a military family that frequently moved from state to state before settling in Rockville, MD. There, he discovered many of the primary passions that would form the backbone of his adult career, including skateboarding, BMX motorsports, and music. While in high school, he befriended Adam Spiegel, a young man with similar interests who would go on to gain international fame as director-producer Spike Jonze. A self-described poor student, Tremaine displayed a talent for art at an early age, and blossomed as a painter while still in high school. His portfolio was strong enough to gain him entrance to Washington University in St. Louis, MO, from which he graduated with a Fine Art degree in 1989. For a year after graduation, Tremaine fronted a rock band called Milk, which featured BMX rider R.L. Osborn on drums. The group earned a minor following among the skateboarding crowd when one of its numbers, "The Knife Song," was featured on the soundtrack for "Video Days" (1991), a seminal skateboarding video that marked Jonze's debut as a director and helped to mint future actor Jason Lee as a superstar in his early career as a champion skateboarder.
However, publishing would become Tremaine's true passion after visiting Jonze in California, where he was providing photographs for a BMX magazine called Freestylin'. Tremaine's art background helped him land the art director position at the magazine, which shuttered its doors after two years. In 1992, he became the art and editorial director for Big Brother magazine, an exuberantly crude and amusing publication for skateboarders and extreme sport enthusiasts. He soon assumed control of the magazine, and under his aegis, Big Brother blossomed into an underground favorite, filled with major names from the extreme sporting world, as well as offbeat contributions from some of its more eccentric members. Among its rotating roster of writers and staffers were an aspiring actor named Johnny Knoxville, who gained notoriety for testing safety and police equipment on himself, as well as Chris Pontius, a puckish travel buff with a penchant for nudity. The diminutive Jason "Wee Man" Acuna and Florida-based clown Steve "Steve-O" Glover, a seemingly indestructible masochist, would also appear in the pages of the magazine and in its crass if hilarious video releases.
While filming some of Knoxville's more life-endangering stunts, Tremaine and his cohorts got the idea of creating a television series based around their antics. With the help of an East Coaster named Bam Margera with similar interests, and Tremaine's old friend Spike Jonze, the loosely constructed team cobbled together a series of jaw-dropping, wince-inducing skits and amateur stunts. After offering the series to "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) as a segment in which the stunts would be performed live, Tremaine and his cohorts were the subject of an intense bidding war that was eventually won by MTV.
"Jackass" soon became a polarizing hit for the network that won as many admirers as detractors. The show's combination of bathroom humor and dangerous stunts found particular favor with younger viewers, which drew protests from parental groups and legislators over the influence the show wielded and the possibility for copycat injuries. For Tremaine and the "Jackass" crew, the series was a rocket ride into stardom, but not without its headaches. MTV proved to be a fair-weather friend to the production team by providing endless notes on what could and could not be depicted on the air. By the end of the show's third season, Tremaine and fellow co-producers Knoxville and Jonze decided to end its network run and devote their energies to other projects.
In 2002, Tremaine and the "Jackass" team decided to cull together a feature-length collection of new stunts that would serve as an official send-off for fans. The Tremaine-directed "Jackass: The Movie" (2002) proved to be an unexpected box office hit, and revived the industry's interest in the group. MTV returned to the fold by offering several of the individual team members their own series, with Tremaine on board as executive producer. He oversaw "Wildboyz," which pitted Pontius and Steve-O against wild animals around the globe, as well as the top-rated "Rob & Big" (MTV, 2006-08), a reality series that revolved around professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek and his friend/bodyguard Christopher "Big Black" Boykin. While overseeing both shows, Tremaine also found time to direct "Jackass Number Two" (2006), which surpassed its predecessor's box office tally, as well as its capacity to shock and repulse audiences.
Tremaine's work with the "Jackass" franchise led to smaller but nonetheless fascinating documentaries on similar fringe-dwelling daredevils and iconoclasts. With Knoxville and Jonze, he filmed the final interview with the legendary Evel Knievel for "Mat Hoffman's Tribute to Evel Knievel" (2008), which saw BMX icon Hoffman honoring his motorcycle-riding forefather. He and Knoxville also co-produced Julien Nitzberg's "The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia" (2009), which followed the lives of mountain dancer and cult figure Jesco White and his freewheeling family. That same year, he served as executive producer on "Steve-O: Demise and Rise" (MTV, 2009), a fairly harrowing look at the "Jackass" star's battles with drug addiction.
Tremaine returned to TV work with "Nitro Circus" (Fuel TV/MTV, 2006-09, 2009), a reality series about X Games champion Travis Pastrana and his cohorts executing various dangerous stunts across America. Initially a miniseries for Fuel TV, it debuted as a weekly series for MTV before apparently concluding in 2010 without much official notice. He then reteamed with Rob Dyrdek for "Fantasy Factory" (MTV, 2009- ), which captured the skateboarder's life in a sprawling office complex/adult playground. Tremaine then signed on as executive producer for "The Dudesons in America" (MTV, 2010- ), which marked the American television debut of the eponymous Finnish stunt/prank group, who bonded with the "Jackass" team in various episodes of their European TV series (MoonTV/Nelonen/Sub, 2001- ). And with Knoxville and Jonze as producers, he directed "The Birth of Big Air" (2010), a documentary about the life of Mat Hoffman and his impact on BMX sports which aired as part of ESPN's "30 for 30" (2009-2010) series.
Most, if not all of these efforts, were overshadowed by the runaway global success of "Jackass 3D" (2010), the third feature-length adventure for the aging but still game team of merry pranksters. Once again, the film surprised industry observers by not only breaking the box office tallies of the previous franchise entries, but landing the highest grosses for a fall release in film history. In 2011, he was announced as director of "Nitro Circus 3D" (2011), which would bring Pastrana and friends to the big screen a la "Jackass." Tremaine also began work on his first non-documentary feature, a big-screen comedy called "Revenge of the Jocks," while at the same time, publicly mourning along with the rest of the "Jackass" family, the death of one of their own, Ryan Dunn, in a high-speed car accident in June.
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