Video/Q&A: '21 Jump Street' stars Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill

March 12, 2012|Matt Pais | RedEye movie critic

“I’m too old for this [bleep],” says Jonah Hill.

“Welcome to Earth, mother[bleep]er!,” says Channing Tatum.

The “21 Jump Street” stars aren’t being aggressive; they’re just spouting classic action catchphrases (from “Lethal Weapon” and “Independence Day,” respectively). In their new action-comedy loosely inspired by the ‘80s Johnny Depp TV show, Hill coins a new one: “Let’s make a baby.”

Hill, who co-conceived the story with “Project X” writer Michael Bacall as “‘Bad Boys’ meets a John Huges movie,” stars as Schmidt, a young cop who teams with his partner, Jenko (Tatum), to infiltrate a high school and stop a drug operation. The mission forces them to re-examine their high school years and their current sense of self. Schmidt, an outcast in high school, becomes part of the social elite and Jenko, who used to pick on Schmidt in high school but now poses as his brother, falls in with the science geeks.

In police attire at the Trump Tower, the recently Oscar-nominated Hill (“Moneyball”), 28, and Tatum, 31, talked about fingering each other’s mouths, how high school has changed and what Tatum, soon to be seen in “Magic Mike” (based on his experiences working as a stripper), would teach Hill about stripping.

During a drug-induced freak-out in the movie Channing jumps through a gong. How many times did you have to do that, and how did it feel?
Channing Tatum: Just one time actually. That whole take was one time that was late.
Jonah Hill: It was so funny.
CT: We only had time for one take. They were just like, “Go as crazy as you want for as long as you want, and as soon as you get tired, fall down.” And I was like, “OK.”
JH: It was the first day that I wasn’t there as a producer ’cause I was sick, and I had promised Chan I would make sure to be there all the time for him and make sure he was doing good. And they showed me the playback of the stuff I missed and I saw that and I was like, “Oh, they’re fine without me.”

Jonah, I read that you taught Chan about comedy and Chan taught you about action. Tell me how you advised each other.
CT: I won’t mince words about it. He called me up—he’s been on the movie and it’s been in development for about five years, and I haven’t really done comedies. And I had to make him promise me that he was going to make me funny.
JH: Or he’d hurt me.
CT: Or I was going to physically hurt him. That is not a joke.
JH: He’s great. He walks away with the movie in my opinion. He’s an impressive guy. He didn’t have to do this movie ... It’s something he did to try something different, and that’s admirable out of any artist to get that.

How did filming a scene of the guys fingering each other’s mouths strengthen your bond?
JH: I love on the heels of that sentence, we try to be like sincere and [then], “How did it feel fingering each other’s mouths?”

You knew it would go there eventually.
JH: I’ve been doing “Moneyball” press for so long I forgot what it’s like to do press for a comedy. ’Cause “Moneyball” press was so sincere ... And then you say something nice about your friend and then it’s just—

Well, when you and Brad fingered each other’s mouths in “Moneyball” it was more dramatic.
JH: That scene was cut unfortunately.
CT: It’s on the DVD extras … I can honestly say he’s the first man that’s ever had his fingers in my mouth, so it’s a first for me. So I lost my mouth virginity to you.
JH: I wish I could say the same. It’s a seven-time-a-week thing. Different men shoving their hands in my mouth.
CT: It’s an addiction? You gotta go to a group about it?
JH: That was one of the first jokes we came up with. Our first set-pieces we came up with when Mike Bacall and I, when we were writing the story, it was like, they should take drugs and have to throw up the drugs but they just have a really hard time being able to throw up. And there’s something funny about trying to make your friend throw up.

How many drinks did you have first? I’m thinking of the pre-threesome cocktails Denise Richards and Neve Campbell needed for “Wild Things.”
CT: No. We just washed our hands a lot. I made sure.
JH: Yeah, they had mouthwash for our hands. Sanitizer.

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