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.

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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.

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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.

Jonathan Liebesman Directing Wrath of the Titans ‘TMNT’ Movie Characters Were Modeled After Bill Murray, Clint Eastwood & More

Jonathan Liebesman Directing ‘Wrath of the Titans’


Jonathan Liebesman – whose biggest movies so far have been the aforementioned Wrath of the TitansBattle Los Angeles, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning – also spoke to us about the challenges of making a TMNT reboot:

“I took the movie to have fun, but it’s like the hardest I’ve worked on a film.”

On what makes it so challenging:

“I think – well, […] I’ve never had a film where people are so excited to see [it] so long before [it came out]. It’s just challenging to […] do something that meets the expectations. Honestly, that’s hard.

“[Because the fanbase is so vocal], you want to do your best. […] Everyone’s trying so hard because we know people are looking forward to it. So that’s kind of the – I don’t know if you get that from when you spoke to Pablo [Helman, the visual effects supervisor], but we’re putting everything we can into it. We’re leaving it on the floor.”

TMNT fans who are worried that the reboot won’t live up to their expectations (or hopes) might take solace in the filmmakers’ and actors’ determination to do right by the Turtles. We’ll have to wait a few more days to see if that determination has paid off.

What say you, Screen Ranters? Are you looking forward to the film? Do you like that the Turtles were modeled after famous people? Drop us a line in the comments.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hits theaters August 8, 2014.

Follow me on Twitter @benandrewmoore.