‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Producer Talks Plot, Characters And Potential Cameos In Reboot

Last month, the 25th anniversary of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” kicked off in a big way — with the announcement of a new, live-action movie featuring the famous Turtle heroes. (Oh, and there was that whole “lighting the Empire State Building green” thing, too.)

I spoke with Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird just after the announcement, and he offered up some thoughts on what fans can expect from the film. Recently, I had the chance for some follow-up with the film’s producer, Scott Mednick, who also served as executive producer on comics-friendly films “300” and “Superman Returns.” He shared some details about potential plot points and where else we might see the style of effects likely to be used for the film. There was also some talk of cameos and returning characters, too. Cowabunga!

MTV: With the new “Mutant Turtles” movie, a lot of talk thus far has been about potential storylines. Peter told me it’s being envisioned as a sort of “reboot” of the live-action movie franchise. Is that the case?

SCOTT MEDNICK: Well, it is the case, that’s certainly how it’s being envisioned. I was part of the reboot of Superman, and a part of the reboot of Batman, and what happens after a certain amount of time — and certainly 25 years is a lot of time — is you’ve gone through multiple generations of fans. And we have a group of fans that love the property, and a group of fans who don’t really understand all of the intricacies of how these characters came to be.

What we want to do is service the story in a way that we have technology and ability that we didn’t have 25 years ago to say “here’s the story” to the fans, and bring in a whole new generation of fans that can then start with us again.

MTV: Story-wise, are you planning to revisit any specific stories? Is it going to be following the first story arc of the “Ninja Turtles” comics?

MEDNICK: Certainly, the first group of comics that Laird and [Kevin] Eastman wrote are just the very best of source material. We have 25 years of rear-view mirror to look into, and to see where the franchise has gone. But we’re also looking at where the audiences are now. The audience today is very different than it was 25 years ago.

So it’s really trying to modulate the expectations of the fans today, the expectations of those kids and teenagers of today, the origins of the Turtles themselves and their world, and blend those together. That’s the fun, that’s the challenge.

MTV: It’s at an early stage thus far, but Peter mentioned that he was hoping to get in Baxter Stockman and the mousers, and said Shredder was a very necessary part if you’re going to tell an origin story for the Turtles. What’s on the table?

MEDNICK: Well, I won’t talk about what’s on or off the table, but what I will tell you is, if you go back to the origin story, you’ve got one of the great villains. I mean, Shredder is just one of the great villains for us to play with, and we are certainly expecting to bring the entire origin story — which could not be told without Shredder.

MTV: It’s been said that filming will involve a live-action/CGI hybrid, with live actors and computer effects putting the Turtles’ faces over them. Can you elaborate on that process and how you envision it?

MEDNICK: Well, we’re in the early development stage, so no critical decisions have been made. However, that being said, I can tell you that yes, it’s a live-action film. We’ve gone through an animated version of the Turtles for quite some time, but if you return to those original movies, they were live-action.

I’m an executive producer on “Where the Wild Things Are,” which also used, if you will, creatures. And we have some technology today that they just didn’t have when the previous live-action movies were made, and what we’re hoping to do is to bring all of the cinematic tricks that are in the 2009 bag into this effort.

MTV: You mentioned “Where the Wild Things Are” — so are you using a similar style for both films? Did you take “Where the Wild Things Are” and say, “Hey! Let’s use this same process with the Turtles!”

MEDNICK: The similarity will be that the “Wild Things” creatures are actually there. They’re in the scene, they’re not CGI’d in, they’re actually large creatures. I remember early discussions of actually having the creatures be in the scene — because you can tell if it’s there or if it’s CGI’d in — and giving credibility to the fact that the Wild Things are in these scenes.

We have a similar issue in that we want the Turtles to be a part of that world. So we will use CGI effects where necessary, and we will use the best costume makers that we have now. You can look at anything from “Wild Things” and the Henson creature shop, to the guys who did “Hellboy,” and you can look at the expertise in technology we have now. It just wasn’t there 25 years ago, so we will hopefully utilize that.

MTV: Going back to Turtles themselves, has there been any talk thus far in terms of casting? In a perfect world, is there someone you’d like to have in one of the roles?

MEDNICK: We’re finding that — and this is fascinating for us — there are many, many actors, writers and directors who, when they’ve heard about this project, say “I love the Turtles! Oh, man, I’d love to write that!” or “I’d love to direct that!” because they just loved it. And I’m looking for that passion. When you find an actor or a director who grew up with it or wants to be a part of it, we’re definitely talking to those people.

I can also tell you, if you go back and watch the 1990 movie, there was a kid who was a thug in the movie — and he turned out to be Sam Rockwell. Looking back at the movie, we’re thinking, “Who was in that movie that we may want to revisit in some way?” We don’t know where the casting is going to go, because the first step is get the story right and get the filmmakers in line, but then we’ll start to reach out to some of the people who have already reached out to us.

MTV: It’s funny you mention Sam Rockwell. We interviewed him recently and discussed some “Iron Man 2″ stuff. I had actually given him an “Iron Man” comic with his character in it to look at for part of the interview, and later I joked about the fact that he walked off with it. But what everyone kept telling me was, “Hey, don’t get on his bad side, he’ll get the Foot Clan after you.”

MEDNICK: That’s classic!

MTV: So, the fact that he was in the “Turtles” movie was clearly not lost on people.

MEDNICK: That’s like Elias Koteas, who played Casey Jones. If you look in “Superman Returns,” we had cameos for Lois Lane from the original “Superman” television show, and for Jimmy Olsen from the television show. Again, those are the kinds of things as fanboys, and we know we are, we love that sort of thing — because it pays homage to the different stuff that came before. So we would look forward to doing that sort of thing [with the upcoming film] and hopefully, if we’re so blessed and lucky enough to get the most tangential involvement, that would be fun.

What do you think about what we’ve heard regarding the new “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie? Share your thoughts in the comment section!