The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—Michelangelo, Leonardo, Donatello, and Raphael—have been running the sewers of New York City since the crime fighters debuted in a comic-book franchise in the 1980s. The comic books went on to spawn several cartoon series and live-action movies, including an animated television series currently airing on Nickelodeon. The characters return to theaters today in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (rated PG-13), a $125 million CGI action film produced by Transformers filmmaker Michael Bay.
In the new movie, crime, violence, and fear have taken over New York City under the control of Shredder and his evil Foot Clan. The future is looking grim until the turtle brothers rise from the sewers. They must work with fearless reporter April O’Neil and her witty cameraman Vern Fenwick to save the city and unravel Shredder’s wicked plans.
Actress Megan Fox, who plays April, says the turtle’s origin story has been tweaked from previous versions, but they’re still the same turtles fans know and love. “I think they stayed true to the turtle’s personalities,” Fox told reporters during a conference call. “It follows the comic book maybe a little more than the cartoon, but they stayed true to the original franchise.”
The Turtle’s Ally
Fox plays ambitious reporter April O’Neil, who befriends the turtles and finds out she has a special connection to them. Fox says she appreciates that April is depicted in the new movie as being just as heroic as the turtles. “April is a hero as well,” Fox says. “She’s very courageous, and she’s very interested in exposing the truth and fighting for the truth. She doesn’t get backed down.”
Fox, who grew up watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on TV, says she “did a little happy dance” when she got the role of April. Her favorite turtle hasn’t changed since she was a kid. “Michelangelo is my favorite turtle,” she told TFK. “He’s going to be everyone’s favorite turtle in this movie. He steals the movie. But he was always the comedian, and he never took anything too seriously, and he was really light-hearted. That’s something I really appreciated in childhood.”
The new movie, which is a mix of live action and CGI, shot some scenes right on the streets of New York. “That story has always been set in New York. It’s almost like New York is another character,” Will Arnett, who plays Vern Fenwick, told TFK. Fox agrees. “There’s something unique about when you shoot [in New York City] and see it on film. You can’t recreate that on a set anywhere else,” she says.
But logistically, city traffic and pedestrians made filming tough. “New York is busy, it’s fast-paced, it’s moving constantly, and you sort of become this wrench in everything when you are trying to shoot a movie there,” Fox says.
On set, the four actors who played the turtles wore motion capture suits, which tracked their movements and mannerisms. That information was used to create the CGI-animated turtles. “Working with the guys who are going to be the turtles was really fun,” Arnett says.
Fox says the mood on set was pretty serious—except for when the actors playing the turtles showed up. “Initially, we were shooting [a darker movie], so it wasn’t a super light-hearted set. When the turtles were there and in particular Noel [Fisher, who plays Michelangelo], it was light-hearted and fun and exactly like the turtles movie should be.”