I had too much to drink the night before, but I managed to be early for my appointment at a Washington, DC hotel to talk with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, stars of the Major Motion Picture 21 Jump Street, a rebootery of the successful Fox TV show that launched the careers of Johnny Depp and Richard Grieco. In real life, Mr. Tatum’s neck does not appear as disproportionately large as it does on the movie screen, and Mr. Hill appears thinner than when he was on the Oscars broadcast, in which he was a Nominee for Best Supporting Actor. Both gentlemen are very congenial.
Mr. Hill and Mr. Tatum were behind schedule, so I spent a lot of time alone in a nice hotel suite, where I promptly fell asleep in a comfy chair. I was awakened by a Movie Industry Person, who then opened the door to the suite I was in and then the door to the suite across the hall opened, and I saw a police officer shaking hands with Ice Cube, who is also in the movie as the grouchy Police Captain, and then I figured out it was Channing Tatum, in a Bicycle Police uniform, just like the one he wore in the film. Jonah Hill was dressed similarly.
Channing Tatum: What’s up, man. I can’t get Jonah off the couch in there.
Me: That’s OK. It’s nice to meet you.
(Handshaking — straightforward thumb-up square handshake.)
Me again: My name’s Joe.
Channing Tatum: Joe? Nice to meet you Joe; Chan. (pause) Chickitty-chang-chang-cha-chang-cha-chickin.
Me: (thickly, through mouthful of chocolate chip cookie, over top of the “Chickitty-chang, etc.”) Chan?
Chan: Yessir. Chan. Yeah.
(Movie Industry Person says something about Jonah Hill, who has not yet entered the room.)
Me: Well, fuck Jonah Hill, man.
My new Best Friend Chan: Yeah, fuck him. (loudly) WE DON’T NEED HIM ANYWAY.
Me: It’s all right.
Chan: What’s up, dude?
Me: (staring out door) Ice Cube just went in there. It’s been a surreal day for me, because I met Ice Cube today —
Chan: I could not agree more, bro.
Me: — crazy, and now I get to say shit like —
Chan: Fuck tha police?
Me: — well, who doesn’t say that all the time, but now I get to say things like “you know, earlier today when I was talking to Ice Cube. . . “ I’m going to be wearing that out a lot.
Chan: I would, too. I do on a constant basis.
Me: I forgot to ask him, I wanted to ask him — because I know he likes cars — (to Chan) do you like cars?
Chan: I like cars, yes.
Me: OK, now, so (with a mind temporarily clouded with the Idea, the Belief, that this was the greatest question not only to ask of Ice Cube, but ever to ask any Celebrity), I wanted to ask him, like, what was the most, what was the first badass car that he bought when he made it.
Chan: Uhm. Couldn’t get it out of him.
Me: No, I didn’t get to ask him, I forgot. Because I was starstruck.
Chan: Tell you what mine was —
(Jonah Hill enters room.)
Me: Not that I’m not starstruck by you guys! Hello sir, my name’s Joe.
Jonah Hill: Hey Joe, what’s up, man.
Me: Nice to meet you.
Chan: — I’ll tell you what mine was —
Me: (referring to matching uniform outfits) Whose idea was the, matching,
Chan and Jonah simultaneously: Our idea.
Me: That’s good, you don’t have to worry about what to wear.
Jonah: Like a school uniform
Chan: 1957 Chevy, truck.
Jonah Hill: (seeing my plastic container with cookies and plastic bag of grapes) Did you bring your lunch?
Me: I did. I don’t (waving at table of fruit plates, that, in my mind, look dry and dusty), yeah.
Chan: Good for you.
Me: A 1957 Chevy Truck?
Me: Is that an everyday driver, or as a cool car to have?
Chan: Ahh, I wish it was —
Jonah: Hell, no
Chan: I wish it would drive every day.
Jonah: (laughs) he’d like it to be. I used to have a ’67 Chevy Impala.
Me: Before you made it big?
Jonah: No, have I made it big? (laughs)
Me: Yes, you’ve made it big.
Jonah: (laughs) Ohh. . .
Chan: He’s always been big.
Me: I know you guys are movie stars and you have fragile egos, you need constant self-affirmation.
Chan: That’s actually very true.
Jonah: It sounds arrogant to say “yeah, I made it” before I made it big.
Me: But you know, I was saying to Mr. Chan over here that I forgot to ask Ice Cube what was, the most, first, badass car that he bought when he made it big? You know, there’s a day when you get a certain check — on every level of your life — there’s always a day when you get a nice check and you buy something.
Jonah: (brandishing large — but not crazy-gigantic — wristwatch) This was the big thing I bought. This watch.
Chan: You got a Ro’?
Me: Is that an expensive watch?
“They gave us the little Rich Guy plane, it does not belong to us and we’ll never get to fly on it again, especially if this movie tanks.”
Jonah: It is an expensive watch. My dad said — my dad’s a watch guy — when you get any little bit of money, I want you to go out and buy a watch that you can’t afford, because you’ll have it for the rest of your life, and every time you look at what time it is, you’ll see how hard you’ve worked. That you’ve worked for that watch.
Jonah: I’m not saying I think it’s a smart idea, but I will give it to my grandkids.
Me: (looking at my watch) Is it made out of platinum, or stainless?
Jonah: No, it’s just steel.
Me: It’s a really well-made watch?
Jonah: Yeah, a “Paul Newman” watch, a Daytona, they called the “Paul Newman” watch. It’s like a race-car driver’s watch.
Me: Your dad was in that business, or did he just like watches?
Jonah: No, he’s just an enthusiast.
Me: A watch enthusiast.
Jonah: Yeah. He wanted his son to have a nice watch.
Me: So when you made it, did you buy a nice car?
Jonah: No, I never buy cars.
Me: You don’t care about cars?
Jonah: They’re bad investments.
Me: Well, they’re not investments.
Jonah: They’re investments in your Life. I bought a ’67 Impala but it got stolen, and I realized I’m not doing that again, because it’s too flashy, and someone stole it right away.
Chan: They wouldn’t be able to drive away in my car. They wouldn’t know how to start it.
Chan: There’s a specific way.
Me: You gotta wiggle and jiggle?
Jonah: You gotta punch it as hard as you can.
Chan: Oh, man, You gotta pet her, you gotta talk sweet to her, and shit.
Jonah: And punch it.
Chan: Yeah. (laughs) Donkey-Punch it.
Jonah: Donkey-Punch it.
Me: So why are you guys tag-teaming?
Chan: Because it’s more fun this way?
Jonah: Hell yeah, it’s more fun this way.
Chan: (gestures between himself and me) Because when you’re sitting in a one-on-one —
Jonah: Hang out with your buddy or hang out with yourself, you choose.
Chan: When you’re one-on-one it gets too serious. (whispers) It sucks.
Me: (thinking about my crappy interview with Ice Cube that was all my fault, where I should have been more of a relaxing presence) Yeah. I’ve done this a couple times, this is not, like, my, my, I’m not, a —
Chan: Not your first time?
Me: It’s not my first time at the rodeo, boys.
Chan: (politely) Heh.
Me: I meant it’s like, I get all — you meet somebody alone in a room, it’s just — (to Industry Person sitting on floor in hallway of hotel suite, largely ignoring us) not that we’re alone, miss, acknowledging you as a human being, but — that’s the other weird thing, you’re talking to somebody and there are people around, and they’re not doing anything. You guys are used to this —
Jonah: Did you make your own cookies?
Me: No, my girlfriend made ’em. I mean, if you guys have any Dietary Restrictions, they’re just, cookies.
Chan: Are those Dietary cookies?
Me: No, they’re good, but they have, eggs in ’em, and —
Jonah: Are those Medical cookies?
Chan: They’re Medical cookies . . .
Me: No, they’re not Medical cookies.
Chan: You sure? You sure? You do have your eyes closed right now.
Me: I am hungover. I had a bad day at work yesterday, and I went out and had a few drinks last night.
Chan: I feel you on that, bro.
Jonah: We’re gonna do that tonight.
Chan: Doing that tonight.
Jonah: Even though today hasn’t been a bad day, we’re just gonna —
Me: Right. Well, no, that’s good —
Me: Drinking, there’s a reason to drink when you’re sad, and there’s a reason to drink when you’re happy, that’s cool. You gonna do that here?
Jonah: We’re off to Miami, actually.
Chan: Yeah, we gotta get on a plane.
Me: You’re gonna drink in Miami.
Chan: We’re gonna drink on the way to Miami. (big laughs)
Me: You’re gonna drink in the plane, on the way to Miami.
Chan: In the plane on the way to Miami. (laughs)
Me: In the First Class.
Chan: Uhh, yes.
Me: Or do you guys get a tiny Millionaire plane?
Jonah: They gave us the little Rich Guy plane, it does not belong to us and we’ll never get to fly on it again, especially if this movie tanks.
Chan: Yeah (laughs).
Jonah: They’re saying “we hope it’s gonna do well, so we’re gonna give you a nice plane, and you’re never gonna fly on it again — “
Me: The movie is not gonna tank.
Jonah: “ — and if the movie tanks you’re never working again.”
Jonah: “But we gave you the plane.”
Me: You guys are a bargain right now, because, I mean, (waving at Jonah) you got nominated for a fucking Academy Award.
Chan: Yeah . . .
Jonah: (gesturing at Chan) and he’s the biggest Box Office Movie Star in the World right now. We kinda got a one-two punch going on.
Me: Did you guys make the deal for this before all that good stuff happened?
Jonah: I imagine Sony’s pretty psyched how our careers panned out since when we made the movie till now.
Chan: Yeah. And it’s them.
Jonah: I wonder if they were placing a good bet.
Chan: And it’s both movies —
Jonah: — and both movies were for them, yeah, Moneyball and The Vow were Sony movies, too, so I think they just kinda knew they’d made two good movies —
Chan: They were trying to capitalize on that (laughs).
Me: If you were offered this movie today, you think you’d get a lot more dough?
Chan: Probably. Psssh! I’d hope so.
Jonah: (a little more in the spirit of the dumb question it is) (laughs)
Me: Then this movie’s gonna do really well, because they made it cheap, they made it relatively cheaply then, based on your star-power.
Jonah: Who the fuck knows, but I would be —
Chan: — I would be firing my agent, “you don’t know what you’re doing, I coulda made that deal” (laughs).
Jonah: We’re just happy they let us make this crazy-ass movie together, you know, I mean —
Me: (mouthful of cookies) I saw it. It was funny.
Chan: Thank you very much.
Jonah:Yeah, we like it a lot.
Me: It really was. I laughed, it was great, a lotta times —
Jonah: It’s fun, it’s not
Me: — you’re psyched for a movie like this, you hope it’s gonna be great, and it sucks — I don’t know anything about — I was a little too old to watch “21 Jump Street” —
Chan: Ehhm. (indicating lack of surprise)
Me: — but for some reason, there was a period in my life, when I was home, there was this spinoff to it, called “Booker”?
Jonah: No way.
Chan: I did know that, actually.
Me: And Richard Grieco was on “21 Jump Street,” but later?
Jonah: He was after Johnny Depp.
Me: Right, right, for some reason there was a period in my life where, I was in front of a TV when that show was on, so it’s like, I watched it, regularly, him and Lori Petty?
Jonah: Wow, Lori Petty, Tank Girl.
Me: She was so hot back then, in that series, she was like, smokin’ hot, it’s like, she had the whole look going on, you know.
Jonah: And she had, like, the quirky personality, kinda Hipster.
Chan: Very quirky.
Jonah: She was like the, O.G., like, Hipster —
Me: (marvelling) It was Before Hipsters, man.
Jonah: — Hipster Girl, yeah.
Me: It was Pre-Hipster!
Jonah: She had, like, the Punk Rock Attitude, kinda quirky.
Chan: Tank Girl, man.
Me: Tank Girl. Not a great movie.
Chan: That’s Punk Rock.
(Laughter of an indeterminate origin.)
Me: That was Ice-T as a kangaroo. Ice-T as a kangaroo in that movie.
Jonah: That’s crazy.
Me: My, how times have changed. He’s on “SVU” now.
Jonah: Yeah, Cop Killer’s on “SVU,” and the guy who wrote “Fuck tha Police” plays the Police Chief in our movie.
Me: Plays the Angry Police Chief.
Jonah: Police Captain.
Me: The Classic Angry Police Captain. As I was saying earlier today, to my new acquaintance, Ice Cube.
Jonah: How cool is it that you met Ice Cube?
Me: See, I can say that. I can say that now.
Jonah: That you’re buddies with Ice Cube. That’s the only reason I even make movies is, so I can become friends with Ice Cube.
Chan: It’s not not a reason.
Jonah: It’s funny, my friends make a joke, like, because we grew up listening to Ice Cube and stuff, it’s like, “yeah, I’m like, friends with Ice Cube.” It’s really weird. You know that’s weird.
Me: He’s making a biopic about NWA, and I said, what’s it gonna be like, casting yourself?
Jonah: He’s probably gonna be more handsome than ‘Cube, the kid. ‘Cube’s a handsome guy, but I would cast a Male Model to play me, if I have to cast Myself. My dad always wanted Ben Affleck to play him.
Jonah: My parents don’t get that when I have parents in a movie, it’s not like a biopic of my life, that it’s the character’s parents?
Jonah: My dad’s like “what about Richard Gere, Ben Affleck, or something.”
Chan: It always goes to those two?
Jonah: “No, Dad, we’re gonna get some random dude, like, it’s not, playing you, it’s playing the character’s dad, it’s not playing Jonah Hill’s dad.” He doesn’t get it.
Chan: I’ll do that, when I, if I, have kids, I’ll be like, “Wait, what, in the school play? Who plays your dad? “ And then he’s like, “Jimmy, from third grade,” and I’ll be like “Why? Let me play that, let me play that dad, I’ll get on stage for that.”
Jonah: And cast Yourself?
(Pause. The energy has vanished from the room.)
Chan: (draws a breath) What’s up, buddy? (laughs)
Me: Are you guys — how long have you guys been here?
Jonah: We got in last night.
Me: Are you guys in the Rhapsody of the Deep phase right now, you’re just, Nitrogen Narcosis?
Jonah: We go straight from the plane, and we go straight to the Q&A;, then we go to sleep, then we wake up and we do interviews.
Jonah: Except tonight we’re gonna have a little — last night was an “off” night.
Jonah: Denver and DC got the “off” nights. (laughs) And Chicago and Miami have the “on” nights.
Chan: I was half-on in Denver.
Jonah: Yeah, you were half.
Chan: I got a little halfie-on.
Jonah: I got two full nights of sleep, two out of four nights, of sleep.
Chan: What’s New York gonna be like?
Jonah: That’s gonna be hard days, yeah.
Chan: He’s gonna do “SNL.”
Me: Are you guys doing like David Letterman or anything?
Chan: I dunno.
Me: Jimmy Fallon?
Jonah: I’m doing Kimmel and Ellen, I think. I think they might be dark, I think they might be off the air, maybe when we’re there.
Chan: (to Industry Person) Am I doing any of those big ones?
Person: Yeah. In L.A.
Chan: OK. So, no, I’ll not be doing any —
Jonah: I’m doing Leno in —
Me: I was wondering if you guys were gonna tag-team anything.
“My parents don’t get that when I have parents in a movie, it’s not like a biopic of my life, that it’s the character’s parents? My dad’s like, ‘what about Richard Gere, Ben Affleck, or something.’”
Jonah: We wanted to, but I guess the talk shows don’t like it, apparently. That’s what we found out, because we asked to, because obviously, I think it’s fun, because the whole movie’s us two, like our, chemistry together, it’d be fun to go on and do it together,
Me: Like this (indicating bike-police getups). Yeah, they love it when Bill Murray comes out wearing a fuckin’ football helmet or something, why can’t they let you guys be creative?
Chan: That’s just Bill Murray, he doesn’t bring a buddy out.
Jonah: He plays his own rules.
Chan: That’s very true.
Me: Why don’t you guys flex a little bit? You have Power now.
Jonah: The talk shows don’t let you come on with other people. It’s actually weird, because it’d be way funnier for them to get two for the price of one.
Me: I think your instincts are right. I think these people who run these talk shows are incorrect.
Jonah: We need to change the System (laughs).
Me: So, um, (to Chan) you were a huge surprise to me in this movie —
Chan:Thank you, sir.
Me: — being really fucking funny, and (to Jonah), you were not surprising, in that you know how to be funny, but (to Chan) you were , I’m not gonna say shocking, but it was like, wow, this is great.
Chan: We created this thing where Jonah actually learned how to do my voice, and I just moved my mouth, and uh, he stuck his hand up my —
Jonah: Up his butt.
Me: Some signals, to get you to move your mouth the right way?
Jonah: I’d go like this (goes like that) in his butt, hole… sorry.
Me: I don’t wanna Spoiler anything, but whose idea — because I don’t wanna give away —
Chan: Don’t do it then.
Me: — any plot points, in the film —
Chan: Then don’t do it.
Me: To my hundreds of readers, but who came up with the [SPOILER REDACTED] gag, the [SPOILER REDACTED] idea?
Jonah: Mike Bacall and I, the writers, we uh, that was one of the first things we came up with, like, we should have to [SPOILER REDACTED] and [SPOILER REDACTED].
Me: So that was your idea, and (to Chan) how did you react to this idea?
Jonah: It was in the script, always.
Chan: Yeah, I laughed my ass off at it. I was like: “What.” That was like one of the first parts in the script, that I was like, “I know that is gonna kill.” There’s really, very little you can do to screw that up. It’s gonna be funny, just how big is it gonna be?
Me: That was one of those moments, sometimes you’re in a movie, and it’s like, you can’t hear, because everybody’s laughing.
Jonah: That’s awesome.
Me: That was a big moment.
Jonah: That’s Phil [Lord] and Chris [Miller], our Directors, I think they did a really good job with like the animation parts of the drug sequences [NOT A SPOILER — ALL MOVIES HAVE DRUGS], that stuff was all them.
Me: And you guys have a Party Sequence. There’s nothing I love more than a movie that has a Party Sequence. There’s a lot of really entertaining shit in this movie. I don’t see why this isn’t gonna be, I don’t know what your ultimate plans are but I don’t understand why this isn’t gonna be more than one.
Jonah: We hope it to be, but it’s up to the audience.
Chan: From your mouth to God’s ears, bro.
Me: Because then you guys get paid, then, at some point, better.
Jonah: You’re all about our pocket, I love you, dude.
Me: And then like the third one? It’s like, the second one, maybe not, but the third one? Yeah, that’s the one where you really rake it in. Then maybe hand it off to somebody else.
Chan: Do you wanna come be our agent?
Me: Absolutely, yeah, I love planning other people’s lives, and making money for other people gives me great pleasure in my life. You guys are a Comedy Team, you could do this, or you could do something else.
Chan: Hopefully we could do a drama together, yeah.
Me: You guys wanna go Dark? You guys wanna be Serial Killers, like that?
Jonah: James Franco and I are gonna make this movie that Seth Rogen is directing, about The Apocalypse, that we’re gonna make in a couple months, and then right after, we’re making a really heavy drama together, where it’s like the cat and mouse, the two of us, so it’s gonna be a cool experiment to make a comedy with someone and then right after, literally back-to-back, to do a serious drama with them.
Me: Do you know who the directors are?
Jonah: Yeah, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are directing the comedy one. Rupert Goold is a really famous British theater director, is directing True Story, which Brad Pitt is producing —
Somebody, I think it was Chan: (Sotto voce) Wow.
Jonah: — and it’s pretty cool, it’s gonna be a cool thing because I’ve never seen that done before, where two people do a comedy together. Luckily, it’s not just the two of us, in the comedy, but we’re both in it, and Seth’s in it, and Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson are in it.
Me: That’s the real fucking test, man, when you guys go Dark.
Me: Like Jim Carrey, man, he tried, a couple times, The Number 27 or whatever [The Number 23, dumbass], where he was obsessed with a number and stuff —
Jonah: The Truman Show, and —
Chan: He killed Sunshine —
Jonah: Eternal Sunshine —
Me: — Sunshine of the Mind, Eternal Sunshine. [Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, c’mon.]
Jonah: Adam Sandler, I think, out of all the famous comedians that went to a serious place, I think Adam had —
Me: Punch —
Jonah: Punch-Drunk Love, I think that’s one of the best performances ever, I love that movie so much. That movie just kills me.
Me: Do you think there’s some sorta compulsion, to do that, you guys are like, well-liked, and you wanna be a Bad Person, on screen?
Chan: No, I think we all have different shades of ourselves, you don’t wanna just show and do one thing your entire life, you wanna be able to show different sides of yourself, that you’re deeper than what you’ve already done, and just keep changing. In people’s eyes, and in your own ability.
Jonah: Yeah, I just don’t wanna be defined, I think that’s my ultimate goal. I’d rather just be, at the end of my life, be an indefinable figure (laughs) as a person and an artist.
Me: Your New York Times obit: “Indefinable!”
Jonah: “We can’t really describe that guy.”
Chan: (laughs) That’d be cool. (laughs)
Movie Industry Person: Thank you, Joe.
Me: Well, thank you.
Jonah: Joe, you’re awesome to talk to.
Me: (to Movie Industry People) You guys are good at creeping closer and closer.
Movie Industry Person: (laughs)
Other Movie Industry Person: Just sort of not being in the way, but letting you know we’re here.
Chan: (Touching chin whiskers) I got my Joe Start-Up Kit right here (in ref to my beardness).
Me: Thank you sir, good luck, (shaking hands of Jonah and Channing Tatum) good luck on your airplane ride.
Chan: Get the fuck outta here.
Joe MacLeod has lots of Ideas about things.