I officially checked off a marker on my bucket list! I met and interviewed a few of Hollywood’s hottest screenwriters recently at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles press junket. These TMNT writers André Nemec, who attended NYU (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Alias, October Road, Life on Mars) and his writing partner Josh Applebaum, who attended USC (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, Alias, October Road, Life on Mars) they’ve known each other since third grade. The third partner for the movie is Evan Daugherty, whose credits include the spec script Snow White and the Huntsmen (2012), which he wrote while in college as a homework assignment. Evan also co-wrote the adaptation of DIVERGENT (2014).
I had an enlightening chat with these men aka “fan boys” as they revealed their pleasure in rebooting TMNT for Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies. For each of them, writing this script was a nostalgic salute to their comic book days:
Did you guys think, “If I ever had the chance to reload this movie, this is what I’d do?”
Josh: Well, yes, of course! It was being fans of the property. We were fans as kids! Now, we get to do our own version of it!”
Evan: Totally, you look at the 12-year-old version of yourself as a kid when you love a thing like Ninja Turtles and the toys, you start making the movies in your head because you’re playing with the toys after you go see the movie five times.
André: Did you ever actually go do that?
Evan: Sure. I got out of school early all opening days of the original three. Yes, and
André: (jokingly) those were unsanctioned early release days.
Evan: I still got my diploma. It’s insane to be able to help tell that new version of the ninja turtles’ story.
Did you look at it and say, “There’s some essences that I wanted to keep. And, other parts we’re gonna trash?” (Spoiler alert) I like how you guys did tie-in with April being the one who saved the turtles.
Evan: At its core, the story is about the four ninja turtles. In my mind, it’s sort of about April becoming a fifth member of the family.
I did not see that happening.
Evan: That’s good. Most versions are about them forming some type of family. And it just struck me of digging a little deeper and, maybe in terms of having her origins tied in with the turtles. And, Splinter being inspired to raise the turtles as a family, was inspired by April’s father’s love for her because in her bravery in saving the turtles; inspired the turtles to be brave in saving the city, and tying all of that stuff together in a more literal way, which I think at the core they never quite gone that far in the previous versions. So, I think it works.
What was your most favorite action scene?
André: I think for us, it was the snow sequence.
Evan: Yes, it’s hard to beat!
Josh: I loved the lair attack just because there’s a lot of emotion in it because their father gets taken down. It works great for this invasiveness of this dark force coming into your home.
Evan: Every time I watch it, I’ll say I give props to something you guys did which is the sort of New Year’s Eve ball spiral, falling down the rafters at the video scene. When that was originally conceived, it was a big action sequence where they were trying to stop this fire. But, in the movie it’s really Rafael making an emotional confession, which I thought was great!
How were you guys able to keep up with today’s dialogue of the kids? Do you have someone that comes in and helps punch up the jokes?
Josh: We’re just all very snappy people.
Evan: We just watch a lot of YouTube to get the young lingo.
André: We spend a lot of time at The Grove.
Who’s your favorite character?
André: I think I’m a Donatello guy. ‘Cause he’s the MacGyver of the group. He’s sort of the fixit guy of the group. If they were a four-piece band, he’d be the drummer.
Evan: I think I’m gonna go with Raf because without Raf they’re kind of just turtles going around having too much fun all the time. And Raf is the wrench behind the turtles – “the gravitas!”
André: But that’s because of the Knicks sneakers.
Josh: We are currently finishing a draft of Beverly Hills Cop 4, André and I. We hope to be shooting early next year.
Evan: I’m trying to do a TV series adaptation of another one of my favorite properties as a kid called Missed from the early ’90s. Unfortunately, Lost (on ABC) already made Missed and took the elements, where you wake up on a strange, sort of mysterious island and uncover a large conspiracy.
I recommend this film for ages 12 and up (your discretion). The action scenes are unbelievable!!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles opens nationwide Aug. 8, 2014.
Rated: PG-13 for Sci-fi action violence