At the end of June, I was lucky enough to take a trip down to hot, muggy New Orleans to stop by the set of Sony Pictures' 21 Jump Street, the reboot of the 1980s show that starred Johnny Depp as a young cop who goes undercover in a high school. Sure, it was 90-something degrees and the air was so thick you could scoop it up with a spoon as we set foot on campus at the suburban high school just outside of the crecent city, but filming was well underway and it didn’t take long for us to forget about the weather.
Michael Bacall (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller penned the screenplay from a story by Bacall and star Jonah Hill, giving the whole project a decidedly different tone from its source material. Besides lending his own specific brand of humor to the movie, Hill teams up with action hunk Channing Tatum to create an unlikely but hilarious duo at the heart of the big budget romp. We learned quite a bit about the plot while on set, but here’s what we’re allowed to tell you so far:
In the action-comedy 21 Jump Street, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are more than ready to leave their adolescent problems behind. Joining the police force and the secret Jump Street unit, they use their youthful appearances to go undercover in a local high school. As they trade in their guns and badges for backpacks, Schmidt and Jenko risk their lives to investigate a violent and dangerous drug ring. But they find that high school is nothing like they left it just a few years earlier and neither expects that they will have to confront the terror and anxiety of being a teenager again and all the issues they thought they had left behind.
Of course, while we can’t tell you everything we found down south, there are a few tidbits we just can’t keep to ourselves. Here’s what we learned on the set of 21 Jump Street:
1. Don’t call it a spoof.
The first thing most people said when I headed down to New Orleans for a 21 Jump Street set visit was along these lines: "Really? (Insert groaning noise here.) Another spoof of an old TV show?" Nope. Anyone and everyone working on this reincarnation of the classic 80s television show will tell you it’s just that – a rebirth. Besides, how many big budget stunts did you see Johnny Depp's Tom Hanson do in 1987?
2. Working with hilarious people is really hard.
21 Jump Street's leading lady, Brie Larson, has the pleasure of sharing screen time with funny folks like Hill and supporting actor Rob Riggle, but for her and the rest of the crew, keeping quiet during the scene is nothing short of a miracle. She recalled a few times she almost ruined takes because the jokes were just too funny. “You can see everyone backstage with hands over their mouths, trying not to laugh, tears coming up. And I can’t do anything! If I laugh, I screw this up for everybody! It’s like life or death in those moments. But somehow, you find a way. And afterwards, you fall on the ground and you’re, like, a wiggle worm! You can’t stop,” she said.
3. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill know what the inside of each other’s mouths feel like.
And apparently, it’s “sweaty.” No, they weren’t making out and don’t worry – they doused their hands in Listerine first.
4. They hired real nerds to play…well, nerds.
One of the main high school nerds in the film is a local kid from New Orleans named Stanley Wong who answered a casting call for “Asian people.” The glasses he wears in the film are his actual glasses (gasp!) and he actually plays video games (double gasp!) and he is actually very awkward around girls in real life (oh my!). How's that for realism?
5. The cast has every season of the 21 Jump Street TV show on set.
And they’ve watched them all.
6. Ice Cube is Jonah Hill’s one and only.
Well, sort of. He’s his one and only for the role as the police captain at Jump Street. Hill wanted Ice Cube from the moment he started working on the film. “We thought it would be great having the guy who wrote ‘F**k the Police’ play a police captain,” he said.
So, that's all for now folks. Check back in closer to the film's March 2012 release for more on our little trip to Nola.