A few weeks ago, we had the chance to catch up with Travis Pastrana for a Where Are They Now feature. When you have a chance to talk with the legendary action sports star, you don’t turn it down. So, we’re featuring him again!
Last week, we attended the premiere for his new film, Action Figures 2, and had the chance to ask him about the movie, his upcoming Evel Knievel jumps, and more.
Racer X: We’re here for the Action Figures 2 premiere at Red Bull headquarters in Santa Monica, California. What are your overall feelings with the outcome of the movie?
Travis Pastrana: I obviously put a lot into the first Action Figures, but that was more of a fun project. We were working on the ramps for Josh Sheehan to do the triple and the Mildon/Foster battle to the qaud flip on BMX. Most of that footage was actually taken from the film and used for NBC specials. The evolution of ramps and what we learned for safer landings with the Bag Jump [airbag] guys ended up inspiring a lot of progression, and I’m definitely proud of that.
For Action Figures, we let every rider edit their own section and put in what they wanted. James Smith oversaw everything, but really it was an amateur film. Turned out to be a cool feel, but riders tended to take out failures and embarrassing moments. And with Nitro [Circus], we’ve always tried to keep the swearing and partying to a minimal. Not in this film. If someone swore or cried or got upset and it was relevant to the situation, we put it in. We’ve tried to keep it kind of cookie-cutter in the past, but our audience is growing up, and this film does as well.
I feel like in general—especially because this is kind of the end of my ride—just to do action sports justice, even though I don’t promote Metal Mulisha and Crusty [Demons] and that kind of attitude. There’s some guys that live that lifestyle and some guys that live super clean-cut and don’t drink and don’t swear. Each person really got exactly who they are, and their personality really comes out. Everybody sent it huge. Everyone put in so much effort. I edited a couple sections, Trevor edited his section, but at the end of the day, it was Cody, who I think is the best editor on Nitro. He came from Woodward, which was really cool. We had him out as just kind of a “win a trip to Pastranaland” kind of thing, and he was better than 90 percent of our editors then, when he was still at Camp Woodward. He’s become the best, hardest-working editor we have at Nitro, and we have some good ones.
I said, “Look, I’m pulling you from everything that you have this year and you’re editing this film.” I’m surprised he hasn’t killed me yet because I was very adamant about the stuff that I wanted and the stuff I didn’t. As an editor, I want to have that final say in what goes on. This is the first time that I had that.
It sounds like you were obviously really involved with the overall editing process. It’s been three years since the last one came out. Were you guys straight back to shooting another one? How does the whole accumulation of footage come together?
We took about a year off. Not off, but we didn’t film anything specifically for this. But pretty much every awesome thing that happened in the last three years is in this film. With social media, it’s so hard to keep—obviously, we saved our big bangers. I’ve been working on a double backflip for, really, since BMX in 2000. It was in the first ever Nitro Circus DVD I did an Aussie Roll, a double backflip 360 on a mountain bike into my foam pit, on a mountain bike. So it’s been 17 years in the making.
It was my last trick. Lyn-Z [Travis’ wife] was like, “Are you sure this is what you want to do?” I landed the first time. It has a ressie landing. It’s still not official, I guess, if you want to call it that. But I landed, I opened my eyes, and all my friends were already there, and someone pooped in my pants. So everyone’s like, “Man! Do you want to change the handlebars on the bike?” I’m sitting there and they’re like, “Are you going to go change your pants?” I was like, “No. If I go back up to the house, I will never land this trick.”
This will be my last world’s first on a dirt bike. So many people put everything on the line, and at the end of the day having Phil [Smage] badly hurt… [Ronnie] Renner reached out, and as much as it sucked, he was kind of right. He was like, “All of your heroes are paralyzed or dead. Most of your friends are hurt in some way.” I love these sports. I hope they continue. I hope to continue with Nitro to make them safer, but I spent almost every dime I’ve made into progressing these sports and having my friends travel with me. At the end of the day, I just want to enjoy this time and be able to sit back and enjoy times with my wife and kids like I have with the rest of the Nitro crew for so many years. We travel a lot together and it’s awesome, but life on the road is tough. It’s tough on the family. It’s tough on everything. So this is kind of the last film and the last year.
I love riding dirt bikes and I will never stop, but not at this level. This year is going to be big with the Evel tribute and some other rad projects, but my goal is to finish out my contracts strong and then switch my focus. Again, I’m not done by any means, but this is my final wild contribution to the dying breed of stuntmen.
What made you come to the point where you decided this is it? Is it your age? Is it where we’re at with the pushing the envelope with these sports? Is it people around you getting hurt? What was the final straw for you to bring you to this conclusion?
Bruce was tough, when Bruce Cook got hurt. It was one of those deals where I’m almost more mad at myself for not being 100 percent behind him than for backing him because he was five for six into the foam pit, but he missed the first one almost every morning and you only get one try when it’s to a real landing. I was like, I don’t know if you should do it. He was already committed. I should have seen he was committed and just said, “Dude, you got this.” I don’t know that it would have made a difference, but no matter what happens, if the outcome’s bad, you always kind of regret things. That was hard for me.
Epic night with some of the @nitrocircus crew at @redbull HQ for the premier of #actionfiguresthemovie 2. Huge thanks to @codystauder for working around the clock to make this video so awesome. For those who live in countries that don’t get @sonycrackle, I’m sorry! We are working with Sony to figure out a way for everyone to see this film. Stay tuned. @vgolden423 @trevor.jacob @jamesfosterbmx @salmasekela @wienerschnitzel @billyvanvugt @aaroncolton
With Phil, he’s one of my best friends. His wife Sarah [Whitmore] already had a really bad crash and she’s going through a lot right now where she needs neck surgery. Until her accident, she made a living on a dirt bike, and now she will never be able to ride at that level again. Now Phil won’t be able to make a living on a bike again either. They are both amazing human beings and they will make it work, but they have both gone through life-changing events and now Sarah is the one taking care of Phil.
For me, it's a big wake-up call again. Wild when you spend almost every dime you’ve made, every second of your life to try and get your friends to come with you because the ride is so awesome, but it comes at such a high price. I love these sports. I think they’re great, but I can’t bear that responsibility anymore. Someone left in my mailbox that said they hope that my kids got paralyzed and that I get what’s coming to me. At the end of the day, people always come to me. Still, Christian Meyer, I still didn’t have the heart to call him back to be like, “Dude, I’m shutting down Pastranaland.” Not shutting down permanently. We got a pump track. We got some kid stuff. Let’s just keep it mellow. We’ll do pit bike racing, whatever. But I’m not going to be the guy that’s pushing these sports anymore. It’s not that I don’t believe in it; it’s just that stuff goes wrong and it’s tough. I don’t want to spend any more of what we probably need as a family to get by on helping to make my friends’ dreams—and nightmares—come true.
You do have one more first coming up, though. You’re going to be in Vegas redoing some Evel Knievel jumps. How’s all that preparation coming?
It’s awesome. Honestly, this was a really cool opportunity. Usually I kind of work creative for Nitro, but to kind of bring three generations together, my dad loves Evel and Gary Wells, old school. He’s like, “Back when men were men and bikes were shit.” I heard that my whole life. “Evel would say he was going to do something, he followed through with his word. He’s a man of his word. He knew he wasn’t going to make Wembley Stadium, but he jumped it anyway. You’re not a failure until you fail to get back up.” This is all Evel quotes I live my life on.
At first, I didn’t think it was going to be that hard. I wanted to give tribute to those guys and to kind of show my dad and that generation we’re a new generation of action sports and it’s not dead. You still got Maddo [Robbie Maddison], you got [Mike] Metzger. There’s Harry Bink and Josh Sheehan and Tom Pages and Levi Sherwood and all the new generation of whip kids that are crushing it and they’re doing so good. It’s just evolved. You don’t have the showman, maybe the salesman that Evel was. It’s not the world’s first guy ever jumping a motorcycle, but the spirit is not dead. And to kind of show the younger generation where action sports started, and the older generation where the stuntmen have gone. I think it’s an awesome opportunity. For me to jump Caesars Palace fountain, that’s a dream come true. Definitely so pumped on this whole project.
After getting on the Indian, I wanted to make it as authentic as possible: I want the dress high-heel boots, everything. It was really difficult to jump the bike actually. It was front end high. It was hard to stand up because the motor is so big. It’s hard to go straight off the takeoff, so I ended up just sitting down. The first jump the front end was almost straight up and down. I was hanging off the back like, now it makes sense why Evel did this. But it’s a modern-day Evel stunt. It’s basically to hopefully open people’s eyes in the motorcycle community to flat track and how big that’s coming back and the Indian motorcycle and how much they’re putting in. He’s like, “Shouldn't you do it on a Harley?” And Roland Sands is like, “Look, if your goal is to help the sport, then let’s jump you on the most modern-day bike that’s a 750 that’s most similar to what he would have jumped.”
At the end of the day, I trusted Roland with the authenticity of bike and wardrobe. He said, “Indian is putting the most into supporting the sport, supporting the riders. They’re going to be the ones that are going to help you the most if something bends or breaks.” And we did. We broke a swingarm. I broke the swingarm my first jump and I broke the forks on my second jump. They’re great bikes, but they’re not meant to fly that far. They’re super-fast. So at the end of the day, Indian was the first one to jump on to help out to make it as safe as we possibly can. It will be an awesome challenge for me. I didn’t want to put anyone else in that position, especially after just everything that’s gone down, to say, “Hey look, if it’s windy, no matter what the conditions are, this is a tribute to Evel, a guy that wouldn't back down. We have to go.” For me, I was like, I’m willing to take on that responsibility and hopefully the weather is perfect, and we don’t have to worry about it, but if it’s not, we got to go.
So you’re all in this one?
Yeah. This year is going to be my biggest year I’ve ever done, starting with Action Figures. I’ve got a project I can’t really talk about until later in the year. We’ve got the Evel project. We’re putting a permanent show in residency in Vegas that we’re working on ramps for that’s basically a Cirque de Soleil, but it’s Nitro Circus. We’ve got over 70 shows. I’m racing at Jeff Cernic’s Pleasure Valley track in October, we’ve got all kinds of different-level Nitro shows. Some are FMX focused. Some are the opposite; some will be in 60,000 people stadiums and some at 2,000 capacity high school fields. Some will showcase new up-and-comers and some will have the best old school riders, but the caliber of riding is always kept at a level we think is higher than you will get anywhere else. [Nitro World] World Games are still going on. It’s breaking up into two because the motorsports guys wanted a motorsports event and the scooter fans didn’t want to see cars. The car guys didn’t want to see skateboards.
As many years as we’ve been doing this, we are really just understanding the market, and every time we get on top of it, the market seems to evolve. I know it’s a lot of information, but there’s so much going on right now, and I love it but as much as it’s awesome bringing my kids with me everywhere and traveling, I’m home so little. I need a year to get my body healthy and to get back. My kids, one of their friends says, “Is your dad dead?” because I’m just never home. They’re away with me a lot. We’re together a lot as a family and we go on tour a lot. But I’m never home unless we are filming there. We built a pump track for the kids and I just can’t wait to be able to spend time with them and hopefully do that. This year is going to be big. Next year I still got contracts, it will still be pretty big, but the goal is to finish these not like most of my heroes and a lot of my friends and to be able to still be walking and having fun and still while we’re here, throw down like a motherfucker.
So this is kind of almost like your last-hoorah year, so to speak, and then you’re going to kind of tame it down a little bit as your contracts go out.
Don’t get me wrong. I love this. Like Andy Bell, I feel like I’m a cockroach. There’s certain people that can just figure things out on the fly—you don’t have to be great to be a stuntman, but you have to understand what the consequences are, and not just being able to live with them, but being able to know what the minimum is to get by to walk out of that stunt. Even if you don’t land it, to figure it out. I feel like if one thing that I’ve been blessed or gifted with, it’s when everything goes wrong, that’s when I function the best. Same thing as your Canadian rednecks and Aussie bogans. There are a lot of guys that are like that, but there’s a lot of guys that aren’t.
What are you most pumped about with this film?
Honestly, everything. It’s [being] released on Sony Crackle. Actually, everyone thinks these things make a lot of money. I lost a lot of money personally on the first one, but I wanted to make what I wanted to make. Sony is an awesome partner and they allowed me to do that. When they jumped on, they said, “Okay, we’re going to help you fund the best film you can possibly make and we are going to make it available to watch for free.” At the end of six months, we get it back to where we can put it on DVD and actually release this for the rest of the world, which kind of sucks because I just realized we didn’t have distribution globally. I should have read the fine print a little more closely! But seriously, Black Rifle and military and everyone who literally made what I feel is the best action sports video that’s been made maybe since your beginning days with Crusty and that kind of stuff, but it’s a personality-based film. It’s one that you can watch over and over again and put on in the background and you’ll find stuff over and over that just keeps getting better.