Megan Fox and Will Arnett are about as opposite as it gets in terms of career trajectories. Whereas Fox became instantly famous for her role in Michael Bay’s Transformers – one of the biggest blockbuster franchises of the past ten years – Arnett made his nut by co-starring in Arrested Development, a beloved TV show that was canceled after three seasons for less-than-stellar ratings.And yet, in the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, both Fox and Arnett are a team of sorts – like the archetypal odd couple or buddy cop duo of yore – working together in the war between the Ninja Turtles and Shredder’s Foot Clan.
Megan, of course, plays April O’Neil, the Lois Lane of the Ninja Turtles universe, while Arnett plays her cameraman, Vernon Fenwick, a character originally created for the cartoon as a rival to April.
More than a year ago, we visited the set of TMNT in downtown Manhattan and watched a fight scene break out between April, Vernon, the villainous Karai (Minae Noji), and The Foot (we’ve been told that this scene has since been cut from the film). While we were there, we had the opportunity to talk to Fox and Arnett about their roles in the film, how the characters have been updated for 2014, a possible interspecies romance between April and one of the Turtles, and more.
But first, check out the most recent trailer below:
(Note: Megan Fox didn’t join the interview until partway through, which is why it starts with just Will Arnett.)
Screen Rant: Tell us about your character, Vernon Fenwick.
Will Arnett: Vernon is a cameraman at Channel 6. He’s April O’Neill’s cameraman. Vernon is a character who comes from the turtle mythology, he’s a real living character…let’s hope. He’s someone who kind of has been around. He’s seen a lot of – he’s seen some ****. He’s covered action before. [But now] he just wants to do the puff pieces with April O’Neill and just kind of – he doesn’t want to have to stretch too hard.
So he fights ninjas?
Arnett: Yeah, reluctantly. Reluctantly.
Does he have fighting experience?
Arnett: A little bit, but it’s sloppy. He [comes from] the Indiana Jones school of fighting, which is kind of, “Christ, now I gotta fight these guys, I don’t know.” He’s very sort of unorthodox but he can kind of take care of himself.
Can you talk a little about the [since deleted] scene we saw being shot, specifically what you were doing with the gurney?
Arnett: Yeah, that particular moment, one of the characters is coming at April and about to inflict some major damage on her and Vern is in his own situation. You just sort of caught the tail end of that and he comes out just at the right moment [and] hits Karai with the gurney and knocks her off balance a little bit. Then April kind of finishes her off.
When you look at your character – he hasn’t really been in any other movies. Did you draw from the show to develop him?
Arnett: Well, there’s not a ton to draw upon in terms of his depth, he’s not a character that was fully fleshed out, but we’ve been trying to work within the context of the bounds that we have with him. Really, he’s someone who can be an ally of April, someone who can help her in her journey, ultimately in her quest to accomplish what she needs to accomplish.
He’s sort of a rival in the cartoon. Is he not a rival in the reboot?
Arnett: He’s not as much of a rival. I would say that he’s, again, because he has to help her out, at first he ‘s reluctant to help her out and he’s kind of looking out for himself. And then as it becomes more real and he gets more into it, he ultimately kind of sides with April and ends up helping her out.
Who’s your favorite Turtle?
Arnett: That’s a loaded question. [Laughter] For me, personally, probably Michelangelo just because he’s my kids’ favorite Turtle and he’s the funniest. But they’ve all got great qualities. I love Donatello because he’s obviously the nerdier of the Turtles. Leo is cool. I’m going to list them all. [Laughter] There are traits in all of them. Leo’s the leader and Ralph’s the loose cannon so he’s kind of cool in that way, too, and he’s kind of the thrill seeker, the danger factor.
Does your character do a lot of action? I mean, as you’re being confronted by ninjas, it seems a little more physical than roles you’ve taken in the past.
Arnett: Way more! Way more physical. [Laughter] I mean, apart from having to put a roofie in Jason Bateman’s mouth. [Laughter] Also very dangerous. Yeah, it’s a real departure from me in that sense. That’s been super fun, doing that. Today, we’ll get into more of that. But the action side of it is very enticing to me, and I wanted to wait until […] later in life to do it. [Laughter]
Do you have a lot of interaction with the Turtles?
Arnett: Yeah, quite a bit. It takes a while but once Vern kind of gets into – is brought on board, he is fully immersed with the Turtles. We’ve started to create these relationships between – some of it’s in the script and some of it just comes out of performance and stuff, and you have relationships with the Turtles. Vern and Ralph kind of butt shells a little bit. [Laughter] Ralph is not super psyched about this guy and Vern gives Raph a hard time. He sort of makes remarks about his size and his shell and stuff, and Raph isn’t into it.
So you’re still flexing comedic muscles in some way as well?
Arnett: Yeah, for sure. Vern is kind of a little bit wise-cracking, but ultimately also at the end we’ll see that he kind of comes through.
You’re a dad that has kids. Is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles a kids’ movie? Is this something you want to bring your kids to?
Arnett: Well, we’ll see in the final – when we finally see the movie, but I think it’s going to really capture – there’ll be something in it for everyone. And as somebody who has to go and sit through a lot of kids’ movies, it’s going to be great for people like me because it’s going to have those elements that you want to see.
My kids are big Turtles fans because there’s been this resurgence, especially with the new series on Nickelodeon. It’s funny, I often have long days here on set and then I walk in the door and my kids – this is not a joke – go, “Dad, can you be Shredder”? [Laughter] Like, oh my god. I’ve had my sons here with their nun chucks and they’ve been displaying their skills for the Turtles. It’s so weird, worlds colliding.
Were you yourself a Turtles fan?
Arnett: ‘The Turtles’ kind of came later, it kind of caught me, I was […] not really in the demo for it [when the ‘Ninja Turtles’] came out. Like, when the movies came out, I was [an] older teenager and maybe even in my twenties. Gulp. [Laughter]
So how grounded is the reboot? I mean, it’s obviously Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but did the world feel like the world we know or is it heightened?
Arnett: The world feels very, very real. And that’s obviously one of the decisions that you have to make right at the start in terms of tone, and I think it’s really important to try and keep it grounded in reality, keep it grounded in this world.
Especially with what everyone knows now, unless you’re making some sort of supernatural thing that’s insane, audiences are pretty savvy, so you want to make something that feels accessible and real. I think we do a really good job, actually, of straddling it. In the moments you need to, you do that and other times you keep it really real.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hits theaters August 8th, 2014.
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