The comic duo of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill began with an intentionally bad idea.
Hill called up Tatum: “So I have this probably terrible idea, but I want to see if you’re interested,” he said. Adapting the 1980s TV show 21 Jump Street was the pitch, and Tatum couldn’t resist Hill’s anti-sell.
The movie, a send-up of TV show adaptations while at the same time being one, was a hit. Now, Hill and Tatum are back Friday with 22 Jump Street, directed (like the first) by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the maestros of turning shallow conceits ( The Lego Movie) into self-reflexive satire.
Beginning with a “previously on” clip reel and ending with a slew of mock sequel teasers, 22 Jump Street again showcases Tatum and Hill’s rapport in a self-aware comedy that sends up sequel-making and dissolves into such absurdity that, one point, it literally turns into The Benny Hill Show.
In a recent Associated Press interview, Hill and Tatum reflected on their partnership in parody and what Hill calls “the most difficult week of my life.”
Did you know early on how good your chemistry together was?
JH: I think we got lucky. We knew we would get along, but also the way we interact is luckily funny. It makes us laugh. I think it makes other people enjoy watching us hang out. When we’re on set, and we’re hanging out and laughing, I can see people smiling.
CT: I definitely went into this, more than most films, with zero, zero ego. I was very insecure about trying to go do a comedy. I was just sort of like: “Tell me what to do.”
You guys might seem quite different, but you overlap in many ways. You have director Bennett Miller in common (Hill received his first Oscar nomination for Miller’s “Moneyball,” while Tatum stars in the upcoming “Foxcatcher”), and you both have terrible things done to you in “This Is the End.”
CT: It was like 2 in the morning — they must have still been shooting — and I hear my email go off. I pick up my phone for whatever reason. I never do this. I don’t email with Seth [ Rogen], but it’s Seth and he’s like, “Don’t be mad at me. We’re sitting here, and we have a crazy idea for a cameo for you that involves you, Danny McBride, a retractable dog leash and a Mexican wrestling mask.” And I was like, “I’m in.”
In the time you’ve been making the “Jump Street” movies, your careers have both exploded.
CT: When [Hill] got nominated for The Wolf of Wall Street, it was so insanely . . . I felt like I got nominated. I’m not even kidding. It was one of those, like, “YES!”
JH: I had a very similar experience with Cannes. I was in my bed at home, and I got an email with the first Foxcatcher review from Cannes. It was like 6 or 7 a.m. in Los Angeles. And I knew what that meant for the road they’re about to go on. I was screaming, and I called Channing and Bennett. Neither of them picked up. They screened my calls.
Following the video that showed Hill calling a paparazzo a gay slur, what has this week been like?
JH: It’s been the most difficult week of my life, without any question. I’m someone who beats themselves up for their mistakes in life. I don’t want to keep giving a watered-down apology. But there is a silver lining to it if people who are young and fans of mine hear me say, “Use me as an example of what not to do.”
CT: Knowing him, it’s even frustrating. . . . He’s such a thoughtful person. Even when we’re on set and improv-ing, and it starts skirting around anything racist or bigoted, he’s like, “I’m going to stop this before we go into any offensive territory.”
How did the end credits sequence of fake “Jump Street” sequels come about?
JH: We were screening the movie, and it was testing really well, and the audience was responding really well to it. We were sitting around going, “The movie plays great. I wish there was one more thing to send people off with a great feeling.” One last jab at ourselves, too. One more: “We suck.”