SXSW Interview: Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill

The stars of 21 Jump Street on losing touch with teenagers, the cameo they couldn't get and the scene they didn't think would be funny.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


21 Jump Street premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival and stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum did press for it in Austin. They were dressed in their street cop uniforms from the beginning of the film. Like the TV show on which the movie is based, they go undercover in a high school to root out a drug dealer. In a roundtable interview with the stars we got to ask a bunch of questions about the movie’s riffs on cop movie clichés. Hill receives story credit on the script as well.


CraveOnline: Are you guys staying in character?

Channing Tatum: Yeah, we’re never leaving. We’re never leaving these characters.


Did you do the New York junket in costume too?

Channing Tatum: We’ve done every single interview pretty much in costume, every one of them.


How much has high school changed since you guys were in high school?

Channing Tatum: A ton. I didn’t have internet in high school.

Jonah Hill: I graduated 2002. You were ’99.

Channing Tatum: ’98 so a lot has changed. A ton has changed. I don’t think I would even understand these kids anymore. I sound like 50.

Jonah Hill: Yeah, we sound like old men whenever we answer this question.

Channing Tatum: Back in my day…

Jonah Hill: I was here five years ago when I started working on this movie, when I got the phone call to ask me to adapt the movie was at this hotel at South by Southwest promoting Knocked Up. So in the five years since I started writing it, my sister was 13 to 18, so I got to really understand the disconnect between where I was at even in the few years out of high school between myself and high school students now. That’s where a lot of humor comes from is us being out of touch even in just a few years.


What was the disconnect you saw between yours and your sister’s high schools?

Jonah Hill: Even a few years out of school you immediately lose touch with what they’re going through. It’s mostly technology I would say. They live their lives on the computer and Facbeook and everything. I just missed Facebook and all that stuff.

Channing Tatum: I’m still missing it.

Jonah Hill: We sound old.


Crave Online: Did you and Seth Rogen ever compare stories while he was adapting Green Hornet and you were adapting this?

Jonah Hill: No, we had nothing to relate to on that. To me, honestly, we make fun of it so early on in the film about how lazy it is to remake or adapt things. To me it was like the idea of an adaptation of a TV show was just so lame, but I loved this story. I wanted to make Bad Boys meets a John Hughes movie. I wanted to have a Back to the Future element of reliving the most important part of your youth thinking you have the almanac but all the answers are wrong once you get there. That’s what I cared about. That’s what seemed like a fascinating story. I wasn’t like calling people about adapting things or anything. I was just like, “Let’s just make a great movie.”

Channing Tatum: The studio feels more comfortable when there’s a title and a built in audience. I think you could put Narcs as the title of this and it would be the same. It wouldn’t change the movie whatsoever.

Jonah Hill: We pay a lot of homages to the actual show.

Channing Tatum: I watched the show so I was a fan.

Jonah Hill: So it’s fun if you love the actual show but we wanted it to be its own piece. Stephen Cannell, who created the show and unfortunately passed away, was super supportive of us seeing it become something different, seeing someone else’s interpretation of the show.

Channing Tatum: I really wish he wouldn’t have passed away and he could’ve been in the movie.

Jonah Hill: Yeah, there was one moment where we had him at the police station.

Channing Tatum: Doing the ripping of the paper. Do you all remember that thing?

Jonah Hill: At the end of the show.

Channing Tatum: He’d do that clack clack clack and he’d rip the page.


Jonah Hill: All right, maybe it’s good he wasn’t in it.


As a big lover of Bad Boys type movies, had you always wanted to do a car chase with twists like the flammable tankers?

Jonah Hill: That was Chris and Phil, that whole sequence.

Channing Tatum: I did not think that that was going to be funny. I’ve got to be honest.

Jonah Hill: Me too, I didn’t think it was funny either.

Channing Tatum: I was just like, “Guys, this is not funny.”

Jonah Hill: They were right.

Channing Tatum: They were right.

Jonah Hill: But for example, the driver’s ed car, doing a chase. My idea in the original script was to do a car chase with traffic. I thought that was really funny that on the highway it would be like stop and go and there would be traffic. I hadn’t seen that. The highway’s always moving at incredible scenes in movies and I thought it was funny because in real life there’s lots of traffic that if you got on a highway speed chase and you had to keep stopping and get out of the car and running around on the freeway, dressed as morons obviously. Phil and Chris had the idea where you keep thinking things are going to blow up and they don’t.


Did you do ride-alongs with cops?

Channing Tatum: I didn’t. I think Chris and Phil did, didn’t they?

Jonah Hill: I don't know. I didn’t.

Channing Tatum: The whole point is we’re supposed to be bad cops.

Jonah Hill: The whole point is we haven’t had that experience so we didn’t have the experience that a real cop has had. So going on a ride-along would’ve been counterproductive because we fantasize about what it’s actually like and we think it’s all grand and everything but then we’re really just riding around a park.


Have you seen a cut of Magic Mike and G.I. Joe: Retaliation?

Channing Tatum: I’ve seen Magic Mike. Obviously I’m financing and producing it so I’ve seen a bunch of cuts of it. So we’re working on it but I haven’t seen G.I. Joe yet.


How does Magic Mike look?

Channing Tatum: It’s looking good. Hopefully, I hope it’s living up to the hype. It’s got a lot of buzz so I’m just hoping people like it. It’s a crazy movie.