When Vulture entered a hotel room to interview Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill about their 21 Jump Street update, Hill immediately misidentified us as the New York Times’ gossip blog. We thought we corrected him … until he started chanting “gossip, gossip” to the tune of Kanye West’s “Monster.” Tatum, meanwhile, paced around the room eating chips and comically shadowboxed with his reflection in the window. Both of them were wearing cop uniforms. Did things get even odder as we discussed the link between 21 Jump Street and Skrillex, Peter Pan, and Drew Barrymore? You bet they did.
Why does 21 Jump Street warrant an update?
Jonah Hill: I was the original architect of the project. I’ve been on it for five years. My agent said, “You should make 21 Jump Street into a comedy.” I was really against it because I think remakes of television shows into movies are really lazy. That’s why we make a joke about it really early in the film. I [later] thought, “What an interesting idea, getting to relive the most important part of your youth, high school — and thinking you have all the answers, but realizing you have none of the answers.”
Isn’t this sort of the male equivalent of that Drew Barrymore movie, Never Been Kissed?
Hill: It’s definitely not! Um, but you should never say that ever again.
The movie is also about how youth culture evolves so quickly. What baffles you most now about youth culture?
Channing Tatum: The whole digital thing: Facebook, Twitter. That stuff grows at such an exponential rate that it’s ridiculous to me. I didn’t have a computer until — I don’t know — four, five years ago. And everything’s changed since then. Technology just changes, like, every single day. I didn’t have Internet in high school, and I think that has sort of changed the game, too. I don’t get how you can take a test. ’Cause can’t you just take out your iPhone and Wikipedia it?
And here I was thinking you’d say “Skrillex” or something.
Hill: He’s a modern-day rock star. I think one of the major themes when I started writing 21 Jump Street was that our characters would only be a few years out of high school, but have a major disconnect from kids now. I have an 18-year-old sister, so during the five years I’ve been working on this, I really got to be around someone … I didn’t understand what her and her friends were talking about 90 percent of the time, even though I wasn’t old. Channing and I sound like old people when we answer this question, but it really is digital stuff. [Kids] really do communicate through social networking and stuff like that, whereas we don’t.
In the movie, Jonah stars as Peter Pan in a school play. And now Channing is shopping around a Peter Pan project. Did you get this idea, Channing, after making this movie?
Tatum: I cast Jonah in it last week.
Hill: He told me this was an audition for Pan.
Tatum: Peter Pan is my favorite story of all time. It really starts to get into a department of my mind: I love fantasy, like the idea that some crazy kid could fly through your window and take you on an adventure somewhere. I have always wanted to see it done really well. They’ve made some movies that were good, but ... We’ll see how it all shakes out. We’re still in process of writing and finding a director.
Will you star?
Tatum: I don’t know. I definitely won’t be playing Peter Pan.
Tatum: If we wanna make it weird.
Back to 21 Jump Street: How long did it take you guys to perfect that slide-across-the-hood-of-a-car thing?
Tatum: That’s how everybody gets into their cars in the South [where I'm from], so I could do it from a very young age.
Hill: He taught me how to do it. I was a little hesitant. I hurt my hip a few times.
Channing, did you watch the Oscars this year?
Tatum: I did watch this guy [points to Jonah]. Just at home with my wifey.
What did you think? Were you bummed when he lost?
Tatum: No, man. It’s like even being nominated … you can’t take that away. It’s like somebody being president. They were president once. It’s always gonna be “Oscar-nominated Jonah Hill.”
Jonah, how did missing out on the Oscar compare to losing a High Times Stoney award?
Hill: What do you mean I lost it?
Apparently you were nominated in 2010 for Get Him to the Greek, but John Cusack took home the Stoner of the Year prize for Hot Tub Time Machine.
Hill: I have no idea. I don’t read that publication.
Throughout my research, Channing, I noticed a theme: When making appearances, ladies like to ask you to take your shirt off. How awkward is that to hear?
Tatum: Yeah, but they’re genuinely 13-year-old girls. That are just saying it to be funny but don’t really mean it. If I really took my shirt off while walking towards them, that would be creepy.
You have both been producing more and more movies. What does this say about your acting ambitions?
Tatum: I just wanna keep working with great people. New characters, things that I haven’t done, things that I haven’t seen. I just don’t want to repeat myself.
Hill: I think the goal by the end of my career is to be indefinable. Still doing some comedies, but doing more dramas.
Last question: Who made you wear these cop outfits today?
Hill: It was our idea — in order to avoid any seriousness. It’s pretty hard to ask us a serious question if we’re dressed like morons.