Considering their past roles and the "types" they have previously played, Oscar-nominated actor Jonah Hill and four-time "Teen Choice Awards" winner Channing Tatum make for an unlikely duo both on-screen and off. In their latest film 21 Jump Street, in which a former geek (Hill) and former jock (Tatum) go back to high school as undercover cops only to learn that the cliques have changed, they celebrate this unique chemistry. Co-written by Project X scribe Michael Bacall and Hill, 21 Jump Street is one of the freshest buddy cop comedies, and TV adaptations, in years. I sat down with Hill and Tatum (who were dressed in their bike police uniforms) in a roundtable interview to discuss the story behind their real camaraderie, what they like about each other, and more.
21 Jump Street is now in theaters.
One of the things that makes this movie really work is the "bro-mance" going on between you two. Would you guys talk a little about it? Jonah Hill: Movies like this live or die on whether you believe these two people care about one another. All of the great cop movies feel like the partners want the best for the other one. Our friendship in the film is really tested and put back together. I think that exists because we get along really well in real life, and we're good actors. I like to let it speak for itself.
Were you on the script from the beginning? I see that you are listed as a co-writer for the film.
Hill: I was the originator of this version.
How many drafts did you write before this film came into balance?
Hill: A lot of drafts.
Channing Tatum: By the time that I came on, till shooting, there were so many drafts.
Jonah, you are an advocate for d*ck humor, especially with films like Superbad.
Hill: I'm also an Academy Award nominee [laughs].
With a movie like this and then Superbad, your humor has a certain interest in making jokes about d*cks.
Hill: Yes, that was five years ago, go on ...
OK, a different question. In this story, there's a lot of focus on things not turning out as they seem. For example, your two characters learn the anticlimactic truth about being cops after some rigorous training. I was wondering how you feel that your upcoming roles, [to Tatum] you with your two Soderbergh films and [to Hill] you with "Good Time Gang" and "Neighborhood Watch," will challenge moviegoers' perception of your creative image as actors?
Hill: I don't know. I've had a lot of success in drama and comedy. I just want to keep making good stuff. I'm gonna be making a movie called True Story which is a drama that Brad Pitt is producing, and it's going to be myself and James Franco solving a murder, in a way like Marathon Man. It's a really cool movie. To me it's about trying not to get bored, or make people bored by doing the same thing over and over again.
Tatum: Obviously people loves to put people in boxes and say, 'Oh, that's who they are; that's just what they do.' The first thing that Jonah did as an actor might not have been who he really was, and the first things that I did might not have been me, but they are the first things that I have done. People get fixated on the things that they know you from doing. Not to get meta, but I think that we challenge ourselves to see ourselves differently, and to try to jump outside the box. We can get very complacent. We try to push ourselves - I feel that's something Jonah is doing, and I know that I have been doing. I want to do something differently every single time. I don't want to ever do the same character.
Hill: I think that [Tatum] doing this movie is a big sign of that - of choosing to be different. Spreading his little wings.
Tatum: Chicken wings.
What are your own experiences with high school cliques?
Tatum: There wasn't cliques in my high school. I grew up in the south, so there were definitely racial and cultural lines. But it didn't have anything to do with smart kids, or not smart kids, etc. I was a jock and I hung out with smart kids, and I hung out with kids who played "Dungeons & Dragons" and video games. There wasn't a lot of people making fun of people.
Thinking about the time when you were in high school, what is one thing you would change about your high school experience? Hill: I would go do theater in high school. I was too scared my friends would make fun of me, but then I became an actor. I would have been more proud of what I was doing, and have had more fun experiences.
Is that where your Peter Pan scene came about?
Hill: There was an original storyline was that [my character] had wanted to do theater originally in high school, but didn't get the chance to.
What would you change, Channing?
Tatum: I'd be nervous to change anything, because if I know everything is going to work out like it did, then I wouldn't want it differently. I probably would have just listened in high school more. There were a couple of subjects that I really liked, like history and science, but other than that, I didn't listen. I have more of an aptitude to want to learn now then I did then. I didn't want do it back then. But now I would really love to be in class. But I can't, because I got to work.
Hill: You truly don't appreciate it while it's going on. Where did you guys meet for the first time? Tatum: It was a restaurant. We just waved at each other.
Hill: We had never met, and then years later I asked him to be in the movie. I said, "Please do this, I promise you'll be funny."
Why do you think you guys get along so well? Tatum: I really respect Jonah. You have to respect somebody you really get along with. He's one of the most creative people, and one of the smartest, that I've ever been around. He just cares. There are a lot of people who are driven, and only worry about success. That's not Jonah. He is successful because he cares. He cares about what he's doing and the people around him. He's one of the coolest people I've ever met.
Hill: I feel the exact same way. We both just get along. There's no toughness to it. The fact that he's in this movie is just showing of how ... he doesn't need to do this movie, but he wanted to ... he wanted to do something cool. To me, there's no calculation on his part. I'm the same way. I just want to make cool stuff. I want to make interesting art. And I want to have fun while we're doing it. This [press] tour has been as much fun as making the movie.