That I had found my way onto the set of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie felt like a ridiculous miscalculation on the part of the studio. Someone, somewhere, was surely going to lose their job over this. I hadn’t even broken in, nor was I posing as a caterer or in disguise as Megan Fox.
Den of Geek had been invited to participate in a set visit. As Den of Geek’s Ninja Turtles guy, I had been invited. Paramount had invited the guy who wrote 5 great episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with cake and Predicting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) with LEGO to the set of the new Turtles film. They can’t have realised what they were doing. Everyone else they invited was proper. I’m just a guy who will not stop writing about Turtles cake. Seriously (next cake article coming soon!).
Now, while I may not be proper, I am a lifelong Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan and, within the world of Turtles, my heart has always belonged to the first live action movie. So, while this will be a silly article, know that when, against Paramount and the Den of Geek editorial teams’ better judgement, I stepped off a minibus, into an armoury in Brooklyn New York and was led to the set of an actual Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, I was in the place where I most wanted to be in the world. It was a big deal for me.
However, I was aware that I was probably there in spite of my conduct and my work. If I wanted to stay on set for the duration of the day, to get shown around and to be involved in the interviews, I was going to have to not do any of the things my instincts were telling me were good ideas. Here is a list of things I could have done, wanted to do, felt a near irrepressible urge to do, that would have gotten Den of Geek kicked off the set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows.
Trying to move in
You can read all about the sewer lair home of the boys in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows in our set visit piece. Here, it suffices to say that it’s giant and incredible. It’s also a place I would like to live.
There are beds, there’s a kitchen that I don’t know how to use (just like in my flat), there are TV screens that work, there are games and ninja weapons. Plus, it’s the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sewer lair, which comes with a considerable social status lift. I could have been really happy living there. However, I feel like if I’d brought my stuff with me, separated from the group during the tour and started unpacking, I would have been asked to leave. That was the vibe I picked up. I think it may have interfered with shooting, too, which was likely to inconvenience everyone trying to make the actual film.
There’s also the issue that the set was going to be taken down at some point. So, this would have been a particularly silly reason to get myself kicked out; to live on a film set, ruining the production and missing my flight home, only for the set to be taken down a week later. I decided against it. It was early going and a better reason to be ejected from set, humiliated in front of the cast and crew and to sully Den of Geek’s reputation might yet present itself.
I’m sure this is common sense to most of you, as it was to me, but when you visit a film set in the context that I did, it’s a ‘no photos’ situation. I would have loved to have grabbed some pictures, but I also am aware of how things leak onto the internet and so completely understood and was happy to comply with the rules.
Unfortunately, thanks to the camera that sits in the phone I keep in my pocket, I’ve gotten used to being able to take a picture when I see something cool. I saw a lot of cool things. More than once I caught myself excitedly entering my pin number into my phone ready to take a snap and had to remember where I was.
I was keen not to be ejected for doing something outrageous, but I was dead set against being ejected for being an idiot. You don’t get to choose whether you’re an idiot, though, and so I had to monitor my stupidity and really stay alert to stay on set.
Stealing almost everything
The trip was certainly memorable. How could I forget the day I stared, dewey eyed and swollen hearted, into the eyes of Casey Jones actor Stephen Amell, as he valiantly and professionally conducted interviews in a way that suggested I wasn’t freaking him out? How could I lose the memory of being repeatedly told that they were taking so much stuff from the original comics and the old cartoon, and then being provided with examples that only come from the old cartoon, almost as if they were relying on none of the attending journalists to have read several hundred Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics?
Memories are great, but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has always been merchandised in such a way that I expected to be able to express my love for the franchise in a way that involves me physically having something. I hadn’t planned this, but once I was on set, I started to feel like it’d be nice to have a souvenir to take home with me.
I started sizing things up. I felt like something significant like the ‘Turtle Power’ surfboard I’d seen sat by the staircase, or perhaps one of Donatello’s monitors, would’ve been easy to spot if stashed about my person. The obvious choice was a nunchuk. However, I suspect that any confrontation that arose from my being caught, which was certain, would have been significantly escalated by the involvement of ninja weapons.
Then, in my quest for a keepsake, I started clocking lower end stuff. Maybe a tape cassette? No, they rattle and if I’d dropped it, and I am a dropper, I’d have been busted for sure. But, in the kitchen on the counter there were some popped kernels of popcorn. I figured I could take a piece of popcorn and it wouldn’t even have an impact on continuity. Even the nerdiest nerd on the internet spying for errors isn’t going to be pausing the blu-ray to count the popcorn pieces.
A cooler head prevailed. In truth, I haven’t got the nerve for theft. I’d never be able to watch the film without feeling awful. Never mind getting kicked off set for stealing a scrap of food; imagine losing sleep over an incredibly stale single thing of popcorn. I also questioned what I would do with it. Am I going to keep it on my shelf and amuse guests at dinner parties with my anecdote about how I swiped a now rotting piece of popcorn from the set of the second live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film from the second run of live action films? No, I don’t even have dinner parties. Dinner isn’t a party, it’s a war.
I wisely alighted this train of thought.
Unauthorised waterslide usage
There’s a massive waterslide in the Ninja Turtles’ lair but I couldn’t work out how to get to the top of it.
Driving the Turtle Truck
The Turtle Truck is pretty cool. We saw two versions of it on our set visit. One was the super duper decked out inside of the van, which we talked about in our set visit article, and the other a working truck that was parked in the sewer lair. The latter is the one I was tempted to have a go on.
There were a few obstacles in my path. Physical ones were less of a concern because, you know, it’s a truck. You can drive right through those. But I didn’t have access to the keys, we were indoors so I really had nowhere to drive it to and I don’t feel confident driving a truck. With good cause, I should add, because I don’t hold a driving license and have never even driven a car, much less a truck.
I therefore elected to not get myself kicked off the set of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows by driving a vehicle from the film around the set without permission. I sometimes dream about doing it, though.
Suggesting something was not fun
Is it just me, or does Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows sound fun?
“Now we can just make a big fun movie for the whole world” writer Josh Appelbaum told us.
“It’s gonna be a lot lighter and more fun than the first time around.” explained Megan Fox.
“It’s just gonna be a lot of fun” VFX supervisor Pablo Helman remarked of one set piece.
“That was more just a really fun scene” said Michelangelo actor Noel Fischer.
“In addition to the fun, I think you’re gonna see a lot of heart…” Pete Ploszek, a.k.a. Leonardo, opined.
“I think it’s going to be fun for fans to see that side of Leo and Donnie” Jeremy Howard, who plays Donatello, informed us.
“Yesterday was a fun day” Alan Ritchson told us this. He plays Raphael.
“Have you guys been on the truck? That’s good fun” production designer Martin Laing assured us.
“It’s really fun” Andrew Form, also on the truck.
Now, I’ve no idea if the constant use of the word fun was part of a briefing for they’d had for media or just a reflection of the vibe they were going for. I don’t feel it’s my place to criticise their word choice as I’ve just used the word vibe. The thing is that it does make sense, as the first movie went through something of a difficult production as they struggled to find the right tone, and as a fan of that film (I swear we do exist) I’d point to the comedic, light mood they eventually found on as one of the reasons I enjoyed it. To cite my review:
‘It really is a lot of fun.’
It seems they’ve noticed that element worked and are embracing it. The sets we saw, the sewer lair and the Turtle Truck, really were fun, too.
In fact, to be fair to the above, all the journalists heard the word fun enough that it started popping up in questions, too. That’s human nature. In fact, you’ll have read the word fun about 90 times by the time you finish this section, so you might get to experience effects first hand. I bet you use fun within ten minutes of reading this. ‘This article was NOT fun!’ in the comments, or something like that, perhaps.
Anyway, I didn’t say anything was not fun in case I got chucked into an alley.
Trying to fight Bebop and Rocksteady
Right, so to really get the benefit of this one, you need to know that this took place back in June 2015. Only a couple of months before this set visit, Bebop and Rocksteady had all but killed Donatello in the Ninja Turtles comic books. They’re always baddies, obviously, but I was particularly upset with them at this point. So, if I’d seen Bebop and Rocksteady on set there was a chance that I would have tried to fight them. This could end with either me being stopped and then removed from set by security, or with me getting to fight them and being removed by an ambulance crew, likely in a helicopter. Either way, that’s me off set.
Bebop and Rocksteady are played by Gary Williams and Stephen Farrelly (WWE wrestler Sheamus) respectively, and I did not see them on set. Lucky for everyone, because this was a matter of uncontrollable emotions rather than a calculated decision to do something at the expense of being there. But no bad guys, no incident, no ejection. Den of Geek stays on set!
Trying to hug interview subjects
Different hugs mean different things. Some hugs mean ‘I’m so pleased to see you’, some hugs mean ‘I’m sorry’ and some hugs mean ‘You play Michelangelo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and I am overwhelmed by positive emotion and will not be letting go of you for some time’. Unfortunately for me, some hugs mean ‘this weirdo is invading my personal space and I suspect I may be in danger’.
My track record of not spontaneously dive-hugging interview subjects is terrific. I think the reason I just about muddle through is because my love and enthusiasm for my interview subjects strikes a balance with my desperate attempts to appear professional. I was forced to rely on that stalemate holding out for the entire day, as I’d never been in a room with four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles before. It was very difficult for me indeed.
I’m confident that my reading of the occasion was correct, and that a slip-up in my hugging etiquette would have seen my ejected from the set and possibly disparaged by my beloved Ninja Turtles.
Staging a protest to influence casting
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014 Johnny Knoxville was the voice of Leonardo. Drafted in as a late replacement for Pete Ploszek, who provided the physical performance, I’d argue that Knoxville was no bother in the film. It did seem a bit weird, though, because it was announced in April 2014, just four months before the films August release, and the three other Turtles were still voiced by the physical performers.
It’s a decision that seems even stranger to me after talking to Pete because his voice feel like a great fit for Leonardo. Firm but with a Kermit the Frog innocence. The recasting was part of a pre-release shuffle of that film, which from the outside looked like people waving their arms in the air and panicking.
Now, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows will see new actors taking over the roles of Shredder and Karai. So, with a precedent for change here, I would really like to hear Pete Ploszek as Leonardo. That’s the reason I considered handcuffing myself for to the steering wheel of the Turtle Truck and attempting to convince the other journalists in attendance to join me in protest.
I decided against this one for three reasons. One, the feeling I was getting from the other journalists when I attempted to discuss the casting issue was, for the most part, dispassionate. Two, I suspect as a lone protester I would have been quietly and violently removed from the set (likely clubbed and dumped in heap somewhere). Three, as sad as it makes me to say this, it’s really not my place to attempt to cast a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film.
Although I will say this; Pete for Leo! Fight the power!
(Note – since this was written, it’s been confirmed that Pete is voicing Leonardo! Guys, my decision to not protest may have worked!)
Playing with weapons
The last temptation of Den of Geek.
The Turtles lair is a large space with several small nooks. There is a weapons nook in the sewer lair. I was left in the weapons nook, completely unsupervised. I was so, so close to playing with ninja weapons. There were just racks and racks full of them, colour coded based on the headband of the relevant Turtle.
I was able to stay strong, though. I had avoided causing a scene in front of Casey Jones. I had resisted the urge to make a buffoon of myself in front of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I had not stolen a vehicle or any props. I had not indulged in unauthorised waterslide usage. I was going to see this thing through even if it did mean passing up an opportunity to accidentally lop off my own hand or wave a sword about while demanding to speak to Michael Bay, who wasn’t even there.
In behaving like such a proper, professional journalist for the whole day, or as close to it as I could muster, I was rewarded with not being sent home at lunch time. Turtally worth it!
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