Warning: The following story contains SPOILERS for the end of 22 Jump Street.
The action comedy sequel 22 Jump Street is filled with knowing jokes about the fact that it is, well, an action comedy sequel to the 2012 hit 21 Jump Street (which was itself a self-aware reboot of the 1980s television series starring Johnny Depp). Audiences who stick around through the end credits of 22 Jump Street, however, can see that joke taken even further, with winking sneak peeks of future possible installations in the franchise. Now that Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum's undercover cops have conquered high school and college, in 23 Jump Street, their boss —played by Ice Cube — sends them to medical school. And then culinary school. And then firefighter school, dance school, and seminary school. Eventually, they go to space. And become a video game. And an animated series.
It is a wildly inventive spoof of Hollywood's insatiable appetite for franchise expansion, but the original plan was for Hill and Tatum to not go on any more missions at all.
"The end of 22 Jump Street was Ice Cube being like, 'You guys want to go on another mission?'" said Phil Lord, who with partner Christopher Miller directed both 22 Jump Street and its predecessor. "And they're like, 'No. We're done. We never want to do this again.'"
That ending, however, tested terribly in pre-release screenings. "The audience was so sad," said Lord. "Because all they want at that point in the movie is to think that this goes on forever and ever and ever. And then of course, we thought of a way to do that."
Well into post-production on the movie, Lord and Miller set about brainstorming all the possible iterations of Jump Street they could muster. "There are twice, maybe three times as many shitty ideas for sequels [than what made it in the film]," said Lord. "There was a sitcom we wanted to shoot."
"We had a film school one," added Miller. "We wanted to do one on the set of Jeopardy!, where they are uncovering a quiz show scandal."
The video game and animated series were created by independent "visual studio" Alma Mater, which also did the adorable end credits for Lord and Miller's last film, The LEGO Movie. But all of the live-action bits were ultimately limited to what they could shoot on a single day on the Sony lot. Still, the duo did manage to squeeze in cameos from Anna Faris, Seth Rogen, and Bill Hader.
"Chris emailed me and his email started, like, 'OK, this is really stupid, but for 22 Jump Street, we're showing the sequels during the closing credits," Hader told BuzzFeed. "I was like, 'Oh my god, absolutely. You kidding?' And then I showed up and they were like, 'Here's your costume,' and it was a chef's thing. That's when I found out what it was. They're like, 'Yeah, you're a chef and, I don't know, I think they're gonna be getting some sort of a microfilm out of some sort of food, and they're undercover chefs, and then it's like, you are the bad guy the whole time, it's that kind of scene.' And I was like, 'Oh, OK.'"
Although the sequence would seem to guarantee what 23 Jump Street could be — "We've already established that it has to be medical school," said Lord — the directors see a few options for a way around it.
"It could be 20 Jump Street, the prequel," said Miller.
"I hope that there's a sequel called 22 Jump Street 2," said Lord. "It happens before they go to medical school."