‘TMNT’ Movie Characters Were Modeled After Bill Murray, Clint Eastwood & More

Published 9 months ago by

teenage mutant ninja turtles 2014 rap video ‘TMNT’ Movie Characters Were Modeled After Bill Murray, Clint Eastwood & More

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot is almost upon us, and despite the fact that we’ve seen a few trailers, some TV spots, and a new rap song, the film feels like one of the more underexposed blockbusters of the summer (unlike, say, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 or even the recently released Guardians of the Galaxy). One thing is certain, though – the Turtles sure look a lot different than they used to.

When we visited the set of TMNT last year, director Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans) talked to us briefly about the extraordinary amount of work that was going into the production of the film. He also showed us to-scale busts of the Turtles themselves, which he described as being modeled (to a degree) after various famous people, including Bill Murray, Clint Eastwood, Nelson Mandela, and more.

But now that production is finished, do the Turtles actually resemble those famous people? Let’s take a look-see.


Leonardo (Russell Crowe, Nelson Mandela)

Ninja Turtle Leonardo Modeled After Russell Crowe and Nelson Mandela 570x294 ‘TMNT’ Movie Characters Were Modeled After Bill Murray, Clint Eastwood & More

According to Liebesman, Leonardo – the leader of the team – has Russell Crowe’s eyes and Nelson Mandela’s lips. Crowe, of course, has played a leader several times in his career (Gladiator, Master & Commander), while Mandela was one of the greatest leaders of our time.

I’m not sure I see Crowe’s eyes (that mask isn’t helping matters), but there’s definitely some lip resemblance going on between Leo and Mandela.


Michelangelo (Bill Murray)

Ninja Turtle Michelangelo Modeled After Bill Murray 570x294 ‘TMNT’ Movie Characters Were Modeled After Bill Murray, Clint Eastwood & More

The funniest Ninja Turtle was modeled, to some degree, after (perhaps) the funniest man alive – Bill Murray. Either the Turtles’ faces are sort of like Rorschach tests or we’re starting to see the similarities.

Considering TMNT and Ghostbusters share some similarities of their own – not the least of which is their relationship to New York City – it makes some sense that they’d have their own Pete Venkman.

Donatello (Leonard Nimoy)

Ninja Turtle Donatello Modeled After Leonard Nimoy Spock 570x294 ‘TMNT’ Movie Characters Were Modeled After Bill Murray, Clint Eastwood & More

Liebesman said that Donatello was intended to resemble Leonard Nimoy, like a “Spock kind of thing.

This, too, makes sense, since both characters tend to rely on their book smarts to get things done. While most of Donatello’s face is obscured by his mask and gear, again, there’s a definite lip resemblance going on here.

Raphael (Clint Eastwood)

Ninja Turtle Raphael Moddeled After Clint Eastwood 570x294 ‘TMNT’ Movie Characters Were Modeled After Bill Murray, Clint Eastwood & More

Raphael, the most rebellious of the Turtles, is supposed to be reminiscent of Clint Eastwood a.k.a. The Man with No Name from Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (toothpick-chomping and all). Raph and Clint – just a couple of tough guys being tough.

Splinter (Toshiro Mifune)

Ninja Turtles Splinter Modeled After Toshiro Mifune 570x294 ‘TMNT’ Movie Characters Were Modeled After Bill Murray, Clint Eastwood & More

Finally, Splinter was based, in part, on Toshiro Mifune of Seven Samurai fame. Liebesman said that Splinter’s “hairstyle is from a Kurosawa movie.

While we’ve yet to see a really clear image of Splinter from the reboot, the above screencap from one of the trailers shows off his Samurai-style topknot.


NEXT: Jonathan Liebesman on TMNT Difficulties


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hits theaters August 8, 2014.

Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.

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  1. And they look nothing like any of them! Good job!

    • I disagree. As soon as I Definitely see the Nelson Mandela in Leo, the Bill Murray in Mikey, and the Leonard Nimoy in Donnie. As far as Raph/Clint the sideways snarl is about it?

    • I’m not saying that’s eerily similar, but that’s eerily similar

    • The looks-no
      the clothes-yes

  2. I don’t see the resemblance between the turtles and the people listed. Kinda seems like damage control being put forward early imo.

    As a fan of the comics, not the cartoons, I am disappointed that the turtles are so dissimilar in appearance. But, this is a kids movie based on a kids cartoon. The original TMNT comics were not for kids.

    • The director told us this over a year ago. How could it be damage control if no one had even seen the new Turtles yet?

      • “The director told us this over a year ago.” But you waited until now to mention it? Unless I missed a previous mention of it, certainly possible.

        Damage control can be done preemptively. That should require no explanation.

        • Okay, so presuming that is the case, how would saying that the Turtles were modeled in part after those actors help with damage control? Who’s going to be like, “Oh man, I heard that the new Michelangelo looks very vaguely like Bill Murray – now I’m DEFINITELY going to that new TMNT movie”?

          • I am not saying it would help, I am saying it seemed like damage control to bring it up now. As I said, if this was brought up and written about previously then my point is invalidated.

            However, addressing whether damage control can be done before the finished product is released to the general audience that is SOP.

            This movie was not made to appeal to me anyways, if it finds an audience then great. If it can support a franchise even better. I am not anti-hollywood, I have just been around long enough to know a thing or two.

        • “But you waited until now to mention it?”

          That’s the very definition of an embargo. Movie reporters and critics aren’t allowed to talk about a film in this much detail or post reviews until a certain date close to release and in turn, the studios do those reporters/critics a favour by allowing them on set for interviews with the cast and crew and early screenings for review purposes.

          That’s why Ben waited until now to say this.

          • Embargos on info as minor as this are a bad sign imo. Just based on previous productions. But hey, this movie isn’t targeted at me, too old.

            • You’re right (and it doesn’t appeal to me either) but I guess minor details like this are still withheld to continue the hype machine and bombard potential audiences with as much info as possible around release date to sway them into buying a ticket.

              It’s not a new phenomenon and other films have done the same (see the influx of Guardians interviews posted last week) but I guess it’s the studios using that tactic for maximum sales because if a website posts 5 different articles in a single day about their new release, it makes it more likely that someone might come across one of them and have that making the choice for them to pay to see it or stay at home for the weekend.

            • Every set visit gets an embargo up until closer to the relase. It would make no sense for them not to make us sign NDAs as we watched them filming. We could reveal all kinds of crazy stuff well before production was even completed.

              FYI, I didn’t notice this quote: “But you waited until now to mention it? Unless I missed a previous mention of it, certainly possible” until now, otherwise I would’ve responded to it immediately.

          • Exactly. Thanks, Dazz.

  3. lmao! this ridiculously just made my day. Cant wait to hear if Bill Murray reacts to this. this movie has been nothing but a walking comedy so far

  4. Blasphemy! Don’t they know one of the movie commandments? Thou shalt not use Bill Murray’s name in vain.

  5. Kinda see some resembalnce with Leo and Donnie and their alleged inspirations but not the others. Either way the new designs worked well with the film and it was a solid movie but it probably should’ve been released next year when there wasn’t too much competition.

  6. I cannot wait for friday! I want to remember that part of my childhood when I used to watch the cartoon All day long and pretended to be Raphael. Even if the movie is not to my liking, I will enjoy thanks to my Childhood. Plus, having turtles talk and fight is already super silly so I will not kill the movie even if it is not good.

  7. Leo is the only one who resembles the old ninja turtles design.
    Mickey is Shrek, clearly.
    Raph is a unique cool design.
    And Donnie is like Samuel Jackson mixed with some previously animated creature maybe from disney? I dont remember well.

  8. Guys, can you answer something for me? Am I the only one that thinks those turtles look like fat frogs?

    • omg yes! i thought i was the only one! haha

  9. I guess modeling them after the actual turtles was too much to ask…obviously.