’22 Jump Street’ Set Visit: Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill Talk Sequel Pressures, Anticipation, and Bigger Action
Posted on Monday, April 7th, 2014 by Germain Lussier
Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill have become two of the most influential actors in Hollywood. They produce, they write, they receive Oscar nominations. Now they’re teaming up for the sequel to a film that helped give them many of those opportunities. We spoke to the pair on the New Orleans set of 22 Jump Street last November and the pair were incredibly excited to be there. After all, no one thought the first film would ever be a hit, let alone spawn a sequel that’s getting a competitive summer release.
In the interview, Tatum and Hill talked about the self-awareness of the sequel, the new level of action, the oddity of doing an interview for a movie while you’re still shooting it, college experiences, the pressure of doing a sequel and even a potential third film. Read the full 22 Jump Street set visit interview with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill below.
We’re surprised to get you so early. [Note: It was about 10 a.m., we hadn’t even seen them shoot yet.]
Jonah Hill: There’s a gentle hour, right now, for me, that’s like when you wake up at 4:30 a.m. and then you’re real tired and it’s like 9 or 10 a.m. where you hit your sweet spot.
Channing Tatum: And then you fall asleep right after that.
Hill: And then by 2 p.m., broke out again.
Tatum: It’s right when the coffee kicks in and then you crash.
Hill: I had a strong coffee. I’m feeling awesome right now.
Can you talk about the expectations of this film as producers and actors?
Hill: When we were writing this one, the biggest thing to keep in mind, like we did in the first one, was we called ourselves out for…
Tatum: How lame it was.
Hill: … The lameness of recycling an idea for a TV show into a film and I think that worked to our benefit. And we call ourselves out right out of the gate in this one that sequels are bigger and crappier than the first ones. So that’s kinda the approach we’re taking with this, is to have a very aware attack at ourselves for making a sequel in the first place.
Is there a sense in it this time around that your characters peaked in high school, so to speak?
Hill: No, but do you want to write for the movie? We could use all your input. Where were you when we were writing it? I don’t want to give too much away about what happens and stuff…
Tatum: Yeah, in my opinion, you’ve given away too much already.
Hill: Yeah. Exactly.
At the end of the first movie, Schmidt is extremely excited about the idea of going to college, Jenko is not so much excited. I’m curious how that leads into that film?
Tatum: It leads from there, from that exact place.
Why is he not excited to go to college?
Tatum: It’s just the same thing. He feels like it’s just gonna be an extension of high school and I think it’s obvious, because Jenko hates reading, that he knows there’s ultimately going to have to be reading in college.
Hill: Again, you don’t want to give too much away, but it dives into what our college experiences were like initially and why we’d want to rewrite the past of that.
Tatum: And why you would want to go to college to begin with, to have sex with the girls and to go to spring break and stuff like that. I don’t think we’re giving away too much saying that stuff, but there might be that in this move.
The characters had the parties and schoolwork in the first one — how is college different?
Tatum: Uh. How do you answer this one?
Hill: I don’t know. It’s interesting to do an interview while you’re making a film. It always is. Usually when we’d be doing these interviews, you’d have seen the film and kind of understand some of that stuff. Again, I just want it to be fun for everyone to watch it, so you don’t want to go too much into it, but a lot of the stuff about college is figuring out who you are, your identity and yeah. A lot of the movie is about our relationship and kinda going to college with your hometown honey and then the world opening up to you once you get to this new place.
Tatum: We’re still in like a girl-boy relationship in the movie. I don’t know who’s the girl.
Hill: Well, Schmidt is probably, I dunno, more feminine.
Can you talk about collaborating with Chris and Phil again?
Tatum: Dude, they’re awesome. Because they come from an animation world, all this is almost painful for them. They’re just like, “God, I just want to get in and edit.” They’re just like, “Put me in a dark room with an editor and a screen” and that’s when they really want to make the movie. This is their second movie, really, and they’re so much more comfortable than the first time, but still, we get here and we’re just like, “Alright. There’s infinite possibilities of where the camera could go, where you can set the people, what’re you gonna have in the foreground.” And they are just amazing to collaborate with, because they’re not these sorta really like, “It has to be this way. This is the way we’ve envisioned it.” They really want everybody’s input and to kinda go on the fly and it’s a lot of fun.
Not to give anything away, but does this movie have bigger action scenes and bigger everything? Was that the aim when you were writing it?
Hill: The basic idea is from “Bad Boys I” to “Bad Boys II.”
Tatum: But more ridiculous.
Hill: The initial thought when I first was starting to write the first movie was “Bad Boys” meets a John Hughes movie and then the only way to make fun of ourselves in this movie properly is that sequels are more expensive and shittier than the first ones and the idea is that, and what I think the guys have really been pulling off — Phil & Chris — is that it really does feel like a big, giant movie, but with really stupid jokes in it. You know? Which is kinda great, which is super-entertaining, hopefully.
Tatum: I straight-up got to ride on a semi at like 90 miles-per-hour on top of it. It was crazy.
Hill: It looks like a Michael Bay movie. It’s pretty awesome.
Can you speak about collaborating with Ice Cube again?
Tatum: Awww, man. Come on. He comes in every day and goes, “Ay, ay!” My day’s made, then. I’m just like, “Cool. Check the box. Again.”
Hill: Yeah, he was my childhood hero. During the first one, the first thing we wrote down was that Ice Cube, the guy who wrote “Fuck the Police,” should play the police captain. I grew up in LA and he’s my actual hero from growing up. So yeah, it’s a true childhood dream to be able to hang out with him and I ask him all about NWA and his career and I ask him about Kendrick Lamar and all the rappers now and I love to hear his opinion on everything. And he’s so smart when it comes to all facets of the entertainment business. He’s really been successful in so many different areas.
The movie is called “22 Jump Street.” Does that mean that the building that Ice Cube ran is literally across the street?
Hill: Uh… Yes. I don’t want to give too much away.
Tatum: Yeah. We’re screwing it up.
Hill: Seriously, it’ll just be less fun for people if they know all the jokes.
For college students, music is like the soundtrack to their lives. What would be the characters’ soundtrack?
Tatum: We make a lot of jokes, especially in the first one, that no one knows the movies that we know because we’re so old and our music references are probably really old.
Hill: We deal a lot in this movie that we look older, you know, like older than a couple years ago when we made the first movie.
Tatum: That was actually the first thing that he said to me after we did the first take. We went back and looked at the take and we were like, “God damn, we’ve gotten old in three years.”
Hill: It sucks to watch, because I’d watched the first movie the night before and then we started with the same set that we did on the first film, the second film the same set and actors, and I watched the first take and I was like, “Chan, we look a lot old than we did in the first movie.” So we had to kinda incorporate that into the film. But to answer your question about music is yeah, a lot of the music that our guys listen to, it’s funny for us because the kids now wouldn’t know the bands and rappers and stuff the same and that is part of the fun of it. My character ends up listening to a lot of The Cure in this movie and Robert Smith and gets a lot of very emotional records.
Tatum: My character listens to a lot of “unce unce unce dah dah dah dah dah dah.” It’s very complicated stuff, that stuff.
Was there reluctance on either of your parts to do a sequel? The charm of the first one is that it was an ambush. Nobody really expect the take on it. But now, you can’t surprise us, right? Or can you?
Hill: I had a meeting with the studio probably half-way through shooting the first one where they came down here and said, “Would you want to start writing a sequel?” And I said… I’d never done a sequel before to any of the movies that I was in and that was because I thought it couldn’t be as good or better, but I thought that the premise of the second one is going to college and there hasn’t been a great college movie of our generation yet. There have been like, you know, “Animal House” and all these great college movies, but there hasn’t been a really memorable one from around now, you know? I thought when you take all the rules of high school away from these guys and put them in college, that seems a lot more comedically fertile. So I was like, “OK. That could actually be funnier, or as funny as the first one.” But of course that’s why we call ourselves out, because you feel like you’re gonna disappoint everyone inevitably.
Tatum: Because people kinda want it, but then they want it how they envision it and how they remember it and you want to give them something different, so you kinda have to take some risks and whatnot and hope they like it.
After the first one, are all of your friends and fellow actors clamoring to cameo?
Tatum: Pretty much everyone, they were like, “Dude. I want in.” Even people that aren’t in the industry, the acting industry, but in other industries that are well-known. They’re just like, “Man. Shit’s awesome, we want in.” But we don’t wanna have every single person. It kinda takes you out of the movie. But there might be some people.
You guys are doing the football thing out there. Talk a bit about the prep you’ve had to go through to appear believable. Or to look unbelievable, I guess?
Hill: I did no preparation, because this is my only football scene. I basically get murdered out there and I go a different direction.
Tatum: Maybe cheerleading, I don’t know.
Hill: But Jenko was a great football player in high school and he kinda finds his first love again.
So have you been prepping for the football scenes, Channing?
Tatum: Oddly enough, no. I’ve kinda hurt both of my feet, so I haven’t really done very much and we’ve been shooting. It’s not gonna be like “The Program” or anything like that. It’s not gonna be like massive games or anything, but we’re gonna have enough that you believe it and whatnot.
Have either of you ever played before?
Tatum: Yeah, I played like 10 years. I played one year in college and 10 years in total. Yeah, for what we’re doing, I don’t need to really go out and like…
Does [playing football] feel like a flashback or is it so far removed?
Tatum: Yeah, the couple practices I did go to, it was like, “Wow. I forgot what this is like and how fast everything is” and some of these kids are ridiculously talented. Some of them, they play D-1 and whatnot.
One of the biggest challenges of a sequel isn’t just the drop in quality, the repeating of incidents, but it’s also that you have generally less time to put it together. Was that a challenge this time?
Hill: It’s like — I think bands have it a lot or rappers or musicians — is like sophomore slump, where you have all the stories and experiences for the first. This movie for me, this was a lot of the experiences I’ve had for the first 25 years of my life that I put into this movie and, then you you’re right, then you have a year-and-a-half or whatever it is then to make a second one.
Tatum: Yeah, you should have heard the studio’s date that they wanted to shoot it. As soon as the first one did well at the box office they were like, we had a meeting, they’re like, “So, you think we can have it by two months? A month?” We’re like, “You guys are smoking crack.”
Hill: Luckily, they weren’t like, “This is your date.” This is like, “Here’s when we feel ready to make a good movie” and then they chose a date that was reachable from that point. Neither of us were gonna come back and just make a second movie. Everyone — all the writers, the directors, all of us — we all put the time in to make sure that it was gonna be something special before we even agreed to go forward….It’s so nice to make a movie that you think people might actually go see before they even know anything about it. It takes a lot of the pressure off.
Tatum: Yeah, I think a lot of you guys asked the, “Are you guys gonna do a second one?” before the first one came out and we were like like, “Ah. We just want the first one to do alright.” And now it’s like, “Alright. That happened.”
Alright. So are you guys looking forward to doing a third one?
Tatum: You know the answer to that!
Hill: Well, everyone will REALLY expect the third one to suck, so we can only do better than the expectations.
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