Columbia Pictures wanted a fresh take for its new action-comedy 21 Jump Street, so an intense search was held for a director that could make the new vision pop on the screen. They got two for the price of one: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, who had previously helmed the acclaimed animated hit Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
Could the directors of a family friendly animated film possibly be the right choice for this R-rated live-action action-comedy? “We felt like we wanted to do something that was the exact opposite of what we had just done – although, to be fair, `Cloudy' is an action comedy, just geared to a different audience. Still, we had a lot to prove,” Miller explains. “So we made a whole presentation that showed what we would do. We knew we had to do a little razzle-dazzle.”
Whatever skepticism the producers may have had was washed away by the meeting. “When they came in, they were incredibly prepared,” says producer Tania Landau. “They had a PowerPoint presentation. They had created a book with every point of the movie and how it should look. I was blown away. The guys were so creative and enthusiastic – we were all in sync.”
One of the reasons that Lord and Miller were so excited by the material was that they wouldn’t just be directing the movie – they would be living out the themes of the story. “When I was growing up, I watched ‘Jump Street’ because the cute girls in my high school were watching it – I wanted to be up on the storylines. So, this project is like coming full circle – I become a cool person by making this movie,” says Lord.
In 21 Jump Street, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing 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.
With Hill’s comic sense under Lord and Miller’s direction, combined with producer Neal H. Moritz’ action chops, the project had the perfect mix of talent. “You have Neal Moritz’s `Fast and Furious' action side, and Jonah Hill style comedy,” says Miller. “Those things combine, explode, and recombine their atoms to make the perfectly formed movie.”
“Neal has produced lots of great and successful action movies,” says Hill. “So I felt that he would be a great partner in making this because I have made a lot of comedies and he has made a lot of action movies and together we could hopefully make a great action comedy."
“Every time I do an action movie, I feel like we have to top the last one,” says Moritz. “But it’s not about bigger explosions or bigger car crashes – that doesn’t work. The action has to be character-based, it has to be something you haven’t seen before. For `21 Jump Street,' because it’s an action comedy, we tried to have the action be clever and humorous, to really come out of the characters and their relationships.”
Opening across the Philippines in May, 21 Jump Street will be distributed in the Philippines by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.