After spending two years trying to convince audiences that Seth Rogen could be an action hero in a film about a superhero no one knew, Neal Moritz is hoping to do the same thing for Jonah Hill and a TV show no one cares about. 21 Jump Street is a big-screen adaptation of the 1980s series of the same name, and Hill plays one of two young cops sent into high school to uncover a drug ring. And like Green Hornet, Moritz enlisted filmmakers to tackle the adaptation who aren’t necessarily the immediate choice, but they’re nevertheless a terrific one: Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the two guys responsible for 2009’s acclaimed box office smash Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Movies.com visited the film’s New Orleans set a few weeks ago and got to watch the cast and crew in action, confirming that fans of the participants should be satisfied even if those of the original show may not recognize this new incarnation.
Truth be told, there wasn’t a whole lot to see: other than a photo montage set to the tune of Skee Lo’s “I Wish,” no footage was available, and the scenes being shot were primarily extensions of material that connected the film’s larger set pieces. Thankfully, however, Hill and his co-star Channing Tatum were on set, and both they and directors Lord and Miller were eager to talk to us. Additionally, we spoke to Dave Franco, who convincingly plays a high schooler (despite his best efforts to look his actual age of 25), and Brie Larson, whose wardrobe seemed to borrow its pop-culture eclecticism from some of the same sources that inspired her character in Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
The heat in New Orleans is no joke this time of year, and if there’s anything that will make you long for lazy afternoons in front of the air conditioning, it’s sitting in a high school classroom with nowhere to go: we spent several hours watching footage as it was shot from the confines of a marching band rehearsal room before moving on to the library for more interviews. Larson finished her day just as we arrived on set, but she stuck around to talk to us both about her character and her burgeoning career. (She won a few hearts in the process of mentioning her character’s sartorial influences, which included Brigitte Bardot in Godard’s Contempt and Heather Graham’s Rollergirl in Boogie Nights.) We then spoke with Hill and Tatum, who interrupted a scene that had them hovering over a toilet together in order to discuss the development process for 21 Jump Street and talk about their ongoing collaboration.
It’s often the case that the directors are too busy (or not interested enough) to talk to visiting press during set visits, but Miller and Lord were determined to discuss the film with us. Thankfully, after a few false starts – and being relocated to a weirdly depressing teacher’s lounge – we did finally sit down for a few minutes and speak to them about making the transition from animated filmmaking to live-action (with an emphasis on action).
Look for full interviews with various members of the cast and crew in the weeks to come. In the meantime, Moritz has enlisted a talented group of people who seem to be enjoying working with one another, and evidenced by what we saw while on the set, are getting some good stuff that should take 21 Jump Street into the 21st Century.