This weekend, "22 Jump Street" is poised to have an impressive debut at the box office.
According to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys, the R-rated sequel could debut with anywhere between $55 million and $65 million -- more than $20 million more than the first film opened to two years ago.
And yet despite the fact that Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill's latest film is set to do brisk business, this month news about the stars has been decidedly negative. Last week, TMZ posted a video in which Jonah Hill hurled a homophobic slur at a paparazzo; the actor promptly gave an emotional public apology during an appearance on "The Tonight Show."
Then, news broke that Tatum's upcoming sci-fi action flick, "Jupiter Ascending," had been bumped to 2015 just weeks ahead of its summer release. The $150-million picture, in which the actor costars alongside Mila Kunis, had been plagued by bad buzz for months. Meanwhile, Tatum's last film, 2013's action-heavy "White House Down," was another $150-million production that failed to live up to the hype at the multiplex.
Not that any of the hundreds of UCLA students and others crowding the streets of Westwood at the film's premiere on Tuesday night seemed to care. They were too busy making fratty bro noises and fist-bumping to a DJ booth that towered about 20 feet above the carpet. After the "Jump Street" leads arrived, they promptly ran up to the booth, where Tatum broke out some of his "Magic Mike" dance skills and even stood on the ledge to wave at the crowd. His handlers flew into a tizzy, but everyone cheered.
On the carpet, Sony Pictures had Tatum and Hill do joint interviews -- perhaps to deflect from any uncomfortable questions. (Hill's reps even warned reporters not to ask about his recent "incident.")
The pair, who seem to share a genuine affinity for each other, went on to speak warmly of their second collaboration.
Tatum is "one of the first people I call when I think about what I'm doing" in my career, Hill told The Times. "Every time I have an idea for something, he's someone I ask advice from. Besides a friendship, it's been an immeasurable asset to creative stuff."
Looking on at the chaos surrounding the costars, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller said they were thankful they don't have to live under a microscope.
"They are up to the challenge, though," Lord said. "They are thinking really hard about what they want the rest of their careers to be like -- and what those [hard moments] do is they focus you, and remind you what your values are."
With Hill coming off his second Oscar nomination earlier this year and Tatum set to showcase his more dramatic side in the Cannes hit "Foxcatcher," both actors also seem eager to prove their range beyond "Jump Street" -- even though Sony is likely to greenlight a third installment if the sequel proves to be a hit.
"They still have a lot of upside," said Lord, whose sequel has currently notched a 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. "That's what's crazy about those guys. They're at the beginning of their acting careers, and they're only gonna get better."
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