Phil Lord and Chris Miller Talk 21 Jump Street, on Blu-ray and DVD today!
When Phil Lord and Chris Miller set out to make 21 Jump Street, they knew they had quite a task on their hands. It's nearly impossible to convince moviegoers sight-unseen that this is more than just a cash grab designed to prey on nostalgic feelings for a young Johnny Depp and the 80s. But somehow, they managed to create an action comedy that plays fresh and new, and is quite possibly going to be remembered as the best TV-to-film adaptation to ever arrive at the box office.
Critics raved, fans cheered, bloggers tried valiantly to pass on the good word...Yet, a huge majority of you still failed to acknowledge that this is actually one movie worthy of its ticket price. The good news is, now you can rectify the situation today by purchasing either the 21 Jump Street Blu-ray or 21 Jump Street DVD for your collection. We promise, you won't be disappointed.
We enjoyed the movie so much, we decided to catch up with its two directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, perhaps best known for their box office smash Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, to find out more about the making of this action comedy.
The guys are currently in the middle of making LEGO: The Piece of Resistance. They kicked things off by telling us a little bit about this project, which promises to be their next hard sell. Here is our conversation.
Phil Lord: I'm sorry that Chris isn't on this call yet. He is in a recording session. We are doing a bunch of scratch voices for Lego: The Movie. We're doing the animatics. He'll try to jump on here in a minute, and he'll be twice as interesting.
What exactly is that movie going to be? If you could sum it up for us in two sentences...
Phil Lord: It is Inception for children. It's a really crazy action movie made entirely out of Lego bricks. It will be really funny and really crazy. I'm trying to limit myself to two sentences, here... It is totally CGI, but it will all be photo real.
That does sound crazy. And I wish we could talk more about it. But we have to jump, no pun intended, right into 21 Jump Street. After watching the movie the second time, I have to know, were you just as disappointed in The Pick of Destiny's car chase as I was?
Phil Lord: Oh! (Laughs) You know, I have never seen the car chase in Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny. Is it just like ours?
Not at all. But they do have a Student Driver car. When I first saw that, I got really excited. I thought they were going to put it to good use and give us an original, fantastic car chase. But then, they didn't utilize it at all. You guys, on the other hand, take the Student Driver car and finally give me the car chase that, I at least, desperately wanted to see back when Pick of Destiny originally came out.
Phil Lord: Oh, no...You are giving us more forethought than we deserve credit for. We said, "What is something we can only do in this movie?" Which, apparently, was not the case. (Laughs) We just decided that we needed to do a big crazy car chase in a student driver car...(the call goes muffled) I'm sorry...I'm getting caught in a gale force wind!
Moviegoers, including myself, were really caught off guard by this movie. We thought it was going to be another lame remake. And it turned out to be one of, if not the best movie of the year...
Chris Miller: Hey, I am here!
Phil Lord: Does that mean I have to go into the room now?
Chris Miller: No, its fine...
Phil Lord: Chris is back! Yeah! Now...I am surprised to hear you call this the best film of the year. I guess that means we're going to win the Oscar, right?
Chris Miller: Yes! Definitely!
Phil Lord: If they expand the field to fifty or a hundred, I think we are a shoe in.
Chris Miller: Maybe!
Phil Lord: Our original approach to the property was...People are going to automatically think this is a cheap, pathetic attempt to make money. The take on the movie, though, is that it should actually be pretty good. That was our novel approach. We decided to take it really seriously in terms of the characters and the story, and deliver a great movie experience. And not rely on the concept that people knew they'd be getting as they headed into the theater. We had a feeling it would be a hard thing for people to get over...
Chris Miller: Yeah, we knew it would be hard for audiences to get over their skepticism. "Who wants to see a comedy version of that TV drama from the 80s that I didn't watch?" We felt there was always going to be a lot of skepticism about it, so we had to make sure that we did extra to ensure that it didn't seem like a cynical studio money grab.
Phil Lord: But it seemed to do the trick. It did what the marketing people were hoping, which was...It was called 21 Jump Street and not School Cops, which bubbled up to the top of people's brains. Then, it was a great cover, to try and make a comedy off it.
One of the great mysteries of the movie, and you may not want to discuss this...I'll be sure to say SPOILER ALERT...But is it Johnny Depp in the old man make-up the whole time? Or is that another actor we see in the first act of the film?
Phil Lord: It is in fact Johnny Depp in the park at the beginning of the movie. We got those shots of him on the day we did the hotel scene. We grabbed a bunch of shots that we could sprinkle throughout the rest of the movie. So it felt like he was there all along. If you watch it again, you can see him saying, "If those guys are cops, I'm DEA." That is him in the opening scene. If you watch it again, you can tell that is Johnny Depp.
Are you guys going to get Richard Grieco for the sequel?
Phil Lord: He definitely is available. He approached us at the premiere. He was like, "Guys! Sequel!" We were like..."Uh...Maybe?" (Laughs)
You guys actually did one of those old teases, which I love. Ice Cube sets up the second movie in his last little bit of dialogue. Are you guys actually going to have Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum head back to college for the sequel?
Phil Lord: Yes. You know, we were nervous about having that at the end of the movie. It's sort of like calling your own home run. Its like, "Guess what? We're going to do a sequel!" Before anyone has the chance to like it or hate it. But it seemed to work out all right. The sequel does seem to flow with the original. It does right now, anyway.
Chris Miller: I do think college is going to be their assignment. We don't want it to seem like a certain character didn't come through on his promise at the end of the film. We will send them to college. Yes.
In terms of the first movie's storyline, which has our two cops searching for a designer drug in high school, I couldn't help but think of Bath Salts. Right now, you can't turn on the Internet without hearing another crazy bath salts story. Do you feel the subject matter here is a little timelier now than it was when 21 Jump Street hit theaters just a few short months ago?
Phil Lord: (Laughs) We definitely knew about the bath salts. That story broke just as we were starting to shoot the movie, right Chris?
Chris Miller: No! The new thing started when this guy bit somebody's face off...
Phil Lord: Yeah, but they had already put bath salts on a banned substances list. That thing was in the air when we started to develop what our drug is. We were like, "What is it? What is a stupid thing that a kid would do? How would you mix it all up?" You know what I mean? Now...What happened with the guy and his face? What happened there?
Chris Miller: Some guy, who was on bath salts, tore off someone's face and ate it. It became one of those Reefer Madness kind of things, "Be sure you don't eat someone's face off!" But then they found out this guy had a history of violence, and he was mentally ill to begin with. I don't think you can really blame it on the bath salts.
Phil Lord: I think the bath salts are really an affect, and the same cause, that made him eat somebody's face...
Chris Miller: I'm not spinning bath salts!!! It really is one of the most poisonous things you can do to yourself.
Phil Lord: They're not really bath salts. That's just what they use to sell it. I got nervous...That the gift I'd given my mom for mother's day years ago was actually something that could turn her into some sort of junkie, or something.
Chris Miller: She started smoking that stuff.
Phil Lord: Yeah. It was terrible.
So, the drug in 21 Jump Street is loosely based on bath salts?
Phil Lord: We're super ahead of the curve.
The drug has been around for awhile. But it wasn't until the face-eating incident, which happened after 21 Jump Street came out in theaters, that we started to see these stories on a daily basis. It's hard not to watch the movie on Blu-ray now, and not think of that.
Chris Miller: They are bad for you!
Phil Lord: Believe it or not, we did do research in making this movie. We went on ride-alongs with the Santa Monica Police Department. They were very helpful. They showed us their process, and they let us in on what is going on in the drug world nowadays. A lot of it was about people finding unique ways to use substances that haven't been officially banned yet. So they don't get in trouble for getting some sort of high. The most bizarre one was that some homeless people spray Raid through an electrified mesh sieve. Which forms a crystal that they can smoke. Which doesn't kill them. Raid, if it doesn't go through that process? It will kill you. But they smoke it, and it makes their mouths all black. It gives them a high, but it's not illegal. Because its just Raid. Its disturbing and odd that someone has figured out that you can do that. I don't know why I am even telling you this.
You give me this new information...I didn't know about this. Some poor broke kid is going to start reading about 21 Jump Street to better his life, and then end up getting hooked on the Raid...
Phil Lord: I will say one thing: You should not smoke Raid! It is a terrible, terrible idea. It may not just potentially kill you, but it is guaranteed to turn your mouth all black...That is a fact! It will!
Its like huffing paint. The silver line around the mouth is a telltale sign that you've been getting high in the garage. It's a giveaway, this black mouth...
Chris Miller: It definitely is...
The end of 21 Jump Street? Were you guys at all influenced by Dragnet 87 with Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd?
Chris Miller: (Laughs) I haven't seen that in a long time.
Phil Lord: Yeah...(Laughs) It has been a long time since I've seen that. Were the Miranda Rights a running gag in that movie? I can't remember?
No, Tom Hanks does the Miranda Rights exactly like Jonah and Channing, exactly at the same beat in the big finale climax of the movie...
Phil Lord: Oh, really?
Chris Miller: I have no recollection of that. We are both tapping into some elemental human narrative that exists in the human genome somewhere.
Phil Lord: I wish it had of been an homage. That would have been amazing.
I'm going to take it as an homage.
Phil Lord: Yeah, you can do that!
Both movies make a great double feature...
Chris Miller: Most great artists always go, "Look, I don't want to say what it is. You can interpret it the way you want to interpret it." That's so they can take ownership of all the accidental references that they do.
In regards to the accidental references in the movie, a lot of the improvisational stuff didn't even make it into the final cut, right?
Phil Lord: Yeah. You can see on the 21 Jump Street Blu-ray that there are 23 deleted scenes that we had to cut. These were things that never made it into the film, and they were crazy improvisational things.
Chris Miller: We picked everyone not just for their ability to be funny and great actors...But also because they could improvise, and play with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. We got a lot of great stuff in the movie, but there were a lot of hilarious moments that didn't make it into the movie. The rough cut of the movie was just under three hours. It wasn't going to be that long in the actually theaters.
Phil Lord: It would have been a good idea. We could have released it like Kill Bill. (Laughs)
Chris Miller: It really did need a second movie.
Chris Miller: We'd just have to grab some pick-ups, and that would be it.
21 Jump Street Blu-ray and 21 Jump Street DVD are available today!