Sure, Megan Fox is quite well known and is likely receiving big offers on a regular basis, but when it came to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, she insisted that it was her passion for the source material and enthusiasm for bringing the iconic characters back to the big screen that set her apart and helped her score the role of April O’Neil. In Jonathan Liebesman’s movie, April’s a wannabe hard news reporter who’s stuck doing puff pieces with her cameraman, Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett). While on the hunt for a big scoop that’ll prove her worth, April comes face-to-face with something unimaginable – teenage mutant ninja turtles.
While on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles set back in June 2013, we got the chance to sit down with Fox and Arnett to run through the basics of their characters, what kind of relationship they’ve got with the Turtles, how Fox grew up with a serious crush on a Ninja Turtle, and loads more. Catch it all after the jump.
Click here to check out the trailer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
WILL ARNETT: Vernon Fenwick. He’s a cameraman at Channel 6, he’s April O’Neil’s cameraman and Vernon is a character who is from the Turtle mythology. He’s a real, living character – let’s hope – and he’s someone who’s been around. He’s seen some sh*t. He’s covered action before and now he really just wants to do kind of the puff pieces with April O’Neil and doesn’t want to have to stretch too hard.
So he winds up fighting ninjas?
ARNETT: Yeah. Reluctantly.
Does he have any fighting experience or training?
ARNETT: A little bit, but it’s sloppy. He’s kind of like of the Indiana Jones school of fighting which is, you know, kind of like, ‘Oh, Christ. Now I’ve got to fight these guys? I don’t know.’ Very sort of unorthodox, but he can kind of take care of himself.
What do you look at for this character? He hasn’t been in any of the movies.
ARNETT: There’s not a ton to draw upon in terms of his depth. He’s not a character that was fully fleshed out in that sense, but we’ve been kind of trying to work within the bounds that we have with him and really someone who can be an ally of April’s, someone who can help her in her journey, ultimately in her quest to accomplish what she needs to accomplish.
He’s sort of a rival in the cartoon. Is he not in this?
ARNETT: He’s not as much of a rival. I would say that he’s, again, because he has to kind of help her out, at first he is, like I said, he’s reluctant to help her out and he’s kind of looking out for himself and then as it becomes more real and he kind of gets inserted into it, he ultimately kind of sides with April and ends up helping her out.
ARNETT: [Laughs] That’s a loaded question. For me, personally, probably Michelangelo just because he’s my kid’s favorite Turtle and he’s the funniest, but they’ve all got great qualities. I love Donatello too because he’s obviously the nerdier of the Turtles. Leo is cool – I’m gonna list them all [laughs]. There are traits of all of them! Leo’s the leader, Raph is the loose cannon so he’s kind of cool in that way, too, and he’s kind of the thrill seeker, the danger factor.
Does your character do a lot of action? Because you’re being confronted by ninjas, this might be a little more physical than the roles you’ve taken in the past.
ARNETT: Way more! Way more physical! Apart from having to put a roofie in Jason Bateman’s mouth …
That could be dangerous.
ARNETT: Also very dangerous. But yeah, it’s a real departure for me in that sense and that’s been super fun doing that and today we’ll get into more of that, but the action element of it is very enticing to me and I wanted to wait until I was later in life to do it. [Laughs]
Do you have a lot of interaction with the Turtles on screen?
ARNETT: Yeah. Quite a bit. It takes a while, but then once Vernon is brought on board, he is fully immersed with the Turtles. We’ve started to sort of create these relationships between – you know, some of it’s in the script and then some of it just comes out of performance and stuff, and you have relationships with the Turtles. Vern and Raph, they kind of butt – shells a little bit. Raph, he’s not super psyched about this guy and Vern kind of gives Raph a hard time, and he makes remarks about his size and his shell and stuff, and Raph isn’t into it.
So you’re still flexing comedic muscles in some way, it demands that as well?
ARNETT: Yeah, for sure. Vern is kind of a little bit wisecracking, but ultimately, also at the end, I think that you’ll see that he kind of comes through.
ARNETT: Well, we’ll see when we finally see the movie, but I think that they’ll be something in it for everyone. And as somebody who has to go and sit through a lot of kids’ movies, it’s gonna be great for people like me because it’s gonna have those elements that you want to see. I know that my kids are big Turtles fans because there’s been this resurgence, especially with the new series on Nickelodeon. It’s funny, I often have long days here on set and then I walk in the door and my kids – this is not a joke – instantly go, ‘Dad, can you be Shredder?’ I’m like, ‘Oh my god.’ I’ve had my sons here with their nunchucks and they’ve been displaying their skills for the Turtles. [Laughs] It’s been so weird, worlds colliding.
Were you yourself a Turtles fan?
ARNETT: The Turtles kind of came later. It kind of caught me [when] I was a little bit not really in the demo for Turtles when it came out. Like, when the movies came out, I was a teenager, an older teenager and maybe even in my 20’s. Gulp.
So how grounded is it? I mean, it’s obviously Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but does the world feel like the world we know or is it heightened?
ARNETT: The world feels very, very real. And that’s obviously one of the decisions I think that you have to make right at the start in terms of tone, like how you want that to go, and I think it’s really important to try to keep it grounded in reality, keep it grounded in this world, especially knowing what everybody knows now. Unless you’re making some sort of supernatural thing that’s insane, audiences are pretty savvy so you want to make something that feels really accessible and real. I think we do a really good job of actually kind of straddling it. In the moments when you need to, you do that and other times you keep it really real.
ARNETT: Just talking about keeping it real.
MEGAN FOX: You told them that you’re playing Shredder, right?
ARNETT: Yeah – not yet! [Laughs]
Megan, how did you get involved with this film?
FOX: I think I did a lot of talking in the past when I was on the Transformers press tours about this being one of my favorite comics and cartoons and film franchises when I was a kid and so I think my name sort of was always floating around the idea of the movie and then when it started becoming a reality, I just went in for a meeting with Jonathan and with Andrew [Form] and I imagine that I was, of the actresses on the table, probably, by far, the most legitimate or biggest fan, which is why it ended up being me because I really wanted to do it badly.
How do you think this movie modernizes the Turtles and examines what they’re all about? Even you character, too.
FOX: I think it was sort of the same thing with Transformers. I think everyone was like, ‘How’s that gonna be live action movie and how is that gonna be interesting for adults, and how is it not gonna be just a kids’ movie?’ It’s ILM, obviously, which is the same folks that have brought you many other amazing things. It’s just a darker, scarier world than you’ve seen previously and it’s very realistic. And I think that’s a big thing of just selling the reality so that you stop thinking, ‘I’m looking at mutant turtles,’ and it just becomes, ‘Oh, these are the heroes of the film,’ and you sort of separate from the toy or cartoon aspect of it. What was not modern about April O’Neill? She was always pretty modern. Minus that jumpsuit, she’s doing all right. But those are making a comeback. I think we’re just trying to play it as if this were to happen in this year, what would it be like? And where I’m from in Tennessee, I was born next to a chemical plant and I’ve seen mutated creatures so it’s not totally unrealistic.
ARNETT: Now that makes sense! A lot of sense. [Laughs]
ARNETT: Yeah, anytime you do something that you’re not talking to just a person in street clothes you have to sort of suspend that and kind of use your imagination.
FOX: The hardest thing I think is you want to look into their eyes.
FOX: It’s very hard to look into the ping pong balls. But, they’re great. They’re all so happy to be doing this and so enthusiastic.
ARNETT: Super talented guys.
FOX: Yes, and they bring an amazing energy to the set. It’s so fun to work with them.
ARNETT: Yeah, and they’re really well cast for each of their parts.
FOX: Exactly. They are their parts.
ARNETT: They’re such distinctive characters, those guys.
I feel like we’re seeing a different side of April, a little bit more of a fighting April. Would you say that we see that side of her this time around?
FOX: Yes. I mean, she’s got no choice. She gets into a situation where it’s that or be killed. She’s not what I would call a badass, per se. I would say it was forced upon her and she must do it to defend her life and the lives of those she loves.
ARNETT: Well, it turns out she’s a badass.
FOX: She becomes – maybe, but she’s not like a Jason Bourne, let’s say.
ARNETT: No, no.
FOX: She’s not like a CIA-esque-type character. She’s a girl that gets caught up in this and then ends up maybe developing a few skills along the way.
But she’s got those sai stored in her boots. It’s a pretty professional set-up there.
ARNETT: As a personal choice, I did that. [Laughs] Because I was tired of running with them in the scene and we needed to put them somewhere and we couldn’t put them in the back of my pants because that was dangerous, so I decided to put them in the boots.
ARNETT: Yeah, but New York is the other character in the Turtles mythology, really. It’s such a New York-centric story and I think that was crucial that it happened here. So being here has been awesome. And shooting here has been awesome in the streets, and again, that authenticity has been tremendous. And yeah, of course shooting in New York is always interesting.
You said you’re kind of a Turtles nerd. I’m curious to know how young you were when you got into it, was it the comics, was it the movies?
FOX: It was the movies because I have an older sister that is 39, 38, so she was watching the movies when I was really young. I maybe was only like four when I saw the first one, and I remember seeing them out of sequence, actually. I saw the second one before I saw the first one because that came out when I was old enough to watch the VHS once it came out. So I started out with that and then I started watching the cartoon. I never actually owned any of the comics; that’s the truth. I’m not gonna pretend because I’ll be at Comic-Con and I’ll get shattered if I pretend that I owned them and I didn’t. [Laughs]
So who was your favorite?
FOX: My favorite Turtle was Michelangelo because he was the funny one. He was actually my first crush and I know everyone thinks that’s weird, but little girls have crushes on cartoon characters because it’s what we’re exposed to first. So him and Zack Morris were my first crushes. [Laughs] He would be my first favorite and then if I had to pick a second I would go with – [sighs] – see, I feel like it’s revealing of the psychological nature.
ARNETT: It’s tough.
FOX: Because it reveals so much about you. [To Arnett] Who’s your favorite, Raphael?
ARNETT: I basically said all four. Once I started down the path, I was like, ‘But…’
FOX: Definitely Mikey and then I guess I would go with – Leo’s too serious all the time, so I guess I would go with Raphael, but he’s such a pain in the ass. I would go with Mikey, Raphael.
ARNETT: I said Donatello second. I said Mikey first, too.
FOX: I would put Leo last because he’s too stoic for me. I can’t take it. He’s too serious. He takes himself too seriously.
ARNETT: But, anyway, we’re not gonna get into this now. You know, Leo will save the day – anyway, whatever.
ARNETT: It’s at different times.
FOX: Different times, yeah. Initially I think it’s sort of one of those shock and horror things because they’re enormous. And they’re, I wouldn’t say unfriendly looking, but they’re meant to be slightly grotesque looking because they are mutated turtles and we’re trying to make them realistic, so it’s frightening at first.
ARNETT: Yeah, imagine she’s this young reporter and she’s small and these things are huge and they’re turtles talking to her. [Laughs]
So it’s not played for humor, necessarily?
FOX: Not the initial meeting. Well …
ARNETT: It’s pretty hardcore though.
FOX: I didn’t play it for humor, but there are humorous beats in it.
Jonathan came down here and showed us the Turtle heads and described each of them with different movie character references and that’s how he envisions them. When he’s talking to you, do movies enter the conversation?
ARNETT: Yeah, Jonathan’s references are all movies.
FOX: All movies.
ARNETT: That’s how we move through a conversation with him, which is why he’s a great guy to do this. I mean, he’s such a – I don’t know what you call it …
FOX: Movie nerd.
ARNETT: Movie nerd. If you really want to roll your eyes at me, I’ll say cinephile. [Laughs] Those are his points of reference and he knows movies and it’s actually a really effective way to convey whatever he’s trying to [do with the] tone.
FOX: If you’ve seen the movie.
ARNETT: [Laughs] Yeah.
FOX: We have to be careful that he would want this information released.
ARNETT: Yeah, it’s true.
Ghostbusters has come up a couple times. Is Ghostbusters a film he’s referenced? Especially with April; she’s kind of a character going around with these four lunatics.
FOX: And also in reference to her relationship with the Turtles and where it ends up, they wanted to be sort of a Wendy and the Lost Boys relationship where she’s the mom they never had and then of course – oh, I almost said something I shouldn’t say. I almost revealed a plot point! [Laughs]
We know some stuff. We know that they start with you, April, as a little girl.
FOX: Yeah. [Laughs] I was gonna reveal something you didn’t know that I shouldn’t reveal. What question are we finishing? Are we finishing the movie question, the Jonathan question?
ARNETT: Yeah. Or not.
FOX: I don’t want the wrath of the exposed. [Laughs] I think anything that’s been a big summer blockbuster that has done well and is visually stunning has been referenced on a daily basis, multiple times.
Why would that affect you guys?
FOX: Because before we do a shot, it’s like [laughs] – it’s referenced like that, for scale purposes, let’s say. Like if you’re not playing something …
ARNETT: He’ll say, ‘Do you remember that shot in that …’ He referenced, actually – [to Fox] remember when we were doing that scene? What was the movie he referenced when we were doing that scene when the van came through?
FOX: The wall?
FOX: Jurassic Park?
ARNETT: There was a Jurassic Park reference, but in that same conversation he was like, ‘It’s like that scene in …’
FOX: It’s like that. To give you perspective on maybe your reaction or if it’s an iconic moment to compare it to another iconic moment so that you know.
ARNETT: His idol, his absolute idol, is Steven Spielberg and obviously that guy has told so many great stories and created so many iconic images and moments in film and like, things entering frame and push-ins and beautiful shots and ways to tell stories in epic ways.
FOX: He also is a lover of the JJ.
ARNETT: Yeah, JJ of course.
FOX: JJ gets some love.
ARNETT: The JJ. You probably saw that at the monitor.
FOX: The lens flares? Is that what you mean? [Laughs]
ARNETT: [Laughs] I didn’t say that, so I can’t be quoted! But, it did get to the point where he referenced so many movies once in a direction that the next day on set, I asked him in front of Dave, the camera guy and couple of guys, I said, ‘Do you remember Look Whose Talking 2?’ [Laughs] But he’s got a good sense of humor about it, too.
I’m curious about the Foot Clan because in the first movie they were kind of lost boys in a way. In this movie they look like mercenaries. How have they evolved?
FOX: Well, I think that just adds into the believability of the current world that we live in. It would be much harder probably to sell that these are kids that have run away from home or mad because their stepdad works too much and doesn’t pay attention, and they run away, or whatever.
ARNETT: And I think that movies that are based sort of on comic books, the audiences have gotten much more savvy and you need to find ways to tell …
FOX: I think they wanted to build a significant threat so that there’s a real fear and a real risk in the scenes. It’s not as frightening if they’re 15-year-old boys. I don’t think.
FOX: I don’t think so. I think that’s the Turtles’ job, right? Or your job. It’s not my job.
ARNETT: Yeah, and you do too. It’s playful.
FOX: It’s playful, but I don’t think I play the comedy beats.
ARNETT: No, but when you’re on your journey, maybe not, but certainly at the top, April and Vern have a kind of banter-y, lighter relationship and are kind of jabbing each other a little bit more. Then sh*t gets real.
We saw Shredder’s outfit with the crazy blades and everything, and he was saying that there was only half of it on there. Can you tell us about the physicality of that as opposed to the Turtles where it’s stuff that’s not actually there yet?
FOX: I haven’t interacted with it yet. Have you?
ARNETT: Yeah, not yet.
FOX: I haven’t seen it, to be honest.
You will at some point?
FOX: [To Arnett] Is that the …?
FOX: [Whispers to Arnett.] I don’t know. Okay, so, I haven’t seen either.
What do you guys think …
FOX: I mean – wait. [Laughs]
I was giving you an out there. [Laughs]
FOX: [Laughs] Yeah. Just go, just go.
FOX: For me, I will say, anyone my age or maybe even up to very early 40’s, I just feel it has a huge demographic. It’s such a nostalgic piece of my childhood. I mean, I was just so in love with it and it meant so much to me that I would go see it no matter what. And then it’s got all of your children even. The new cartoon, there’s like a resurgence and all of these little children now also love the movie.
ARNETT: And, it’s got Megan Fox.
FOX: [To Arnett] What makes it special and different? Why is it so much better than Spiderman?
ARNETT: It just is.
Do you think the movie has a strong theme to it or a lesson that it’s teaching? If kids go see this movie, is it just action or does it have an underlying theme?
FOX: I think the underlying theme is the need for family and for help and support from others, that no man is an island.
ARNETT: Yeah, absolutely. That’s what’s always been the great thing about the Turtles, that it is family and inclusion and that’s always been kind of the message of that, and I think that that’s what kids will be left with.
Is there any romance in the movie?
FOX: Not between you and me. Maybe between April and one of the Turtles.
ARNETT: The Turtles, yeah. [Laughs]
FOX: There is a, not romantic – maybe it’s borderline romantic. It’s a weird psychological love, right? Between her and one of the Turtles.
ARNETT: Yeah. Definitely you can quote me saying it’s weird.
You also have a motherly relationship with the Turtles, right?
FOX: Well, I said that was the intention.
With Raphael, maybe?
FOX: Why would you say that? Why do you think that? No audible response, but …
Do they eat pizza and say cowabunga?
FOX: Yes, and working that in, the second part. But definitely the pizza is definitely, definitely there.
You can also check out our main Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles set visit report by clicking here.