The Turtles are back on the big screen and we talked to the team who is bringing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to life anew in their latest movie adventure for an exclusive chat.
Director Jonathan Liebesman is joined by producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form as the trio lets us in on why they think that the Turtles are still so popular decades after their debut.
They also chime in as to the surprising joy it was to have an Oscar-winning actress in Whoopi Goldberg so eager to be in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie! And how Goldberg’s presence took star Megan Fox to new heights.
Movie Fanatic: What do you think it is about these four turtles that still after all these decades people are so intrigued by, entertained by and excited by?
Brad Fuller: You have an interesting dynamic. First of all, it’s about family. And everyone has a family of some kind. Secondarily, each of the turtles embodies some personality trait that we either have in ourselves or we know from someone else in our family. It’s immediately relatable. In any incarnation, people see something that they relate to in their own life in the turtles.
Jonathan Liebesman: Eastman (creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) told us once that the Turtles were a parody of superheroes because there were so many superheroes at that time. And I think what makes them awesome is literally they are the most absurd combination of things possible -- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is so insane, that’s what gets you in and what Brad said, keeps you there. The fact that they are so absurd, yet they are exactly like you and me, is really funny. The hero, the charm, the fun comes that they are a family, but they're (expletive) turtles and their dad is a rat! That normalcy from absurdity is what is so fun to watch.
Movie Fanatic: As you each were bringing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back to the big screen, what would you say was the biggest hurdle to actually realizing your dreams?
Brad Fuller: For us, Viacom (Paramount parent company) bought the rights and there was no producer attached, so Drew and I did a tap dance and a dog and pony show just to get the job. It was a challenge from the first day.
Andrew Form: We called them. We have an overall deal at Paramount and Michael (Bay) does all the Transformers movies there and we went to Bay and said that Viacom bought the Turtles rights -- we got to make that movie. We got to bring the Turtles back.
Brad Fuller: And it didn’t happen the next day where they called us back and said, “You guys got it!”
Andrew Form: We fought for that job. We got it and then we luckily got him (points to Liebesman) and then it was all about story.
Brad Fuller: Storytelling and technology.
Andrew Form: We had all the characters. We had what Eastman had created and we knew what we were drawing from, but we needed to tell our version of it. We weren’t remaking the 1990 movie, so we picked the characters that we wanted to put into this version and it was all about figuring out what that story was going to be.
Jonathan Liebesman: Finding the tone was the hardest thing.
Andrew Form: And maintaining that they’re teenagers. You really don’t think about that when you’re talking about the action, but you can’t forget that. They sneak out at night and they do things that teenagers do.
Movie Fanatic: I love in the movie, heck, it’s even in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles trailer, how they’re always sneaking out and striking out on their own, trying to be adults. Yet, they always worry what dad thinks.
Jonathan Liebesman: Always! That’s the relatable part why they’ll always be so popular. In this movie, they’re large, or small like in the 1990s movies, the fact that they are teenagers and worry about what dad thinks, even when they’re trying to save the world is what keeps you engaged and watching the next scene.
Andrew Form: There’s an off camera line that was inspired by Brad Fuller from Michelangelo that he couldn’t believe that he talked to a girl. That comes from your youth, right?
Brad Fuller: [All laugh] Yes it does, but we don’t need to get that much more into that!
Movie Fanatic: Throughout the filmmaking process from beginning to end on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, decades from now, what day will you remember the most?
Jonathan Liebesman: There was a lot of hard days and a lot of good days, but one of my favorite days was the day I was directing Whoopi Goldberg and Megan Fox in the office scene. All the actors were in top form. Megan was amazing because Whoopi was there and she was just phenomenal, a living legend. It was so cool. They were both on fire. Everything came together that day. Even the ice cream was fantastic.
Andrew Form: There was the best ice cream that day!
Movie Fanatic: You brought her up, and I was going to ask. What does it mean to you guys that a legend like Whoopi is in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
Jonathan Liebesman: When I spoke to her I phoned her at her home and she told me she is a huge fan of the Ninja Turtles. She was thanking me so much for putting her in my movie and it was so surreal.
Andrew Form: When Whoopi showed up on set, I had not met her before. I called Brad and said, “Oda Mae Brown” is on the set right now. I love Ghost so much and she was on our set. It was just so cool.
Brad Fuller: And she is so cool.
Check out the first screen version of this “family” and watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles online and head to theaters to see this explosive new version August 8.