Paramount Pictures has released the first trailer for the Jonathan Liebesman-directed and Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! You can check out the trailer and a newly-debuted image of Megan Fox as April O’Neil in the gallery viewer below! We also got a chance to talk to screenwriter Andrew Nemec about the August 8 release, an interview you can read below the trailer. And don’t miss the official trailer site at TurtlesTrailer.com! (the passcode is ‘ooze’)
In the movie, starring Megan Fox, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, Will Arnett, Danny Woodburn and William Fichtner, 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 (Fox) and her wise-cracking cameraman Vern Fenwick (Arnett) to save the city and unravel Shredder’s diabolical plan.
Q: How big a fan were you prior to landing the job as screenwriter?
Andre Nemec: I was a fan, but I wouldn’t say I was a lunatic fan. I did have the old Eastman and Laird black and whites in the office. I knew very well the cartoons and the movies. I didn’t have the bedsheets. I didn’t have the lunch pails. I had a neighbor who had the Turtle Van. That was as close as I got, but I was a fan enough to know the differences between the original comics, the cartoon and the various iterations of the movies. “Turtles Forever” does a really great job of taking you through all the different iterations and how they’ve been drawn and how they’ve been rendered. Sort of what their attitudes are. Taking the job was less daunting and more just the opportunity to play in a really amazing sandbox with Michelangelo and Donatello and Leonardo and Raphael. It was a lot of fun to sort of break it out and find our own take and our own version of what we think the turtles are.
Q: Are there other, non-Turtles in the film that toy fans will be excited about?
Nemec: Perhaps! Perhaps, yes!
Q: Krang and Dimension X seem like elements better suited to a sequel.
Nemec: Dimension X is a lot to cover. But yeah, we had to create our own versions of what these turtles are to not just be recreating stuff that was already out there.
Q: What was the primary source for this take on the turtles?
Nemec: You know, the canon of the turtles, in all their iterations, always seems to harken back to a being a story about family, a story of friendship and a story about brothers. I think that, ultimately, when you look at all the different stories, whether it’s the Laird comic or the cartoon now or the cartoon from the late ’80s, or the movies where they’re in the suits, it really always boils back down to being a story about brothers. That really was the most driving principle for us, making sure that that element was always a central component of the movie.
Q: What about as far as the personalities of the four guys go? Is it pretty consistent with the characters everyone knows?
Nemec: They’ve all been pretty consistent over the years. Amazingly, they’re all pretty well represented by the weapons they use. Michelangelo has always been the freewheeling nun-chucks guy. Donatello has the bo staff, which is a simple but complicated weapon. He’s the tech guy. Leonardo has the swords of a leader and Raphael carries these big, brutish sais, which are really about doing the maximum destruction in the shortest amount of time.* They have always, in the canon, lived by those principles. They’re four individuals who are individuals all alone, but, combined, really make one person, which makes them really interesting to watch. They sort of make their decisions, not to get too heady about it, but when those brothers are interacting, it’s almost like watching one person come to terms with the direction they’re going to move in, whether it’s left or right.
Q: What about the familiar non-Turtles like April O’Neil and the Shredder?
Nemec: I think that the April you’re going to see is largely the April you know.
Q: Does she wear a yellow suit?
Nemec: Perhaps she does! Perhaps she does! Perhaps she doesn’t. I don’t know. There’s certainly a yellow jacket in the trailer. We always wanted to be true to who the characters were in the most boiled down version within the canon. Again, we weren’t slavish to the canon. There are just certain elements that make up who the turtles are. I think you’ll be pleased with the April that you see. The Shredder that you see… I think you’ll be pleased as well. He’s definitely interesting, but he’s not a guy with cheese graters on his arms. That is for sure.
Q: Since the franchise has always been about a blend of comedy and action, are there non-Turtles related films that you can point out as inspirations?
Nemec: Buddy cop movies, really. They don’t make a lot of them these days, but we harken back to the old buddy cop movies, whether it be “Lethal Weapon” or “Midnight Run” or “Rush Hour.” Those movies have, again without being too heady, a love story component between two buddy cops. A bromance. Those are the kinds of movies that have been influential in the rendering of the action and the rendering of the sort of adventure that you’re on. I’m a firm believer in, if you’re going to the movies, you want to have a good time. You want to eat gobs of popcorn while you’re watching it. Be thrilled.
Q: Sort of to that end, is the reality of this film a normal world that then meets the Turtles, or is a sort of heightened, comic book reality?
Nemec: I think we skate the line a little bit. It will not feel like an overtly comic book world, I don’t think. You’re not stepping into some weird, heightened reality where everything is canted at weird angles. It doesn’t become something like “Sin City” in that way. You’ll feel like it’s happening.
Q: Do you have any favorite one of the existing Turtles stories out there, in any form, that you’re particularly fond of and feel really nailed the characters?
Nemec: No. (laughs) I don’t, really. They’ve just always been fun to watch. They’ve just been fun to watch. I’m hard-pressed to remember a time when I’ve seen anything Turtle-related that didn’t put a smile on my face when I was watching it. Again, whether it was the dynamic between the brothers, or the manner in which they were taking down the bad guy, or the strife they were always having with Splinter, it just all felt very real or relatable in terms of growing up and having a dad and needing to fit into some set of rules that you didn’t necessarily want to live by. They always just sort of appealed on that level.
Q: What would you say is the age range for this one? How young an audience can appreciate it?
Nemec: Not having children, a child between the age of three and 16 is pretty much all the same to me. (Laughs) I really don’t know. I do think that the kids that go to see “Transformers” and the kids that go to the big comic book movies will really enjoy it. There’s nothing sort of overtly gross or offending in our material. The canon can, again, be quite irreverent at times in some of its forms, but we didn’t make it gross. I mean gross by 12-year old standards.
Q: How dark is the overall tone?
Nemec: Tone was a very interesting question on this movie as far as how dark we really wanted to go. It’s really all in the conflict between the characters. That was the driving principle. The color palettes that were chosen were not designed to be “Dark Knight”-ish in that regard. We weren’t looking to make that movie. I’m a huge fan of that movie, but I didn’t eat gobs of popcorn while I was watching that movie. We certainly didn’t want kids to be running for the exits. ‘Mommy! Why did he do that?!’ We weren’t looking for that. We really wanted to entertain and have fun with it. I think we skate — we live — on a very fun line in this movie, whether it’s the action feeling real and exciting, but also fun and adventurous. It really never feels dark in a way that would startle you out of your chair or make you fearful.
Q: What sort of influence does Michael Bay have on the overall style of the film?
Nemec: Michael has been an influence on the movie and he’s certainly been giving his notes and paying attention to the movie as we go through. There are Michael Bay aesthetics. He has a very good sense of action. He has a very good sense of entertainment. I think that, on those influences, you’ll feel Michael Bay’s hand.
Q: There was some online anger among fans when the rumor broke that the Turtles were going to be aliens.
Nemec: You’ve got to own your own version of what these stories are. Looking through the different iterations of Turtles to date, many of them have different origin stories. T.C.R.I. was a collection container that was used for a company that came from alien ooze at one point. There was another version of the ooze where it was created in a laboratory. There’s the “Daredevil” component that mixes in with the Turtle canon. There’s the sewers. There’s the laboratories. For us, it was important to find our own version of how these particular Turtles came to be so that they can stand alone as their own characters. There’s also the version where, if you touch something after you touch the ooze, that’s what you become. There have been a million versions. In this version we just thought it was important to create our own origin that lives within the balance of it. We didn’t do anything overtly kooky.
Q: Is it an origin that allows for other mutations to exist in the future?
Q: Is William Fichtner’s Shredder also a very different story?
Nemec: A little bit, yeah. You guys all show up and you all know the story. To show up and know the story when you’re walking into a movie — as much fun as it is to be beholden to the stuff that came before — it’s sort of no fun for the people that will think, “Oh yeah, I saw this movie before” or “Oh yeah, I read the comic of this movie.” We wanted to make sure that we were adding elements that at least added some sense of unity. That could take you on the journey and not make you feel like it was a road that you already traveled down.
Q: What about elements like Baxter?
Nemec: Perhaps! But when I say “perhaps” for all of these questions, I really do mean perhaps there will and perhaps there won’t. I feel like there’s a lot more to come for this franchise and there’s stories that are yet to be told that we would like to be telling. We’re setting the table with a film that you’ll enjoy. It isn’t just doing a table setting and making you come back three more times to get some answers. You’ll feel a real movie. But we’re also setting the table.
Q: Did you throw in Easter eggs as far as what’s to come?
Nemec: We kept it pretty self-contained. There’s some things in there, though, that, if you’re looking and paying attention, you’ll see. There are some moments in there.
Q: And will we want to stay after the credits?
Nemec: Perhaps. That’s always a tough question.
Q: Since you mentioned that you weren’t a super-fan, was there a sort of Turtle boot camp process you went through before writing?
Nemec: My partner and I sat down with Kevin Eastman and we spent some time with him. We really talked with him about what the Turtles meant to him and what his evolution with the Turtles was. You go back and watch the movies and some of the cartoons. I might own a couple of Turtle toys that might be sitting on the edge of my desk. I might have played out some action sequences with them. But you do want to immerse yourself. It would be disingenuous to take on a project like this and not be familiar with all the things that are out there and then you work very, very hard to forget all those things and all those things that people are saying and that people want and just try to tell a story.
Q: Can you talk a bit more about Eastmand and Laird and their involvement?
Nemec: I think it’s impossible to talk about the Turtles without talking about Eastman and Laird. It just is impossible. Their influence is in everything. It’s in every piece of Turtle paraphernalia, every toy, every movie. Every idea spawns from a bit of their influence. Again, my partner and I thought it was very important to talk with Kevin and really see where his thoughts were and where his thoughts came from and understand those things. We’ve certainly remained friends with him until this day, which bodes well for Turtles fans.
Q: Is it safe to say that pizza still plays a big role in the Turtles’ lives?
Nemec: Perhaps pizza is in the movie!
Q: What about Splinter? We haven’t really heard any confirmation. Is he in the movie?
Nemec: I can tell you that Splinter is in the movie. You will get to enjoy Master Splinter. He’s an important component in the dynamic of the Turtles themselves. It’s still very much a story of teenagers and that really is the sort of land that the Turtles — in all the versions of the story — find themselves in trapped in. The land of teenager problems. For us, that was a fun world to get in and play with. Without Master Splinter, it’s “Lord of the Flies.” Yeah, he’s in there.
Q: What makes Megan Fox the right person to play April?
Nemec: She just brought a great energy to playing that character. The traditional April that we all know is a girl who is out to prove something. She’s out to make her bones. She’s living in the real world and fighting to get on top. Megan really brought that to playing the character. She does a really terrific job in the movie. She’s a terrific April O’Neil.
Q: Between the theme song to the cartoon and the “Ninja Rap” in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II,” it seems that pop music has played a big part in the aesthetic of the franchise. Will that continue in this one?
Nemec: There might be some pop turtle-related songs. I’m not sure you’ll hear either of those two, but we do have some fun with it. Then again, we’re not doing “Turtles on Ice” in this movie. We don’t go down that road, but we do enjoy some fun with music in the movie.
Q: What about Will Arnett as Vernon? It was a bit of a surprise for fans finding out he was in the movie.
Nemec: He’s a terrific actor. He’s a lot of fun. We were saying that he plays the comic relief and he was like, “I’m not the comic relief! I’m the movie!” That’s him. He brightens all the scenes that he’s in, for sure.
Q: When you say you wrote the Turtles as teens, is that modern day teens or ’90’s surfer teens? Are they going to say “YOLO”?
Nemec: (laughs) I don’t think that “YOLO” is in there. We’re not done yet, though. Maybe now, one of them can. No, they’re written for today’s audience. We always sort of see the Turtles brought up to speed in the world they’re in and, again, this movie is taking place in the world that we live in right now.
Q: Do they enjoy things that modern teens do? Do they game? Do they surf the internet?
Nemec: They do do those things. They will remind you of your teen years and of the stuff that you know teens are doing these days. That’s kind of what they’re up to, except they’re badasses and vigilantes and they know Kung Fu. And they’re Turtles! I forgot that part.
Q: Was there anything that you had to change because of the new Nickelodeon series?
Nemec: They really play to somewhat different audiences, but I think they also chose a very specific, very different path. They really have done a fantastic job doing that and bringing those Turtles to life. We always sort of set out on a different path. We knew where the show was headed, so we never felt any conflict from them or vice versa. We’re sort of doing our own version of the Turtles, but you’ll feel the same sort of characters.
Q: Is there a Bat Tumbler version of the Turtle van?
Nemec: No. (laughs) No. Maybe.
Q: Is this a full-on origin story, or have the Turtles been around for a while and April is just discovering them?
Nemec: You’ll feel that as you go through the first act of the movie. We sort of pick these guys up as a day in the life. We start unfolding the greater story that’s unfolding from that point.
Q: Can you say who Abby Elliott is playing?
Nemec: Probably. She plays April O’Neill’s roommate.
Q: Does her name happen to be Irma?
Q: How much of the information that’s out on the internet is accurate as far as plot details go?
Nemec: If my partner were here, he could answer that question. You’re looking at the half of us who does not go on the internet. I don’t Google Alert myself to things as they come out. The only thing I really remember is the innuendo that was out there a year ago or so about the alien craze. I remember that sort of being just rumor and innuendo. I think this is a fun movie. I really do. Not just because I wrote it. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised when they come to this movie. I don’t think there are a lot of stones to throw at the movie from the fans as far as, “You didn’t do…” or “How come…?” We really play fair with the audience and with the fans. I think the movie is going to be fun ride for everyone.
*An earlier version of this story contained a typo as far as Nemec’s comments regarding the Turtles’ weapons. Rest assured, the fault was ours reversing Leonardo and Raphael’s names and not Nemec’s. It has since been corrected above.