When a franchise is rebooted, there’s lots of talk of how it’ll appeal to a “new” audience. Little did the world anticipate that the 2014 reboot Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would attract acclaimed American actress Laura Linney. The three-time Oscar nominee co-stars in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows as a New York police chief forced to face the seemingly impossible notion that massive masked turtles are fighting crime vigilante-style around her city.
While Screen Rant visited one of the sequel’s New York sets, we spoke with Linney in a group interview where she confessed, “I didn’t understand turtle fever before I started working on this.” But now, you’d be hard pressed to find a bigger fan of the actors whose motion-capture performances bring Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Raphael to life. Linney couldn’t stop singing the praises of Noel Fisher, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek and Alan Ritchson. But beyond that, she dared to tell us how police chief Rebecca Vincent factors into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, and what she’s learned from making the cult classic Congo.
So we know you’re a police chief, but this is all we know. Please tell us everything you can.
Laura Linney: I am a bureau chief of organized crime for New York City. And events are happening within the city that are of course wild and unprecedented. And I have these people coming to me telling me about turtles which seems a little far-fetched. And it takes me a while to grasp the situation, to understand what these creatures are, to value their assistance and what they have to offer. And then I become an ally.
So you’re sort of their Commissioner Gordon?
We don’t really see you in many movies quite like this–
You’re just young. There’s Congo. There’s Mothman Prophecies. There are a few.
But this is a big summer blockbuster. Was it for you like “I want to be in one of those big pop-core movie type things,” or was it just a particular script–
I didn’t seek it out. It came to me. And it took me a minute to sort of think about it. And then I watched the first one and those turtles are just fantastic. And it was filming here in the city. And I now have a little boy. And it all just sort of fell into place, and I just thought why not.
There seems to be a trend now to bring acclaimed actors and actresses into movies like this because I feel it adds a lot of credibility to them. Do you feel that that was the case for this as well?
Everybody’s just very nice. Really, honestly, I was a little skeptical and didn’t quite know. And these sets can be difficult. They’re high powered people under a lot of pressure. They’re very expensive, and some of these sets are not very pleasant. So I was a little concerned about that because I’m just at an age now where I just don’t want to be around that. And I met these guys and they were so nice! And they really are so nice, (screenwriter) Andre (Nemec) and (director) Dave (Green) everybody involved is really lovely. And the turtles–I think you’ve spoken to those guys–they’re just adorable. They’re just lovely, lovely young men. And they enjoy each other, and really the four of them, their attitude and their fun, really does permeate the whole set. It’s just a joy to be around. And it’s funny. It’s kind of a kick to be in a movie with giant turtles. (Laughs).
Is your son into the Turtles?
He’s very young, he’s 16 months old, so he will be. He does have little turtle shoes.
Is your character aware that it’s kind of comedic? Because Whoopi Goldberg kind of had that in the first one, or do you have to play it straight?
No one has told me how to play it. The writing is very clear when there’s moments of this and when there’s moments of that. But I think it has a sort of tenor all its own, as it has to be when there are giant turtles on the screen with you. So I think there is sort of a fine line. There’s stuff that happens–there are things at stake in this movie. So you can’t play it too comedically, and at the same time you can’t play it too seriously. Otherwise it just becomes melodramatic and ridiculous. So it’s kind of–even though this is a big movie acting-wise–you do have to consider it, you can’t just wing it. You do think how do you do this so that it’s just right where it doesn’t take itself too seriously or you’re not too heavy or too light. We’ll see how it all comes together. There’s so much that you have no control over with big movies like this. Editing is such an enormous part of it. Special effects are things you can barely comprehend at the time. So you just sort of throw it up in the air and see how they put it all together.
The boys mentioned that you have sort of a on-again off-again, hot and cold kind of relationship with the Turtles. Can you go into depth a little bit more about what that relationship is and how you work with them, or against them?
I think she’s just a skeptical New Yorker, and there are these things, and what are they? She has some wisdom to her. She has some instinct that there’s goodness there. So she has a heart. Through the course of the movie, without being this great portrayal of a woman who is a police chief, she does change through the movie. You see her be hardened and stereotypical towards the beginning. And then the more time she spends with them, she sees not only what they’re capable of, but their different personalities. She’s not a fool.
Did you get to get into the action at all? Do you have action scenes?
A few where there’s action around me, but I don’t get to hit anybody.
Is there a learning curve when you’re acting opposite the guys?
There is. There are ping pong balls on the top of their heads, so you have to look at the ping pong balls and not look at them. Which is tricky because they’re really talented. These are really talented guys, and you want to look at them. I want to look at them because you do naturally go to them and their personalities are–they’re really lucky to have these four guys. They really are. I don’t know if they get enough credit for what they bring to it. Because even though they’re encased in special effects, any emotion that comes through or anything that works from those turtles is a total marriage between what they have and what special effects does. The special effects just wouldn’t be as good without them, it just wouldn’t. There’s a lot special effects can do, but spirit has to be provided by a human. And these guys are great. So what’s tricky is looking above their heads as opposed to looking into their eyes. And it’s kind of just amazing, you know there they are in these funny suits, these big turtle shells.
Has watching this made you want to try motion capture yourself?
Yeah it has actually. Absolutely…It’s a whole other art form now. It’s really a whole other art form. I think it was something that even, fifteen years ago, twenty years ago, I was skeptical of because it wasn’t very good at that time. But now it really is so good in a way that I never thought it would be. I don’t think anyone ever imagined it could be. And also that there is a place for acting with it–I think there was a fear that it would just wipe out what actors had to offer and the nice surprise is to see how there is a wonderful marriage between what the actors have to offer and how the special effects use that as a resource and combine the two. That’s a big surprise and it is really nice to see.
Do you have a favorite turtle?
I love them together. I love how their personalities ping off each other. I didn’t understand turtle fever before I started working on this, and I’m like “Oh well of course they’re so popular.” So it’s fun.
Are most of your scenes with the turtles?
Yes, and with Megan (Fox) and with Stephen (Amell).
Is your contract just for this movie, or do you have the potential to come back?
I could potentially come back.
You mention the ping pong balls. Now, obviously that took you a while to get used to talking to that. Are there any other constraints that you’re finding yourself getting used to having to act, because they’re not, clearly, six-foot turtles…
They’re six-foot humans. They’re big guys, I mean you’ve seen them. They’re also gorgeous. They’re in incredible shape. They’ve worked very hard for this. They’re completely present. They’re just great.
I remember reading somewhere that when you did Congo, originally they were going to do the apes in CG, and then they switched to the costumes–
They had little girls in ape outfits.
This movie, the proof of concept has already been done. After the first movie, we know that the physicality of the turtles works. Does that bring some sort of relief for you knowing “I don’t have to worry about that, I know I’m not going to look like an idiot in front of something that doesn’t look real…”?
Well I know that they’re great, and that I actually get to work with these actors. You know, with Congo, you couldn’t. They were little girls in suits (shrugs). They were just little girls trapped in these suits! So parts of that movie worked, and some of it didn’t. But this is a completely different type of experience because you actually get to be on set, talking to flesh. Flesh and blood.
More From The Set: How Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 Will Do Right By the Fans
“TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS” is the sequel to the 2014 hit film “TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES.” The film is based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtlescharacters created by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman and is directed by David Green (“EARTH TO ECHO”). Michael Bay (the “TRANSFORMERS franchise) returns to produce alongside his Platinum Dunes partners Brad Fuller and Andrew Form (“ TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES”), with Galen Walker and Scott Mednick (“TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES”) also producing.
Also returning for the sequel is Megan Fox (“TRANSFORMERS”) as April O’Neil, Will Arnett (“Arrested Development”) as Vernon Fenwick and the Turtles: Alan Ritchson as Raphael, Noel Fisher as Michelangelo, Pete Ploszek at Leonardo, and Jeremy Howard as Donatello. Rounding out the cast is Stephen Amell (“Arrow,”) as Casey Jones, Tyler Perry (“GONE GIRL”, the “MADEA” franchise) as Baxter Stockman, Academy Award nominated actress Laura Linney (“The Big C”, “LOVE ACTUALLY”) as Chief Rebecca Vincent, Brian Tee (“JURASSIC WORLD”) as Shredder, WWE World Heavy Weight Champion Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly as Rocksteady and Gary Anthony Williams (“THE INTERNSHIP”) as Bebop.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows opens June 3rd, 2016.