5 things to know about 'Bad Grandpa' star Jackson Nicoll
05:00 AM, Oct 26, 2013
Johnny Knoxville’s 86-year-old Irving Zisman might be the character alluded to on the poster. But nine-year-old Jackson Nicoll steals the show as the cherubic troublemaker in Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa.
He looks adorable onsceen, but Nicoll surprises with an off-color mouth and an adult-themed mind in the hidden camera gross-out fest that looks to take the top spot at the box office this weekend.
“Jackson is the perfect kid,” says Knoxville. “He’s not only fearless, he’s smart. And he’s cute. He’s also mean as a snake. I could not love the kid more.”
USA TODAY caught up with the pint-sized terror and learned five key facts about him.
He can rock a pageant dress: Nicoll’s scene where he dresses up as a young girl to enter a beauty pageant has already gone viral in online clips for the film. Nicoll took his pageant prep seriously, practicing his raunchy dance number for two months.
His pageant entry turns outrageous during the talent competition when the wigged Nicoll strips down to heavy metal music in front of shocked parents. He says it was nerve-wracking to shoot.
“We didn’t know what could go wrong,” says Nicoll. “Someone could throw something at me. Maybe the floor’s still wet, I might slip. Anything could happen.”
He and Knoxville made another movie together: The two co-stars met filming 2012’s Fun Size. Nicoll was polite to female co-star Victoria Justice. But he immediately started abusing Knoxville, and started a tradition of hitting the Jackass star in a painful, eye-level location. “RIght in the zipper,” says Knoxville. “I’ve kept track. We’re at 274 times now.”
Despite the pain, Knoxville knew he had the perfect sidekick for his Bad Grandpa project.
“Johnny came back saying we have to work with this kid. He’s awesome,” says director Jeff Tremaine. “We had him in mind when we wrote the movie. We knew we had the perfect kid.”
He had the most bizarre audition ever: The filmmakers were concerned that their potential co-star (then eight-years-old) might panic while cameras rolled during stunts.
“We have had kids freeze up in the past,” says Tremaine.
So they gave Nicoll a try-out, putting him in a public park with Knoxville. The two pulled a prank on two seeming strangers who were actually part of the production team. But Nicoll didn’t know.
“We wanted to see if Jackson would freeze, but he was throwing grenades into the situation,” says Tremaine. “We knew he was going to be just great.”
He would prove it in scenes shot in biker bars and outside of adult book stores. Nicoll’s mother April says Knoxville was very protective of her son and never let him be in a dangerous situation. “If there was any questionable scene, (Knoxville) made sure that Jackson wasn’t in the room,” says April Nicoll. “Johnny and the whole crew were very protective of him.”
He has sister issues: Jackson Nicoll makes no bones about his domestic situation with his 12-year-old sister.
“I hate her guts,” he says. “I broke her door down. She broke mine.”
The comment brings a sigh from April Nicoll. “They do have a very volatile relationship,” she says.
He’s the pride of Seabrook, N.H.: Jackson started in commercials and got his break as Little Dicky, Christian Bale’s son in The Fighter. “The town threw a parade for him for that,” says April Nicoll. “He’s like a God now.”
He still attends church each Sunday, plays basketball all day, breeds fish to supplement his $5-a-week allowance and takes out the trash for chores. Nonetheless, April Nicoll has drafted a letter to send to church and school officials explaining the off-color character in Bad Grandpa.
“After I saw the movie, I was just a little concerned,” says April Nicoll. “I wanted them to know that this is a movie, and not real life.”
As Jackson says: “I think people are going to be pretty surprised how disgusting this movie is. But there are some sweet moments.”
Nonetheless, Jackson Nicoll is not deterred by any local flack he might get.
“The only way to beat it will have to be Bad Grandpa II,” he says.