Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
March 12, 2012
“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.
What’s more essential: street smarts or book smarts?
JH: Street smarts.
JH: I don’t think book smarts … it’s impressive, and it’s valuable.
CT: And I’m sure they help you with a job and whatnot, but I don’t know. At the end of the day you’re on the street more than you’re reading a book.
JH: A lot of people I know who are so book smart and have no street smarts, it’s impossible to … they’re like babies almost. Just little babies.
CT: Little weird babies.
JH: Little baby people. Like adult babies.
The movie suggests it’s a nicer world now and high school is more tolerant, easier. Do you feel like if you were born five years later it would have been easier?
JH: Honestly what’s crazy is this whole bullying thing. Not easier for us—I’m just commenting on change or whatever. I remember Columbine happened after I was in high school, maybe, I don’t know. But that was the first time you had heard of anything crazy happening as a result. Since then it’s been really sensitive about kids making fun of each other or hurting each other’s feelings. When we were in high school that really wasn’t around. They only cared about drugs. That was the only thing anyone cared about in our high school.
CT: I’m sure it happened. I’m sure bullying happened. I don’t know, I wasn’t in a high school with the typically movie cliché cliques and people. Everybody just sort of hung out. The quote-unquote nerds and smart kids and whatever, they hung out with us. It wasn’t these cookie-cutter clean stereotypes.
Chan, if you were teaching Jonah about stripping, what’s the first thing you would teach him?
CT: Not to do it. Don’t get naked for money.
JH: I don’t need any tips.
CT: Yeah, he’s got it on lock.
You already know?
JH: The only tip you need to know is just the tip.
CT: Very true. First thing you learn. Stripper 101.
JH: [Laughs.] Stripper 101.
On dancing at Kingston Mines in Lincoln Park the night before: “Did a little shaking of the thing. I am [a blues fan]. I’m not a blues-head. I couldn’t tell you all the greats or anything. I love that place … I’ve been there a lot so they kind of know me. And it’s fun. They’re just such great people, and they just like having a good time.” (CT)
Guilty pleasure movie: “Oh my gosh. I have this one I watch all the time. It’s the weirdest one to be my movie that I love. It’s called “Prime.” It’s with Meryl Streep and Bryan Greenberg and Uma Thurman. … It’s so weird that I would like it. But it’s good.” (JH) “Fried Green Tomatoes.” (CT)
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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