“After we did the first take, we went back and looked at the take and went, ‘Goddamn we’ve gotten old in three years!'” Channing Tatum
We’re at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans, a general assembly area where various area high school teams play. A cast and crew led by returning directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (before their recent triumph with The LEGO Movie) are going back to the well that spawned 2012’s sleeper hit 21 Jump Street. The adaptation of the classic ’80s TV show about undercover teen narcs went over like gangbusters, partly due to low expectations and also due to the comedic pairing of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as officers Schmidt and Jenko, respectively.
Now they’re doing a college-set sequel called, appropriately enough, 22 Jump Street that is aware of that unlikely initial success and subverting the idea that sequels are frequently a letdown. We’re not sure what’s in store, but on the set there are little field cars fitted with a giant football helmet. These ridiculous vehicles will take part in an on-campus chase with SUVS, which we can’t wait to actually see.
On the sidelines of the field, Jonah is dressed in an orange football uniform that makes him resemble a can of Fanta. They’re playing for the fictitious MC State (Metropolitan City State) Statesmen, conducting drills. There’s a big tracking close-up on Channing surveying the football field zealously, knowing he’s now totally in his element. “F**k yeah,” he whispers before dipping a Q-Tip in his ear and moaning suggestively.
SCHMIDT: This is a weird time to be Q-Tipping.
JENKO: Gotta be able to hear everything that’s going on. You don’t have to do this, dude. It’s probably better if you don’t.
SCHMIDT: What are you talking about? We do everything together. You’re probably nervous they’ll like me more again, right? Like even though you’re bigger and stronger, surprisingly I turn out to be agile and low to the ground, then I become the football star.
A character named Rooster (Jimmy Tatro) with a distinctive (and name-appropriate) red Mohawk runs a drill, while a tall athletic blonde dude named Zook shouts “Sun’s out, guns out.” Rooster apparently has a tattoo that might link him to the drug ring the boys are tailing, but the focus is absolutely on Zook, played by Wyatt Russell.
Rooster’s elbow smashes into Jenko, causing him to bang into Zook. Later we will see the crew nailing the close-up of this “meat-Qute” shot, where Jenko’s Q-Tip goes right into Zook’s roast beef sandwich in the most sexual way imaginable. It’s one of those ideas that you have to laugh at just at a conceptual level, but wonder if it will be far too meta for most general audiences to appreciate. When the joke was first proposed by screenwriter/novelist Rodney Rothman (who wrote the hilarious memoir “Early Bird” about moving to a retirement community at age 24), it left the directors a little doubtful as well.
“That was a weird bit idea that Rodney Rothman had,” said Miller. “We thought it was really funny but we also were like, ‘Maybe that’ll work, we don’t know.'”
“Rodney said he had the worst idea for the movie,” adds Lord. “We said ‘Put it in there, we’ll probably love it!’ and then he did and we said ‘That’s too crazy.’ Then we read it at the table and everybody laughed so we’re like, ‘Let’s give it a shot.'”
“We also shot a version where they didn’t do that in order to protect ourselves from getting TOO meta,” Miller says cautiously.
JENKO: Dude, I’m sorry, I got my Q-Tip in your meat.
ZOOK: It’s like a meat-cute sandwich.
When Zook runs back onto the field, Jenko is smitten: “That guy was awesome, I don’t think I’ve smiled like that in a while.”
There’s clearly a romantic comedy/homoerotic vibe between them. Schmidt is, of course, instantly jealous of Jenko and Zook’s chemistry. Wyatt Russell turned down a major part in “The Hunger Games” sequels to take this part. The fact that his dad Kurt took a part in producer Neal H. Moritz’s other big tentpole “Fast & Furious 7″ no doubt played a role in negotiations.
“This is when Channing and I meet each other and realize we might have been long-lost brothers or something like that,” Russell said of the dumb guy “meat-cute.” “It started off that they’re quarterbacks and they’re football guys, and now it’s evolved or devolved into something less intelligent. (laughs)”
“He feels like it’s gonna be an extension of high school,” says Tatum of stepping into the jock stereotype again. “It’s obvious that Jenko hates reading, and he knows there’s ultimately going to have to be reading in college. Why would you want to go to college to begin with? To have sex with the girls, then go to spring break and stuff like that.”
“A lot of college is figuring out who you are, your identity,” opines Hill. “A lot of the movie is about our relationship, going to college with your hometown honey and the world opening up to you once you get to this new place.”
“We’re still in a girl/boy relationship,” adds Tatum. “I don’t know who’s the girl, though.”
When Hill isn’t glued to his cell phone, he likes to clown around. Right before a take he launches into a bad Mexican accent to Tatum: “My p**sy is burning! Feels so good.” Let’s say it causes Tatum to temporarily lose his cool, cracking up big time. It’s obvious that these two have a camaraderie that’s carried over from the first film, one that translates on every take. Right before another take Jonah’s phone goes off, leading him to yell at it: “Shut up, sir! I’ll f**k you up, dawg.”
“I did no preparation,” Hill admits, “’cause this is my only football scene and I basically get murdered out there and then I go a different direction. But Jenko was a great football player in high school, he kind of finds his first love again.”
“I hurt both my feet so I haven’t been shooting much,” said Tatum. “It’s not gonna be like ‘The Program’ or anything like that, there’s not gonna be massive games, but we’re gonna have enough that you’ll believe it. I personally played one year in college, ten years in total. I forgot what this was like and how fast everything is.”
Jenko lays Rooster out and scores a touchdown. Jenko stares at Rooster: “Happy Halloween, motherf**ker.” Schmidt helps Rooster up off the ground. “You okay, bro?” Schmidt asks. “My arm’s a little sensitive, just got some fresh ink,” Rooster replies. Zook shoots over to the two and begins a conversation with Jenko where Schmidt feels a little left out:
ZOOK: Holy sh*t, bro! Great f**king catch.
JENKO: Sweet throw, bro.
SCHMIDT: Yeah, it’s funny ’cause he’s my brother.
ZOOK: We’re having a rush party at Zeta tomorrow.
SCHMIDT: Guess the volume’s turned down on this thing.
ZOOK: (to Jenko) You should come.
SCHMIDT: Maybe we will.
ZOOK: You guys are together?
SCHMIDT: Yeah, he’s my brother.
ZOOK: Okay, yeah, you can both come.
SCHMIDT: Cool. Also I said a bunch of other stuff you didn’t acknowledge, we’ll have to get into later.
ZOOK: Alright, later. Great f**king catch!
SCHMIDT: What the f**k’s up with that guy?
So far they’ve shot the majority of the college scenes at Tulane University, with additional shots of MC State created at Loyola University New Orleans and Xavier University of Louisiana. The inevitable spring break scenes will be shot in Puerto Rico. At night, the cast and crew frequently party at Channing’s French Quarter bar Saints & Sinners.
As seen in the trailers, Ice Cube will return as the surly Captain Dickson, while Rob Wriggle and Dave Franco are set for a cameo in prison. Amber Stevens (TV’s “Greek”) will portray Jonah’s love interest, Maya. After the shoot an incredibly short post-process will commence, leaving only a few months to complete the film before its June 13 release date. Factor in that this will be Chris and Phil’s third completed film in two years and you’ve got some next level stress, but we sense it’s nothing these increasingly successful guys can’t handle.
“The first one was all about subverting buddy cop movies and bromances in general,” said Lord. “We felt like this one should have the same idea towards sequels.”
“We’re trying to make it work towards the movie,” Miller concurred. “The movie’s really about can you recreate the magic of that first time you meet somebody, those first dates, can you sustain that over the course of a relationship, or in our case a movie! (laughs)”
Producer Neal H. Moritz (“Fast & Furious”) will help the boys navigate what he called the shortest post-production window he’s ever had in order to get the film into theaters by summer.
“There’s more competition in the summer,” says Moritz, “but I think we have such a good identity with this movie and we’ve earned it. With the ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise we didn’t earn our place in the summer until way down the line. Now with this one, because there’s such anticipation for it, we’ll be going against movies with budgets four-times our size, but in the summer I don’t think that’s as important as if you can get through the clutter.”
“The basic idea is from ‘Bad Boys 1′ to ‘Bad Boys 2,'” added Hill. “When I wrote the first movie it was ‘Bad Boys’ meets a John Hughes movie, and then the only way to make fun of ourselves properly in this movie is that sequels are more expensive and sh**tier than the first ones. What the guys, Phil and Chris, have been pulling off is it really feels like a big, giant movie but with really stupid jokes in it. Which is kind of great.”
“It’s like a joke that came true,” said Lord. “It’s something we were making fun of and then we got in it and we’re like, ‘Oh no, everything we’ve been making fun of is real.'”
Channing Tatum just seemed happy he gets to once again do the heavy lifting for the action scenes: “I straight up got to ride on top of a semi at 90-miles-per-hour. It was crazy.”
22 Jump Street opens in theaters on June 13. You can check out new photos in the gallery viewer below!