Expectations weren't exactly high when "21 Jump Street" hit theaters in 2012. After all, it was yet another movie adaptation of a not-that-fondly remembered '80s TV show (albeit one that launched the career of Johnny Depp). Still, the flick was funnier and smarter than it had any right to be. Plus, we discovered that tough-guy Channing Tatum was a comedian at heart, and funnyman Jonah Hill could be an action star. But only one of them made the switch willingly.
Returning directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord spoke to Yahoo Movies this week on the phone from Puerto Rico where they are finishing up production on next summer's sequel, "22 Jump Street." And they said they forced Jonah Hill to the very edge of his comfort zone with the stunts he did himself. Phil Lord said, "We're definitely pushing Jonah's boundaries in terms of stunt work."
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"We've had him hanging upside down off the side of an 18-wheeler," Chris Miller said. "We've had him leaping onto a helicopter." Lord added that Hill was also "driving a Lamborghini into a lobby of a hotel."
"We’ve had him upside down or hanging or dangling or getting smacked around in just dozens of scenes," Miller said. "There are a million things that happen to him in this thing, and he's been a pretty good sport about it, I have to say." And Lord chimed in, "He gets to do a lot more Channing Tatum-type stuff."
There weren't any accidents while shooting the stunts, but some feathers did get ruffled during one scene. Lord revealed, "There was a cockatiel that flew into Jonah's hair and wouldn't let go of it accidentally during once scene. That was pretty funny."
The directors also explained that with Hill getting to do more of the action, Tatum ups the amount physical and gross-out comedy he's subjected to this time around. Lord said, "Yesterday, we shot somebody throwing up on Channing and he was down [for that]." Miller added, "We did three takes of someone throwing up in his face, and it was great."
For the sequel, the characters are going undercover at a college, rather than a high school. And while the directors were inspired in the first one by visiting high schools to see just how much that experience has changed since their day, they found that college is largely the same. Lord explained, "A lot of this movie, unlike the last one, is Channing getting to do a lot of stuff that he wants to do, and Jonah having to do lots of stuff that he doesn't want to do."
Lord and Miller are unique as directors in that they bounce back and forth between doing animated and live-action films. Last year they had the sequel to their first surprise hit "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs," and in 2014 they also are directing "The Lego Movie." "Our whole career is based on low expectations," Lord joked. "So we were kind of nervous about doing something where people enjoyed the first movie and expected the second one to be good."
But they then took the question of "Can you recreate the magic of the first time?" and applied it to the them of "22 Jump Street." Lord said, " Once we figured that out, we thought, "Oh, that's great. That actually takes the stink off of doing a sequel and makes it into an advantage."
Lord and Miller said they are also using the natural chemistry between Tatum and Hill again in the upcoming "The Lego Movie." Tatum provides the voice of Superman, while Hill plays fellow superhero Green Lantern. And the directors said that unlike most actors in animated films, the pair recorded their dialogue together. Lord explained, "It's always better that way, we find, because it feels less canned and you can have a real conversation. They played off each other and they had a blast."
And in the recording booth, you never have to worry about bird attacks.