I've actually had the pleasure of speaking with Jonathan Liebesman (Director), Andrew Form (Producer) and Brad Fuller (Producer) a few times regarding the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, but I thought I would share the following exclusive interview with the three amigos, in which we discuss the press sreening I attended (which Jonathan Liebesman also attended, unbeknownst to the rest of the movie-goers), Megan Fox, the inspiration for the film and more.
Note that the interview was conducted prior to the film being released, so the "hypothetical" discussions regarding sequels and characters may give us some great insight into the upcoming sequel(s).
Jonathan Liebesman: Have you seen the film?
Nate: I saw it last night.
Jonathan Liebesman: Oh good.
Andrew Form: I heard it was a good screening.
Nate: Yeah you know, I will tell you; I was pleasantly surprised.
Andrew Form: Oh, well thank you.
Nate: You kind of have to use the previous films as standard right? You have the comics, the cartoons… It blew my expectations away. I really liked it.
Jonathan Liebesman: I was in that screening too. I did a risky thing for a film- maker. I’ve done it before and it doesn’t go over so well sometimes, but you sit right in the middle of the fans. I was in the front five rows. You sit there and you hear everything people are saying to each other. Stuff like, “That’s so f#@king dumb.” My last movies, honestly from the talking… I probably shouldn’t have…
Andrew Form: So you had fun last nights is what you’re saying?
Jonathan Liebesman: It was unbelievable, because I think there was applause during every moment you wish there was. People were laughing at the right time. When I realized that the movie was in a good way, was… and we try to, there were no pretenses that we were like this is like Batman or something that’s redefining the cinema of superhero movies. It’s a fun ride that is true to what made me fall in love with the characters when I was a kid, which is that they’re just charming and they have an amazing dynamic. I’m sorry; I’m telling you what I think of the movies...
Andrew Form: It’s like…one more question
Brad Fuller: Yeah…Time’s up…
Nate: No that’s great. I’ve always wondered who is in the theaters when you’re there. I know sometimes the actors will go in... They’ll sneak in or whatever.
You kind of addressed this already with the previous discussion... With this film did you feel any pressure to follow Eastman and Laird’s comics, or the original films, or the cartoons? Pressure to follow their story, or the characters, or did you go into it just to do your own thing?
Jonathan Liebesman: I’ll tell you what was important to. When I grew up in South Africa, I didn’t see Eastman and Laird’s comics. I grew up loving the cartoons, watching them every day after school and loving the first two movies. For me, those were the biggest influences for me. I wanted to make sure there were mutants who ate pizza and said “Cowabunga!” Those were the touchstones that were important to me. Michael Bay said to me the first time I spoke to him, he said the most important things to me, they have to be charming and they have to be fun. And he didn’t speak about action at all, which I know no one will believe, but all he wanted was that they had to be charming and they have to be fun. The other thing that was important was that Kevin Eastman was literally almost living in their office. Cause they were just grilling him about everything Mutant Ninja Turtles. Kevin would hand everyone a stack of the first comics and all the sort of different versions that he had worked on and I got those. It was the first time I was leafing through everything and already as a fan. It was interesting because I was unaware of a lot of the stuff that had happened and those became the visual influences for me, so when Michael was saying things like the design, each turtle should have a specific design, what I loved about Kevin’s stuff… Sorry buddy [referring to Andrew Form].
Andrew Form: No, talk, it’s amazing! I’m learning.
Jonathan Liebesman: What was incredible was how bad ass they were in the first Eastman and Laird comic. I wanted to try and have the stuff that I loved be visually bad ass and design-wise whatever we were doing, make sure it’s bad ass. So make sure it harkens back to the original Ninja Turtles. Those were sort of the influences. It was probably for me, mainly the cartoons and the movies and then visually the bad-assness of Eastman and Laird.
Nate: I’ll tell you, you nailed the bad ass of the Turtles. Those action sequences with them were intense.
Jonathan Liebesman: Oh good, well thank you.
Andrew Form: We were never going to remake any of the other movies. From day one we were always going to come up with an original story for this movie, but we had this unbelievable pool of characters to pull from. So I think the first call we made was Kevin Eastman. “Ok… Let’s talk about who’s in this movie.” April O’Neil. Listen, Casey Jones could have been in this movie. There are lots of characters and so we pulled all the characters and the writers came up with an original story, but it was always going to be an original story. We were just going to figure out, who from the cannon was actually going to be in the movie.
Nate: In this film with April O’Neil, her story intertwining with the Turtles, when did that come about in the development of the story and why?
Jonathan Liebesman: Listen, Casey Jones is a hugely beloved character, but when I think of Ninja Turtles, the first human character that comes to my mind was always April O’Neil and the writers actually figured out a great way to get her into the movie. I also think there aren’t very many female protagonists in today’s action films. You’ve got Jim Cameron and Lucas who are the masters of that, but it’s fun in something like an all-boys movie to get in via the female point of view. And so that’s sort of the impetus for her to coming and the writers already figured out a great way in. I don’t want to jump to the next question, or if there is one about Megan Fox, but I think what she brings to the character, we sat with her and what you find when you sit with her is there is a lot more to her than meets the eye, so to speak. She’s someone who’s incredibly driven and someone who wants to prove something. Prove to people she’s more than what they think she is.
Andrew Form: And by the way she is also a super fan of the Ninja Turtles.
Jonathan Liebesman: Huge fan
Nate: Oh really?
Andrew Form: Oh for sure.
Jonathan Liebesman: Huge fan.
Nate: I knew she liked the second film…
Andrew Form: But she loves the Turtles, so Megan is in our family. You know she’s in the Transformers movie. We’ve been around her over the years.
Jonathan Liebesman: Like when you see her watch our trailer, or our movie, she loses her shit whenever Michelangelo comes on. It’s unbelievable.
She loves Michelangelo.
Brad Fuller: But you know… We had different stories. Originally when we were developing, we had a script where Casey Jones was the lead.
Jonathan Liebesman: I read a Casey Jones script.
Brad Fuller: So it’s not like you dipped your toe and then that’s the road you went down. We went down a number of different roads and then as a team we decided this was the lane we were going to choose.
Nate: As far as alternate stories go and the other things that you guys have looked at, hypothetically speaking that there is a sequel, or a couple, what characters would you like to see in the film and why?
Andrew Form: Well I would love to see Bebop and Rocksteady go at it with the Turtles. I just think that everything that this movie, the movie we just made everything about it and how fun it is. I just think it would be unbelievable to see those two sets of characters go at each other and I think Bebop and Rocksteady also bring such comedy to the movie. You know, that’s what we’re trying to do, just make it a really fun family film and I would love to see those two guys try and hunt down the Turtles. It would be a lot of fun.
Jonathan Liebesman: Casey Jones for sure, because I think it would be fun to watch that dynamic. Listen, we haven’t talked about anything, but imagine Will Arnett meeting Casey Jones.
Andrew Form: The young, good looking guy shows up.
Brad Fuller: We must say that we’re not thinking about a sequel beyond…
Jonathan Liebesman: We’re just spit-balling with you.
Nate: Yes, hypothetically speaking.
Brad Fuller: Ok good, because we just literally just finished the movie like a week ago and we just hope that people love it and if the studio is interested, that would be incredible.
Jonathan Liebesman: I love the movie so much, even if people don’t want it, I would make a short film sequel on YouTube.
Nate: At the end of the film; we’ve got Shredder there, he closes his hand and he’s got the ooze. Are we going to learn more about Shredder, his injuries, why he needed a mechanical suit? Perhaps we'll see it in a sequel, or maybe there’s material that didn’t make it into the film that?
Jonathan Liebesman: Oh listen, I’m obsessed with the mythology around the characters. I always want more, so if I’m lucky enough to be a part of any sequel and if anyone is lucky enough to make a sequel, I’m sure we will find that stuff. I love that stuff. So the more back story, mythology, Easter eggs, I think we all love that as fans.
Andrew Form: We’ll give you one you right now; Baxter Stockman is in the movie.
Nate: Is he?
Andrew Form: Yes, he is. He’s in one shot in the movie.
If you haven't seen the film yet, be sure to check out my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) Review!
The city needs heroes. Darkness has settled over New York City as Shredder and his evil Foot Clan have an iron grip on everything from the police to the politicians. The future is grim until four unlikely outcast brothers rise from the sewers and discover their destiny as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The Turtles must work with fearless reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and her wise-cracking cameraman Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) to save the city and unravel Shredder’s diabolical plan. Based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Characters Created by PETER LAIRD and KEVIN EASTMAN with a Screenplay by JOSH APPELBAUM & ANDRÉ NEMEC and EVAN DAUGHERTY, Producer MICHAEL BAY (the blockbuster Transformers franchise) and director JONATHAN LIEBESMAN (Wrath of the Titans) bring Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the popular franchise that has captivated audiences of all ages for decades, into the 21st century.