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Roundtable Interview With Jonah Hill And Channing Tatum On 21 Jump Street

Coming out this weekend is the hilarious remake 21 Jump Street. No, it doesn’t have cheesy 80's fashions or blunt racial stereotypes like the original TV series, but it does bring on the laughs.

Coming out this weekend is the hilarious remake 21 Jump Street. No, it doesn’t have cheesy 80’s fashions or blunt racial stereotypes like the original TV series, but it does bring on the laughs.

Funnyman Jonah Hill and hunky Channing Tatum star as undercover cops sent back to high school to bust a drug ring. Their comedic chemistry onscreen make 21 Jump Street a laugh-out-loud action/comedy, and lucky for us they took some time to sit down at a roundtable interview to discuss the movie at this week’s SXSW film fest.

WGTC: Obviously you guys are having fun with this (they were wearing their cop uniforms). This seems like a great place to bring this film and open it up to everyone.

Channing Tatum: We look like morons.

Jonah Hill: I’ve been making him wait to see it with an audience for the crowd tonight, because South By (SXSW) is the best place to show a movie. Actually, in fact five years ago exactly I was here promoting Knocked Up with Paul Rudd when I got the call asking me to adapt this TV show into a movie. And I started working on it actually five years ago at this hotel. So kind of a bizarre…five years later…it’s insane.

WGTC: Was it originally let’s just go batshit with this movie?

JH: No no no, my agent said I should do it as a comedy, and I said let me think about it; I don’t really want to be someone who remakes things. That’s why one of the first jokes in the movie is about how lazy it is…but I wanted to make a John Hughes movie meets Bad Boys, and that was the idea that I had, and that’s what I feel like we’ve done our best shot at.

WGTC: When you two first met, did you recognize a special chemistry that would play out as well as it did on screen?

JH: It’s crazy because we just took a gamble at it, and then we ended up becoming great friends. It ended up working like that.

CT: Because sometimes it’s not like that. We didn’t know each other. We had just waved at each other across a restaurant. I think he had just had Superbad come out, and I was like ‘Congrats Dude!’. And then he called me up when I was up in Toronto doing a movie and sent me a script.

JH: I told him he should do this movie.

CT: But he only sent me 50 pages, and I was like ‘is there an ending to this movie?’

JH: I sent him the wrong file by accident. That shows what kind of writer/producer I am. I sent him half the script, and he said yes but he wanted to know how it ended.

WGTC: What kind of funny things did you do to kind of get that chemistry going?

CT: I gave him a lot of massages. I’m not kidding. He was getting massaged on the highway in the Peter Pan costume, she was kind of rubbing him out and I just sort of got in step with her hands and straddled him and gave him a little massage-y.

JH: It was awful.

WGTC: Was that an actual working Driver’s Ed car?

CT: It was, actually.

JH: Yeah it was funny. And the original idea was how do you nail iconic high school things with action. Afterwards we were like, well a car chase, let’s do it in a Driver’s Ed car so we can mess with each other with the two brakes.

Or, one of my first ideas for it was, you know on highway chases there’s never any traffic. And I was like, there’s always traffic every time I’ve been on a highway. How would you do a version of this where there’s traffic and you have to get out of your car and run around. In the original version we get out and fist fight, then get back in the car and drive, then get stopped again and fist fight more. That was the original version…

WGTC: Were the cameos always written in, because it seems like most of the original cast pops up in the movie?

JH: Uhm, well we don’t like to talk about stuff like that. In my day, well you want the viewers to be surprised. If you go into Something about Mary knowing about the hair thing, it’s like, you know where’s the fun in that? It takes away the fun and the surprise. It does take away from the movie going experience knowing things ahead of time.

WGTC: Well what you’re just talking about with spoilers and forum topics, that’s a big problem right now.

JH: Or twitter even. I was thinking about Something About Mary, that’s a big one where the laughs were so crazy. You just didn’t know about stuff, and I didn’t know anyone in the industry then or film websites, and I just went into the theater and was like ‘oh my god!’. And our movie is a real crowd movie, there’s lots of screaming and craziness…and I don’t want that ruined. I want kids and people in general to go in and have a blast, and just not know everything and not be so snarky and know about everything. Just go in and enjoy it and smile and escape for an hour and half. It’s just an hour and half fun-ass party.

WGTC: It does seem like there’s been this internet backlash of, like, 21 Jump Street purists? They’re saying ‘this doesn’t look like 21 Jump Street!’

JH: We’ve heard that once today, and I laughed so hard. Yeah, those 15 people can….You should read the script that’s a pure adaptation of the original. I can get you a copy (and the 15 other nerds that are complaining online), and the writers of it actually came up to me that had seen my movie and were like ‘man, your version is about a billion times better’, and they’re very successful awesome writers. They’re like some of the biggest writers in Hollywood and they’re’ like ’think god you made this version, our version was not awesome’.

WGTC: How did you decide what to keep from the original TV series?

JH: We just wanted to pay homage at certain points, you know just to have that fun stuff for those who love the show. But those 21 Jump Street purists…man, it’s like shut the fuck up! I was friends with Stephen Cannell, he blessed this whole thing. He wanted this to happen so badly, I mean it’s not like we remade the Godfather. I would never remake something that was this brilliant amazing thing. It was something that was fun, it didn’t need a remake, it was just a really cool idea to have this Bad Boys meets John Hughes movie, and re-living high school. And I thought re-living high school was more funny than it was serious.

When you talk to young people, they don’t even know what 21 Jump Street is. Those people that complain, they haven’t seen the movie. And what’s hilarious is that the best thing that our movie has going for it is that it has extremely low expectations, because it’s a television show remake which always suck. So that’s the twist, that our movie isn‘t awful.

CT: Just keep bringing it back, remakes or not, good stories are good stories. And good movies are good movies. Yeah, the problem is that the complainers haven’t seen the movie.

JH: Haters are like four people, they don’t represent the movie going audience. I could care less.

WGTC: Since you haven’t done a lot of comedy (To Channing Tatum), was it difficult keeping up with Jonah and Rob (Riggle)?

CT: Well one, I don’t think you can keep up with these guys. They are truly the elite of what they’re doing. But they set a great stage for me to not feel bad about failing, and just to go for it. And I would always be ‘dude I’m so afraid I won’t be funny’, and he’d always say ‘stop trying to be funny, just be it and don’t worry about that.’ And if I couldn’t find my way, if I knew there was supposed to be a joke in there and I couldn’t find my way into it I would just ask him how he saw it.

It was just a great creative experience. You can’t improv that much in drama, you need to really have a clear intention with something you need to get across. Generally it sticks around the same thing. But with this, I could have ran over to the wall and fell down and somehow that might have been ok.

WGTC: This movie had a lot more action than we usually see from you (to Jonah Hill). What was it like doing action scenes?

JH: It was fun. I liked it a lot. You know, I think that’s why it was important to cast Channing opposite to me because, you know, in order for a movie to feel like a Bad Boys meets John Hughes movie you need it to have some action credibility there. And I’ve never done action movies before so I don’t have any credibility in that universe, and Channing has done a ton of it and is amazing at it. And it was just really fun. It’s crazy fun. I did that Modern Warfare commercial and it was just really fun. I can’t imagine having any more fun making something.

WGTC: Did you pull any pranks, or bring anything from your own high school experience into this?

JH: Oh, like the Eminem stuff. I did that, I looked like that in high school, that’s where that came from. Oddly, it met a lot of resistance from everybody. I had to fight for it.

CT: I’m so glad, I’m so happy you got that in there. It’s one of the funniest things in the movie. It was like a knock down drag out fight, because there was the dying of the hair…

JH: It gets such a big reaction…I just want to look down the line tonight at the movie premiere at everyone who was resisting it, and be like ‘remember that argument…?’.

WGTC: This movie obviously lends itself very well to a sequel. Is there a possible sequel in the works?

JH: We would love nothing more than to start working on a sequel. It’s something that we had so much fun doing, the way it turned out was amazing, we love everyone involved. It’s just completely out of our hands, in the audience’s hands at this point. It’s all depends on how the film performs financially. If you give it good reviews and people go out to see it, you’ll get to see exactly what happens in the sequel.

That concludes our interview. We’d like to thank Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum for their time and make sure to check out 21 Jump Street, in theaters this weekend.

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Amy Curtis