'21 Jump Street': Phil Lord and Chris Miller Talk About Johnny Depp’s Cameo (If It Happened)

Phil Lord Chris Miller Johnny Depp 21 Jump Street - H 2012
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Phil Lord Chris Miller Johnny Depp 21 Jump Street - H 2012

The directors of last weekend's $35 million box office champion chat about the appearance of the iconic star of the original series.

After opening at number one at the box office with a domestic haul of $35 million, the biggest surprise about 21 Jump Street is that it heralds a rare moment of synchronization between audiences and critics, both of whom lined up to support the film.

But viewers were treated to another shocker in the film itself when directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller recruited a certain star of the original television series to show up in a small but important role: Johnny Depp.

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During the press gauntlet leading up to the film’s release, Lord and Miller kept mum about the appearance – and out of respect for the unlucky moviegoers who haven’t seen it yet, The Hollywood Reporter won’t be any more specific than they were. But the duo offered a few provocative details about Depp’s role in the film, and with its opening weekend behind them, they talked obliquely about how his appearance came to pass.

The Hollywood Reporter: Can you two talk about Johnny Depp’s cameo in 21 Jump Street? It’s not just probably the greatest cameo ever, it actually feeds directly into both the relationship dynamic of the show and the themes of your movie.

Phil Lord: Oh, I’m glad. We worked hard to try to make it make sense. And obviously, this is spoiler city, but we wanted to move the story. And then, we had a big swig of booze and walked up to-
Miller: A particular movie star…
Lord: The movie star in question. And when we started to talk to him about it, we had already him slipped the script and he was like, “Yeah -- I really want to do it, I just have a couple of stipulations.” And his big thing is, he wanted to be in a scene with Peter DeLuise, and he wanted to die (laughs). And so we were like, all right! Let’s go.
Miller: Can do. Can do.
Lord: And I think we had already kind of sniffed out the “I want to die” part. But it was his idea to do a scene with Peter again. And that made it, in order to make that work as a scene, it had to be about partnerships.
Miller: And about their partnership from the show and our guys’ partnership, and it ended working out well. If it happened.
Lord: If it happened.

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THR: Well, if he was in the movie, how much would he have acted in all the scenes in which his character appeared?
We shot him, and if you watch it again, it’s him. If he’s in it at all.
Lord: Oh, that’s him.
THR: Because there were a couple of scenes where it could easily have been anybody.
Yeah, it’s him. It’s crazy, but it’s him.
Miller: And that was the joy of it. There was some green screen-
Lord: Filmmaking trickery, yeah.
Miller: When he wasn’t there on the same day we were shooting some things, we shot him [using green screen].
Lord: But it was always our intention. It was like, if we’re going to do this, it should be hidden in plain sight. Like, it’s way more punk rock if he was there the whole time.
Miller: If you watch it again, you should pay extra attention.

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THR: If he’s in there, you mean?
Gotcha. If he’s in there, it could happen.
Miller: I’m not saying that he is.