One of the most beloved members of the amateur stunt enthusiasts from the television series "Jackass" (MTV, 2000-02), Ryan Dunn was a skateboarding fan whose friendship with Bam Margera led to worldwide fame through "Jackass" and its ensuing feature films. Shaggy-haired and willing to attempt stunts that none of the other members would even consider, Dunn earned a fan base for his fearlessness, even if he admitted in interviews that he himself was terrified of certain skits. The popularity of the "Jackass" franchise led to other projects, including the similarly themed "Viva La Bam" (MTV, 2003-05) and Dunn's own "Homewrecker" (MTV, 2005), as well as minor stints as an actor in films and on television. Dunn had just launched a new series, "Proving Ground" (G4, 2011) before stunning fans by dying in a fiery car accident in June 2011. The outpouring of grief that followed his passing indicated to both the "Jackass" faithful and skeptics that despite his go-for-broke nature, Dunn was a beloved personality whose extreme escapades would endure long after his untimely death.
Born Ryan Matthew Dunn in Medina, OH on June 11, 1977, his family relocated to Williamsville, NY before settling in the borough of West Chester, PA when Dunn was 15 to aid him in detoxing from a growing drug habit. There, he met Brandon "Bam" Margera on the first day of high school, and the two became fast friends. Both shared a love of skateboarding and hazardous amateur stunts, and with a loose collective of fellow friends that included Christopher Raab and Brandon DiCamillo, formed the CKY Crew. The moniker, taken from Margera's brother Jess' band - which in itself was borrowed from the low-budget slasher film "Sleepaway Camp" (1983) - stood for "Camp Kill Yourself," and served as the title for a series of shot-on-video, self-released short films documenting the misadventures of Margera, Dunn and friends. The quartet of films gained a huge cult audience among skateboarding devotees, including Jeff Tremaine, editor of the skating magazine Big Brother, who contacted the pair for a television project he was developing with various Big Brother contributors, including Johnny Knoxville and Chris Pontius. At the time, Dunn was working as a welder and at various gas stations.
Dunn and Margera, along with various supporting figures in the CKY Crew, were eventually drafted into "Jackass," an astonishingly popular and controversial television series based around various extreme stunts committed by and perpetrated upon Knoxville and his friends. Dunn immediately ingratiated himself with his fellow "Jackass" castmates and fans by executing the "Poo Dive," which saw him leap into a tank of raw sewage wearing only a snorkel, mask, bathing suit and flippers. Dunn himself cut a striking figure with his wild mane of hair and beard, as well as an array of tattoos, which included logos for the band the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the movie "The Blair Witch Project" (1999) and the automotive maker BMW, as well as mathematical symbols. He immediately became one of the most popular "Jackass" team members, participating in stunts that few others would dare to attempt. In "Jackass: The Movie" (2002), the group's feature-length adventure, Dunn famously inserted a toy car into his rectum, surprising a doctor who had administered an X-ray. He also survived a potentially dangerous skit in which a golf car he was driving was launched into the air with the intention of landing on and crushing a statue of a giant pig. The statue did not collapse, which resulted in Dunn being thrown from the cart and then pinned beneath it after it landed. On numerous occasions, Dunn admitted that he was terrified of certain skits, but knew that if he did not complete them, he would risk humiliation by his friends and cast mates.
As "Jackass" grew in popularity, its cast members developed their own solo projects for film and television, and Dunn was frequently along for the ride as a sidekick and fellow mischief-maker. He was featured frequently on Margera's own show, "Viva La Bam," as well as the short-lived reality series "Bam's Unholy Union" (MTV, 2007), which concerned Margera's wedding plans. Dunn's own independent project, "Homewrecker," saw him aiding viewers in getting revenge on a fair-weather friend by destroying their rooms. Margera and Dunn were also featured in the documentary "3000 Miles" (2006), which followed their participation in the 2006 Gumball 3000 road rally. Dunn also branched out into acting with minor roles in Hollywood features, as well as more substantial parts in indie projects helmed by Margera and friends. "Haggard" (2003) was a low-budget comedy based on Dunn's own relationsip with a girlfriend who dumped him for a metal fan, while the largely unseen comedy "Blonde Ambition" (2007), starring Jessica Simpson, featured him in a bit part. He enjoyed supporting turns in a 2008 episode of "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ) and the independent drama "Street Dreams" (2009), but remained largely associated with "Jackass" and Margera, including the group's second and third features, "Jackass Number Two" (2006) and "Jackass 3D" (2010), respectively.
In 2011, Dunn earned a hosting role on "Proving Ground," a television series in which he and co-host Jessica Chobot attempted to recreate famous moments from video games and comics in the real world. The series enjoyed respectable numbers for its June 14, 2011 release, but just six days later, Dunn was killed in a horrific car accident outside Philadelphia. Authorities were called to a wooded area in West Goshen Township, where Dunn's 2007 Porsche was discovered engulfed in flames. Both Dunn and his passenger, friend Zachary Hartwell, were killed in the accident, which gained immediate attention from "Jackass" fans around the globe. Many were saddened to discover that Dunn had posted photos of himself drinking with friends hours before the accident, which drew eulogies from Margera, Knoxville and others. Controversy erupted among the "Jackass" faithful when film critic Roger Ebert posted a message on Twitter not even 24 hours after his death that accused Dunn's friends of allowing him to drive while intoxicated - despite toxicology results still pending. The resulting outpouring of anger resulted in the closing down of one of Ebert's Facebook pages at the hands of "Jackass" fans, as well as enraged comments from friends and family. "Proving Ground" was pulled from G4's schedule soon after the tragedy. Only three days after the accident, West Chester Police announced Dunn had been traveling at an estimated 130-140 mph and his blood alcohol level was .196, which was more than twice the legal limit in Pennsylvania.