Stephen Amell interview: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Arrow

With Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Out Of The Shadows now in cinemas, we chat to Stephen Amell about the movie, Statham and Arrow...

“Oh, your t-shirt is appropriate for today” I was told as I followed on through a small maze of posh hotel hallway, our route marked out with wooden stands supporting posters for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows. I politely explained that basically all of my t-shirts are Ninja Turtles shirts, and that this was the only occasion I had clothes appropriate for. I’m in my thirties and I dress terribly, which is how being a writer works.

We arrived and I was shown inside a very comfortable looking suite, greeted by a particularly friendly Stephen Amell who was sat waiting at a coffee table.

Amell was in London as a one man press tour to promote the new Ninja Turtles movie, in which he plays hockey-masked Foot fighter Casey Jones. Normally for interviews like this, you’re not allowed to take part unless you’ve seen the film. In this instance, it wasn’t being screened for writers just yet (this was a little short of two weeks before release), so I wasn’t really able to dig into the specifics of the film. That left time for an Arrow question though, and I’m reliably informed that you lot love Arrow.

Here’s how Den of Geek’s conversation with Stephen Amell went.

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Have you seen the finished film yet?

No. I think I’m gonna see it tonight, actually. I’m very, very hopeful. There is a print somewhere in London, and by print I mean digital file. I’m hoping I’ll be able to see it this evening. But, I’ve seen enough pieces that I have a feel. And of course I was there when we filmed it.

Based on what you’ve seen, because the first film had a lot of changes – I think that’s well documented – is this close to the script you read when you signed up for it?

100%, and people felt that right off the hop. They’ve said they struggled to find the tenor and the tone of what they were doing the first time around and I feel like ultimately you feel that a little bit in the film. It feels like something that was put together more than made. I mean look, I wasn’t a part of it, I can’t speak to what happened, I can only speak to the way people felt when we were filming this one, and this one just seemed to be a lot smoother, a lot more fun, a lot more earnest.

It dealt with simpler elements that more people could relate to. Like the relationship with the brothers. And that, even if New York is facing annihilation by a machine from another dimension, it’s still a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and you still have to have fun. And we do!

When you see the difficulties they experienced on the first one does that cause you any pause before you sign up, or do you just feel confident they knew what they were doing?

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No, I felt like they knew what they were doing. Even if they were having trouble with the first production it still make half a billion dollars across the planet.

It felt like they had found the movie by the time they got the first one out, I think.

Yeah, exactly. And sometimes it’s actually not the worst scenario if you can come in with the second movie that surpasses the first. That puts you in a good position.

How about the director, David Green? How was he to work with?

He was great. Dave is a fan of the Turtles. He’s a geek for the Turtles and you could tell that. My experience with Arrow is get people that are fans of the character that they’re writing, and it’s gonna lend itself more to things that both newbies and hardcore fans of that universe or that particular character are enthusiastic about. The other thing that Dave was really seasoned at, he knows that Turtles is ultimately about the relationship between four brothers and that’s the thing that, in a world where we’re dealing with teenage mutant ninja turtles, people can relate to. ‘Cause everyone has that relationship in some way, shape or form.

I was lucky enough to visit the set last summer and I got to see that incredible lair set. How helpful is that kind of detailed production design in giving you context to put your character in?

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So here’s how detailed that production was, cause I didn’t get a chance to really, really, really look, but on the Turtle truck they have an arcade game. An old school arcade game. And you let it play, like an arcade game loops around and shows different screens, and shows the high scores, who would have the highest scores amongst the Turtles?

I can actually cheat on this, I had this in my article. Top 14 Donatello, 15th Michelangelo. It’s incredible.

That’s right! Somebody thought about that. That will never be in the movie. Ever. Like, they’re never gonna hold on that screen amidst a Turtles movie where we shot like an hour more footage than can make the final cut. But that’s the amount of detail. So when Casey Jones walks into the lair and he has to look around in wonderment, that was the easiest part of the movie. Doing that was the easiest part of the entire movie.

I turned to Megan Fox during filming and I was like “Is this the coolest movie set you have ever seen?”, ‘cause I wanted to know for someone who has done big movies. And she was like “Yes, by far. There’s no close second.” It was such an amazing set.

Inside the van, as well.

It’s unbelievable. My buddy Nick is a big Ninja Turtles fan, and I would very, very very quietly, because I know that he would protect it with his life, I would very quietly send him some photos from the set. I took a photo of the inside of the van, I took a photo of the van, I took a photo of the lair. He was like ‘all of my dreams are coming true, this is amazing.’

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Contrarily, you have the set that places your character, but your co-stars are four dudes in grey suits with big fake shells on their backs. How challenging is that?

You know, it’s not as challenging as I thought it was gonna be because the guys that play the Turtles don’t get nearly enough credit for actually creating the body language and the intonation and the tone of those four Turtles. And so, acting with them, as long as you could train yourself to look at the ping pong balls above their head and not look at them in the eyes, it wasn’t that bad.

But then there was one scene where Casey has to stare down Raphael and not Dave Green the director but Pablo (Helman), our special effects wizard, was like “If this is the shot, I need Stephen to do it with nobody there.” So Alan Ritchson and I rehearsed it, obviously, but then for the close up when Casey and Raph come head to chest, as the case may be, nobody was there. So I look like a dude yelling at a lamppost on the street. That was very challenging. You just have to trust the filmmakers that they’re not going to make you look like an idiot.

On the subject of Raphael, traditionally Casey Jones and Raphael are often a pair. Is there any Turtle in this film your character has a special connection with?

I wouldn’t say there are any that I have a special connection with. I would say that I do have a rivalry with Raphael. I am not trusting of the Turtles as a whole and he is not trusting of me in particular.

So, now that Deadpool has come it seems like there’s gonna be a trend of r-rated comic book movies.

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Oh God. It’s so stupid. It’s like, was no one around when Die Hard worked? Deadpool did not reinvent the wheel, it shined a light on a glaring white space. Of course they want r-rated movies! My daughter’s two and half, stop making movies for her. Unless you’re gonna be our movie, which is a family friendly, I wouldn’t call it a kids movie, but it could be if as a parent you wanted it to be. Anyway, keep going. Sorry.

No, please jump in whenever. But there’s a Turtles story, it having been a comic book series in the 90s there’s some weird stuff, called Bodycount. It was made by Kevin Eastman and Simon Bisley and it’s the most r-rated, Raphael and Casey Jones motorcycles and machine guns, Turtles story. I presume that’s as far from what you want to do with Turtles as possible?

Look, man, you never know. Nickelodeon, I don’t really know that that’s their business model. So we might be talking about a hypothetical thing that could never happen, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a standalone Casey Jones and Raphael, or just a Casey Jones movie, where it’s like he’s got to go and clean up alphabet city and shit goes bad. But I don’t know if that’s possible. Let’s introduce him to the world and see how everything goes.

I’ll tell you what would absolutely nail it; a $40m r-rated Arrow movie. But these are all decisions that (I can’t make). One of the reasons that my cousin and I, and our friend Jeff, created Code 8 is because as opposed to waiting around for and hoping some of these decisions get made we just wanted to make our own thing.

So, I’m assuming you’ve been getting questions all day about playing two vigilantes. So I’m not gonna, because the basic ‘why’ is out there if people want it.

But nobody criticizes Denzel Washington. Denzel Washington’s amazing. Denzel Washington has played the same version of a character over and over again, he does it exceptionally well. Casey Jones and Oliver Queen are both vigilantes but really, that is where things end. Do you know what I mean? Oliver is much closer within the Turtles universe to somebody like Leonardo or Raphael. Not Donatello and not Michelangelo. But Casey is way more guts than brains. He goes head first into everything with no hesitation. And by no hesitation I mean no analytical thought. He makes mistakes, but I think those mistakes are born out of enthusiasm and that ingratiates him to people.

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But, knowing that people will be comparing them, do you go in looking for differences or are you happy that when people see it they’ll get it?

They’re two separate characters; people will get it. Arrow’s been on for a while now and it’s very popular but it’s still… I think the quality of television and the quality of film are basically at par right now. What’s the best thing going at the moment just in terms of entertainment value? It’s probably a toss up between what Marvel is being able to produce on an ongoing basis with their cinematic universe, which is now prolific, it’s been around since two thousand and whenever Iron Man came out.

I think nine or eight. Something like that.

Yeah. So it’s been going the better part of ten years. The only other thing that really rivals that right now is Game Of Thrones. It’s not another movie, it’s a television show. Now that being said, the quality of TV and the quality of film, I don’t think there’s really a difference any more. Obviously film has a bigger budget. But film still is much, much wider reaching, and Turtles is such a big property. I think the vast majority of people who watch Turtles, if they enjoy my performance, they will then find Arrow. As opposed to people who just know Arrow who come in to watch this movie.

I went to my Den of Geek Arrow sources (thanks Rob Leane and Caroline Preece!) and checked what I should ask about Arrow. They told me that I had to ask you about a potential Supergirl crossover now that that show has moved to the same channel. Is that something you’d be keen on?

Sure. Why not, right? I’ve met Melissa, she’s very nice. I’d like to work with her. I haven’t seen Supergirl because I’m very busy. I watch Survivor and Game Of Thrones and sports. Then I’ll binge watch stuff. I’ll probably watch Supergirl when the first season is done and I can watch it all in one place. This just recently happened, so I don’t know when Supergirl’s gonna come on the schedule, I don’t know how that’s going to work. But four superhero shows on one network under one DC umbrella is kind of unprecedented and I think it would be fun.

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The Flash is a much bigger brand, as is Supergirl, than Arrow. Flash has done so extraordinarily well, and certainly from a ratings perspective; it’s the biggest show on The CW. But we were there first, right? So there’s always, if something big is gonna happen, it’s almost like I have to be there. Obviously there are bigger properties in the Marvel universe than Iron Man, but Tony Stark was the first one so he kind of becomes the de facto leader in some way. I would like it. I think it would be fun.

What’s your favourite Jason Statham film?

The Bank Job.

Oh, nice.

I really enjoyed The Bank Job. Because that was like a proper English film that was made over here, the studio was over here. It wasn’t like an American production company doing an English film, it was just an English film. I liked The Bank Job a lot.

Thank you very much, Stephen Amell. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows is out now.

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