If you had the chance to go back to high school, do you think you’d be cool again? Or do things differently? Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum get that chance to relive their glory days…or in some cases, days of high school hell, in their upcoming movie, 21 Jump Street—a remake of the show that Johnny Depp made famous in the late ‘80s early ‘90s.

Following the same premise of the TV version, 21 Jump Street follows two young cops as they go undercover at a high school to bust a drug operation. “We pretend to be high school students again to solve a drug case,” said Hill at the press junket. “But this time around Jenko becomes a nerd and Schmidt becomes very popular. He thinks he knows how to be cool but it doesn’t work the second time around because things have changed this time around.”

Tatum’s character Jenko quickly finds out that he can’t recapture his glory days when realizes that the tables have turned on him. “Jenko was the popular kid – when he looked like Taylor Kitsch from Friday Night Lights and Schmidt looked like Eminem – and the jock who got the girls,” Tatum, who is also an executive producer, said. “When they go back, they find that everything has changed in 10 years. It used to be all about picking on kids, being a bully, sleeping through class. Now everyone’s a vegan, running their cars on vegetable oil… they’re into everything that Jenko thinks is BS. Jenko ends up hanging around with the nerds, and for the first time, sees that all the stuff that nerds do – learning – is actually cool.”

Careful not to create a straight-out remake, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller said they wanted to put their own spin on the story. “We tried to honour the spirit of the original material,” said Lord. “But then kind of make something new. I feel like people get fatigued with people remaking something and you need to give your own spin to it.” But for fans who do remember the show, Miller said there are some things fans will notice scattered throughout. “There are things that we hide in the movie for people who were fans of the show, just little details to let everyone know that it’s not something completely different but at the same time for an audience that doesn’t know the show, they can enjoy it also,” he said.

As a writer and executive producer on the movie, Jonah Hill had that added responsibility to get things right. “The producing part is fun, the acting part is fun but the writing part is the hardest,” said Hill. “That’s the part that’s most stressful because everything in a movie starts from a great script and it’s a process throughout the whole thing to make sure that it’s decent.”

Already established as a brilliant comedian, Hill had to find the perfect partner to play opposite him and knew immediately that Tatum was perfect for the part. “We met at a restaurant a few years ago and just waved at each other and that was it. Then, years later I was looking for the other person to star in this movie and we needed someone with action credibility in order to make a Bad Boys/John Hughes type movie. I think out of all the young action star guys, Channing is the best actor. I called him up and begged him to be in the movie and luckily he was nice enough to say yes.”

For directors, Lord and Miller, the right pair was also critical to the film’s success. “Channing plays the reality of the moment, and that’s the best thing you can do as a comedian,” says Lord. “It also happens to be how Jonah likes to work – a lot of his comedy comes from character and situation.  It’s less about super-funny jokes and more about what’s funny in the moment right now, so it ends up working beautifully.”

21 Jump Street opens Friday and also stars Brie Larson, Dave Franco, Rob Riggle, and Ice Cube.


—By Toni-Marie Ippolito




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