Entertainment » Theatre

Channing Tatum & Jonah Hill :: On Bromance, Stunts & Sequels

by Fred Topel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Jun 11, 2014

The success of the "21 Jump Street" movie was a bit of a surprise, as movies based on TV shows have a spotty track record. Perhaps the bigger surprise was how good the movie was, and how when they started making a sequel, nobody really complained about retreading that territory.

The original TV show launched Johnny Depp to stardom as a cop going under cover as a high school student. Depp voiced his dissatisfaction with the work but completed his five-year contract, and returned for a cameo in the first film. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill play the new Jump Street cops, Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Hill) sent back undercover to stop a high school drug dealer.

"22 Jump Street" picks up with Schmidt and Jenko enrolling in college to find the source of a new drug -- a combination of Adderall and Ecstacy that has caused the death of a female student. Once there, Jenko enters a major bromance with the quarterback Zook (Wyatt Russell) and Schmidt feels left out. It tests the cops' relationship, which is pretty overtly a love story between Hill and Tatum. It may be the most overt Hollywood movie ever made about same-sex attraction.

"I just love Schmidt," Tatum said. "All the guys that are my real friends in life, I don't have a problem saying 'I love you.' I really don't, to anybody. Most dudes can't physically say 'I love you' without throwing like a man in, like 'I love you, man.' It's like they have to bail out of it. I'm just pretty comfortable being like, 'I love you.' That's awesome."

Casting Tatum

The chemistry between Hill and Tatum would be evident even if "22 Jump Street" didn’t go the extra mile. Tatum was Hill’s choice when he was developing "21 Jump Street."

"Jonah called me up for the first one," Tatum recalled. "I was like, ’It’s called ’21 Jump Street?’ Wasn’t that a show from the ’80s? He’s like, ’Yeah, I know, it’s a terrible idea.’ And I was like, ’All right, I’m in. It sounds like a good idea then.’ After that, Jonah came over and we just hung out. He’s just very much like the kids I grew up with and that are my friends today. I think we were just fast friends from the start."

At the time, Tatum had mainly done action and drama movies, save for a comedic turn in "The Dilemma." Hill had faith in him based on Tatum’s dramatic chops.

"I wanted the other person in the movie to be someone who could actually be in an action movie," Hill said. "The whole idea from when we first started was ’Bad Boys’ meets a John Hughes movie. Especially not now, but at that time even more so, I had never been in anything close to an action film, so we needed someone who you could see in the film and go, ’Oh, it’s an action movie and a comedy together.’ I had seen Chan in ’A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints’ which is I think his best performance ever and one of my favorite performances ever. He’s just so genuine and honest. If you can write stupid lines and someone can honestly believe that they’re saying it, it’s going to be hilarious because they’re going to believe what they’re saying. That’s just what I told him and he did that. When you watch either movie, you’re like, ’Gosh, this guy can do anything.’"

Layers of meanings

Phil Lord and Chris Miller returned to direct "22 Jump Street." The directors of the "Jump Street" films, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" and "The LEGO Movie" continue to load the film’s jokes with multiple meanings. In fact, the whole premise of the sequel is that the public wants the same thing over again, so their captain assigns them to do the exact same thing in college.

"My sense of humor within this film is really based on just character, like who these people are, why they do the things they do psychologically," Hill said. "Phil and Chris, as Chan has pointed out, is that every joke in all of their movies always has three different layers to it. It’s that level that I usually bring to stuff which is just base human behavior. And then they do what the smartest, most meta- comedian would find funny and then what a four-year old would find funny, all within three layers of the same bit. That’s why their movies are so interesting."

Hill spoiled a bit from the film that commented on how expensive big Hollywood sequels are. If you weren’t analyzing the film, you might just see a big stunt.

"There’s a joke I don’t think people necessarily pick up on that’s maybe my favorite joke in the movie, where we’re in a car chase and the whole time we’ve been talking about how much money is wasted, and we hit an ATM machine and money flies everywhere," Hill said. "That to me is what the movie is. Look how stupid sequels are. They’re just wasting money. That’s why Phil and Chris are so good at setting that tone and making that able to happen in the movie. But I don’t think it’s something necessarily in the audiences I’ve been in people really laugh at or pick up on."

Stunt work

Also, the campus film school seems to be named after slapstick funnyman Benny Hill. "I don’t know how many people are going to pick up on the Benjamin Hill School of Cinema Studies," Hill said. "That’s a really intricate joke but that’s why they’re so great because they got that sign made. That actually took work to get that for a joke that no one’s going to understand pretty much."

As in the previous film, Tatum handles most of the action stunts. The film opens with a truck chase and climaxes with a helicopter. "We were holding onto the helicopter but they wouldn’t let us drop from it, which I tried," Tatum said. "They wouldn’t let us. Everything generally in the movie is pretty much us, except for certain things that you can actually get really, really hurt on."

Hill vouched for his costar. "You know when he’s standing on that 18-wheeler and they’re going down the highway at 60-miles an hour, that’s actually him. That’s not me hanging off the side of it. That’s Gianni [Biasetti, Sr., Hill’s stunt double] who does all the crazy stuff, but that’s actually him (Tatum). That’s pretty exciting. I think that’s cool. I literally had never been around a helicopter until this movie. I had never seen one or touched one or anything. Then I was like this is crazy. We’re in Puerto Rico, we’re holding guns and there’s helicopters flying above us. It feels like a joke, like you’re in ’Bad Boys.’ Our characters reference that kind of thing. It feels like they’re going, ’Oh my God, we’re in ’Bad Boys,’ this is crazy.’ That’s how you actually feel when you’re there."

Stay for the credits

Be sure to stay for the end credits of "22 Jump Street" for a funny sequence about what may happen next for Schmidt and Jenko. We don’t want to give it away, but Hill teased the film’s final show-stopping jokes.

"I think we made fun of the idea of turning a TV show into a movie," HIll said. "Then we made fun of the idea of doing a sequel and I think the end credits is kind of making fun of the idea of there is no natural progression from college to anything else. There was a natural progression from high school to college, but anything else would feel like this is stretching it a little bit. So we wanted to call out the obvious."

Being a dad

Tatum is married to his "Step Up" leading lady Jenna Dewan-Tatum. They now have a daughter who just celebrated her first birthday. The new father beamed with pride about his daughter.

"We just had her first birthday on the 31st," Tatum said. "It was a realization, because I didn’t think about it, and then I realized I get an extra holiday every year now and I get presents. That’s awesome. It’s more than I could ever explain in this interview. Everything that you think matters doesn’t matter really in the grand scheme of things."

Fans of Channing Tatum need not worry that fatherhood will change his career. The "Magic Mike" sequel is still on the way, and Tatum said he plans to keep pursuing edgy roles.

"If you mean in the sense of the stuff that I want her to see or not see, no, because I think art and story is what it is," Tatum said. "Everything is out there in the world and it’s real. You can’t act like it’s not there. Just do things that mean something to you and you feel has a reason to be told. She’s going to see ’Magic Mike’ at some point and I’m going to have to explain that, and I don’t want to say it was a bad decision in my life. It was just a crazy one and I got lucky that I got out of it pretty unscathed. I know some people didn’t. I hope that she learns from it because I watch movies and I learn. I learn from the stories and the characters’ journeys that they go on."

That said, there will come a day when Tatum makes a kids movie, just for his daughter. "Other than I definitely want to play in movies that she can see at some point because I think all parents end up doing that at some point. I want to do this movie so my little daughter can finally see something that I’m in. So I think in that sense, yeah, but I’m not going to be afraid of taking something that’s salacious or risqué. I think it can just be so intoxicating. You’re just like, ’I just want them to be able to see something so bad because they don’t understand it all. They just can’t wrap their mind around it’ but I don’t think I’m really worried about doing it just yet."

"22 Jump Street" opens Friday.


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