’21 Jump Street’: A Pre-Trailer Cheat Sheet

How MTV News helped Jonah Hill get Johnny Depp for a cameo.

Once again, it’s time to jump — jump! — down on Jump Street.

A few hours from now, a full two decades since the classic television show completed its run, the red-band trailer for the big-screen adaptation of “21 Jump Street” will be hitting the Web. It’s been a long time coming.
News of the project broke back in the spring of 2008 when Jonah Hill, fresh off the success of “Superbad,” began to solidify plans to pen the script and act as executive producer. Back then, as the old target="_blank">TV theme song might suggest, we never thought we’d find ourselves in a world where such a thing not only might be considered, but could actually happen. But it has, and we’re psyched.

As we wait for the Twitter war between Hill and co-star Channing Tatum to resolve itself — with the winner of a who-can-gain-the-most-new-followers battle gaining the right to tweet out a link to the trailer on Facebook — let’s take a look back at how the whole thing came together.

To begin, Hill had to face skeptics. What qualified this jokester to adapt a beloved ’80s series, one that launched Johnny Depp to stardom? Would this be yet another case of Hollywood recycling, and possibly ruining, the pop-culture past? Hardly, Hill told MTV News in May of ’08.

“People on the Internet just get pissed off about everything, I realized,” he said, laughing. “But it’s not like slapstick or anything like that. I don’t want to make some sh—y movie.”

Indeed, Hill later specified that his take would be “an
R-rated, insane,
” ‘Bad-Boys’-meets-John Hughes-type movie.” Sounds pretty good to us. Further proving that he was making all the right moves, Hill let us know that he was hoping Depp would not only endorse the project but take part in it: “We have an awesome thing for Depp, if he’ll do it,” he said. “I don’t know if he will or not, [but] it’s going to be rad!”

Here is where MTV News entered the story. It turned out that Depp hadn’t heard about any offer until we sat down with him during a press day for “Public Enemies” in June 2009. “If we find the right thing to do, it could be very funny,” he said of a potential cameo.

At the time, though, nothing came of it. By the next spring, Hill hadn’t yet touched base with Depp about the gig.

“We haven’t had any direct contact before,” Hill said. “I’ve just heard that he’s interested, and I’m more than interested. We will make that happen.”

And then it did — partly because of MTV News. As Depp explained, while promoting the latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie this May, “I was sort of invited into ['21 Jump Street'] indirectly,” he said. “It was during an interview like a year and a half ago: Somebody mentioned it, and I hadn’t heard anything about it, and I thought, ‘Well, sure, if they asked me, I’d love to do it!’ But nobody ever really approached me.”

Win! (Even if Hill still won’t confirm that the cameo actually happened.) But before we could even get here, the rest of the “21 Jump Street” pieces had to come together. “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” helmers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller signed on to direct. Tatum came aboard to play Jenko, a young man who joins the top-secret Jump Street police unit and goes undercover, along with his partner Schmidt (Hill), in a local high school to investigate a violent drug ring. Brie Larson won the part of the film’s female lead. Filming kicked off in the spring of this year, ahead of the film’s March 16, 2012, release date.

And Wednesday (November 2), we’ll have the first clue to answer the question of whether Hill followed through on his hope — his promise — that he’d make a kick-ass big-screen version of “21 Jump Street.” Like he told us over three years ago, “I wouldn’t want to do it if it was gonna suck. I really think it’s going to be sweet!”

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