The cartoon craziness of the original ’80s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” animated series looks to be infecting the latest big screen take on Eastman and Laird’s classic comic book characters. And Friday evening at WonderCon 2016 in Los Angeles, the cast and producers of Paramount’s incoming “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” took the stage to talk about the amped up action of the impending Dave Green-directed sequel.
Stepping on stage in the Microsoft Theater were the film’s stars Megan Fox (April O’Neil), Stephen Amell (Casey Jones) and the movie’s producers.
Kevin Polowy from Yahoo! News served as moderator and started out by bringing executive producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller of Platinum Dunes out to talk about the development of the sequel. “Thanks to the genius of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, we have so much to pull from in the canon,” said Form, nothing that almost every character they ever wanted to use from the comics made it into the sequel. Fuller said that originally they had wanted to use Bepop and Rocksteady in the first film as well as Tyler Perry’s Baxter Stockman. But maybe the biggest get for this outing was Krang who will ride into the story on the Technodrome. On the opposite side of that cosmic coin is the Turtles’ resident everyman Casey Jones.
Unpacking those characters, Stockman will come in as the lead scientist in T.C.R.I. Form said that they used Stockman in the first movie for “about six frames” but the part ended up on the cutting room floor. In this film, the scientist will work with Shredder to mutate Bepop and Rocksteady into being. “Dumb and fun” is how Form described those characters. They’re role in the story is to start brawls and be henchmen in the classic sense. “They really bring a lot of fun into this,” Form said as Fuller credited actors Stephen Farrelly and Gary Anthony Williams with nailing the personalities, though the key moment in the film for them is how ILM brought their human-to-mutant transformations to light.
Krang has only been seen briefly so far in the first full trailer for the movie, but he has a major role to play. “We did hire an actor to voice Krang,” Form said, and Fuller played coy on who that voice actor was at first, but his partner wore him down on the reveal. “It was a very hard character to cast,” Form said before saying that “SNL” alum and “Portlandia” star Fred Armisen has been cast. The actor was working on lines for the character just yesterday.
Amell then took the stage said that he felt gratified to be a part of the TMNT family, and his ability to play the part was as luck a break as landing on “Arrow” was. This take on Casey Jones has beef with the characters who become Bepop and Rocksteady and reluctantly joins up with the Turtles in their fight. Asked if he’ll get the long, grody hair of the comic Casey, Amell said that this version is in some ways the origin story of the character. “When we meet Casey in the movie, he is far from being a vigilante with a hockey stick. He’s a corrections officer,” he said.
Fox then joined the panel to talk about the evolution of April O’Neil. “The first one turned out way better than I anticipated it would be,” the actress admitted, saying that the story in the second movie was a strong continuation. In the first movie focused on April’s career goals and her own mission in life, but the new film explores the character’s relationship with the Turtles. The actress said that Mikey was her favorite Turtle in the cast. “You can call him Michelangelo if you want. You don’t know him,” she joked.
The producers said that part of their inspiration for the character of Mikey was to make a superhero who was like Bill Murray. Fox said Raph was modeled in a way after Russel Crowe while Leo took his cues from Tom Hanks.
The panel then shared an all new clip from the film which focused on April “having something that everyone else wants,” Form said. In the scene, Fox’s character is on the run from some Foot ninjas on the New York City streets holding a glowing canister full of ooze. When caught down a dark alley, Casey appears to save her instead of the Turtles and dispatches the bad guys in his signature style. The clip ends with the first face-to-face meeting between the pair.
Fox then discussed the filming of that scene, saying that while the stunt team takes a lot of the work on their shoulders (“I do a lot of running but not a lot of fighting”), but she said Amell did a lot of his own stuntwork. The actor joked that the fight was filmed in “the only alley in New York City.”
The fan Q&A got off to a rough start with a fan mistaking which panel they were at and another asking about April O’Neil’s ninja future. “Are you asking if I’d rather be replaced by a CGI character?” Fox joked. “It’s okay. People can have opinions. This is WonderCon!”
Amell balked at a question about who would win in a fight between Green Arrow and Casey Jones. “That’s like being told ‘You have two kids, who do you like better?'” the actor said before saying Oliver Queen would be winning but would stupidly let Jones live to fight again.
Fox said that part of her draw to the movies was that she watched the original movies with her sister when she was a kid. “I haven’t had a lot of children or now adult children tell me what they think about it. My kids don’t know. I don’t let them watch TV, so they have no idea what I do for a living,” she said. Amell said, “I let my daughter drive the Turtle Van!”
The panel was asked what their favorite TMNT toys were growing up, and Amell said “It’s the Ooze!” The actor said he once knew all the words to the Vanilla Ice song from the original TMNT 2 film, but he’s since lost them. Fox similarly once knew the full dance but never played with the toys as a kid.
Amell said his take on Casey Jones came from melding the original comic take on the character with the vision of the film’s director. Overall, he said playing the part was just fun where he could whip full pint glasses at people in a bar fight. “He feels like the system and doing things ‘the right way’ have failed him. I think a lot of people can relate to that, and he decides to fight back with a baseball bat.”
A part of the film’s narrative takes the Turtles team out of NYC for the first time and to Brazil. Only the second unit team actually went to the jungle environs, but that section of the movie will prove an important turning point for the team, the producers said.
Amell said he did a whole week of stunt shooting with the second unit team and a bunch of guys in mocap suits. He was surprised to find that the producers of a major motion picture would let him do even more stunts in the film than he does on “Arrow,” but I had to work to not instinctively reach back into my quiver.” While the actor has a hockey background to pull from for the character, he never worked with some of Casey Jones’ equipment like a cricket bat.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” opens in theaters on June 3.
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