|Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in 21 Jump Street|
Channing Tatum pairs up with Jonah Hill in Columbia Pictures' new action-comedy “21 Jump Street,” a recent No. 1 box-office hit in the U.S.
In the film, Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) were enemies in high school who became unlikely friends in Police Academy. While they may not be the best cops on the beat, they have a chance to turn it around when they join the police department's secret Jump Street unit, run by Captain Dickson (Ice Cube). They trade in their guns and badges for backpacks and use their youthful appearances to go undercover.
Trouble is, teenagers today are nothing like what they were just a few years ago, and Schmidt and Jenko discover that everything they think they know about being a teenager, from sex to drugs to rock and roll, is all wrong. More importantly, they both find they are still dealing with all of the adolescent problems they didn't address in their own teen years - and both will have to confront the terror and anxiety of being a teenager again and all the issues they thought they had left behind.
The idea for breathing new life into “21 Jump Street” as a feature film began with Stephen J. Cannell, who had co-created the popular television series with Patrick Hasburgh back in the day. One of the most venerable, talented, and prolific television writer-producers, Cannell’s many credits – from “The A-Team” to “The Rockford Files” to “The Greatest American Hero” to “Wiseguy,” among many others – earned him a legion of fans and admirers, especially among his colleagues in entertainment.
One such admirer is producer Neal H. Moritz, who has earned his own reputation as a go-to producer of action films. “He was incredibly charismatic – I loved everything about him,” says Moritz of Cannell, who died in 2010 at the age of 69. Moritz recalls their initial meeting: “We started talking about ’21 Jump Street’ and I told him how much I had loved that show. He mentioned that he was working on turning it into a movie, that he was a fan of my movies, and he asked me if I would like to get involved with the project. Are you kidding?”
“21 Jump Street” ran for five seasons, the first four on the nascent Fox network, providing them with one of their first hits. Starring Johnny Depp in his first major role, the drama about young-looking cops going undercover in high schools scored high ratings in the key demographic of young viewers that the then-fledgling network was beginning to court.
Moritz and executive producer Tania Landau immediately saw the promise in updating that premise, but it wasn’t until Jonah Hill became involved that the project really came into focus. “It’s a great concept,” Landau says. “Two young-looking cops go undercover at a high school, and against all odds, bust a drug ring. We make a lot of action movies, so that was how we saw the direction for this project, too. But things changed when we had lunch with Jonah; he suggested doing it as an R-rated action comedy, and suddenly it all fell into place.”
Hill says that it started with a simple question: "What would it be like to relieve the most important time period of your youth... high school. You think you have all the answers that you didn't have then, but then you get back there and realize those answers are all wrong. You then immediately revert back to the insecurities and problems you had when you were seventeen."
Moritz and Landau immediately sparked to Hill's fresh take on the material, and Cannell, too, thought it was a great spin on the “Jump Street” series.