There has been so much speculation and controversy surrounding the live action adaptation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles starring Megan Fox, Will Arnett and William Fichtner. Yesterday, just three weeks ahead of the premiere of the much anticipated film, directed by Jonathan Liebesman and produced by Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes production company, Nerdist was invited to screen a few clips and speak with producer Andrew Form and Liebsman himself. Form and Liebsman were incredibly candid about being fans of the franchise, the tone of the film, clearing up some speculation about William Fichtner’s character and who will be playing The Shredder.
It has become clear that director Jonathan Liebsman is thrilled to bringing the turtles to life once again on the big screen. Growing up in South Africa, the TMNT universe was a big part of his childhood and it was important to him to get the story in his adaptation right. Liebsman told us over pizza at Paramount, “What’s hard is that there’s a lot of respect for the fans and for the franchise. Even with Adam, the head of the studio. It’s a privilege to be able to adapt something that’s so beloved. Meeting Kevin Eastman was, for me and I’m sure for Andrew, was a huge thing for us. I’m from South Africa and it was a really big deal to meet the guy who created stuff I saw so far away.” Getting the turtles origin right was also a major factor that came up during pre-production, with Liebsman saying, “That was important to me when I was reading the script. I was like, ‘Where’s the part where they turn into Ninja Turtles?’ That’s all I gave a s–t about two years ago. It’s super-important.”
There has also been some confusion over actor William Fichtner’s role in the film. While he was not in either of the clips that were screened for us, we needed to ask: was he or was he not playing Shredder and will the character completely CG animated? The director clarified saying, “William Fichtner isn’t Shredder. He’s Eric Sachs. Shredder is played by another actor. [Shredder is] not all CG. You see him without his armor on. When he’s in the armor, there’s an actor, but he’s been augmented. Like in Iron Man, it’s CGI.” Form elaborated saying, “He’s maybe wearing the shoulder pads and then we extend the suit everywhere. There was a helmet that could be worn, but most of it is done in the computer.”
One thing that was clear from the clips that we saw is that the movie is a lot of fun, and the turtles all have very distinct personalities and have a lot of really funny interactions with one another. Making a movie that is a little more on the light side was a sentiment expressed by screenwriter Andre Nemec when we spoke with him a few months ago. Liebsman and Form agreed and assured us that both pizza and perhaps a nod to a catchy TMNT tune would both make an appearance in the new film. “Pizza is definitely in the movie,” said Form with Liebsman adding, “You’ll see the world’s most operatic pizza scene committed to CGI.” When asked if fans would hear some kind of music in the vein of the cartoon theme song or the “Ninja Rap” would be in this installment, Form revealed, “As a matter of fact, you’re going to. You might even hear some of that theme somewhere! We have a very, very fun song at the end.”
At the end of the day, for Liebsman his fanboy checklist for bringing the turtles to life was simple, explaining, “I think for me, the touchstones were April O’Neil, Shredder, the Turtles, Splinter, make sure we see how they become turtles. Make sure they’re mutants. Make sure there’s pizza.” Form chimed in adding one more thing to the list: “Make sure they’re not aliens!”
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, directed by Jonathan Liebsman and starring Megan Fox, Will Arnett and William Fichtner, opens everywhere August 8, 2014.