The BIG interview - Megan Fox and Will Arnett talk Turtles, Michael Bay and the media
There are unlikely screen match-ups and then there's Megan Fox and Will Arnett, stars of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot.
She's a feisty femme fatale, he's a quirky comic with a background in TV comedies. Put them together and you get… well, best let them explain.
"Megan and I worked together on Jonah Hex," says Arnett. "She's a very smart, determined young woman and perfect for the part of April [O'Neill, reporter and Turtle gal pal] because that's what that character is. She's dogged, she's looking for the story, she wants to do the right thing, she wants to help, and Megan is very much that."
He was impressed with the way Fox, who discovered she was pregnant with her second child two weeks into the shoot, threw herself into the part.
"She's a gamer, as we say in the US, and she kind of wants to put herself out there and do great work. She also likes the physical parts of making this movie too. There's a lot of running around and jumping around and fighting bad guys and she's quite good at being the action gal. She claims that she could be a stunt person."
Fox, for her part, relished the opportunity to act opposite Arnett, whom she had adored since the under-rated early 2000's sitcom Arrested Development, in which he excelled as cloddish magician 'Gob'. To test her chops against an actor she admired was both enjoyable and challenging.
"I was excited for him to come on board because I am a big Arrested Development fan. He has a lot of big laughs in the movie too, and it was just nice to have someone next to me who is also a parent and, in that sense, has the same priorities that I have now too."
Critics have not been kind to TMNT, released in the US in August, but it's generally agreed that Fox is one of the best things in the film - and, moreover, that her turn will go some way towards redeeming her in the eyes of Hollywood.
By dint of her appearance in the first two Transformers movies, in which she played glorified lad-mag bait, the industry seemed happy to write her off as a sex kitten, a magazine pin-up who had blundered her way into an screen career. However, she wanted the role in TMNT badly. "I fought really hard for it, and wrote a lot of emails."
Bruised by Transformers, it is clear Fox approached Ninja Turtles as a challenge and opportunity: could she make audiences buy into the idea of her playing a conventional lead in an action movie?
"Hollywood is still run by middle-aged men who are intimidated by an assertive woman," she said in a recent interview promoting TMNT. "I would argue to do something you'd see Shia [LaBeouf] do in Transformers, and the men involved in the movie would say it seemed 'bitchy'."
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is produced by Michael Bay, who, in 2007 plucked Fox from the obscurity of daytime soaps by casting her as the love interest in Transformers. Their subsequent relationship has been fractious to say the least, and it was widely assumed they would never work together again.
The bad blood flowed from an interview Fox gave to a UK magazine five years ago in which she likened Bay, known to run a tight ship, to a fascist dictator ("He wants to be like Hitler on his sets, and he is").
This brought down a whole world of woe on her head - in a letter, attributed to three anonymous Transformers crew and published on Bay's website, she was painted as a straight-up diva, referred to by those who worked with her as 'Ms Princess'.
"She's as about ungracious a person as you can ever fathom," thundered her anonymous detractors. "She shows little interest in the crew members around her. We work to make her look good in every way, but she's absolutely never appreciative of anyone's hard work. Never a thank you. All the crew-members have stopped saying hi to Ms Princess because she never says hello back. It gets tiring. Many think she just really hates the process of being an actress."
Fox felt hung out to dry, which she perceived as typical of the punishment meted out to strong women in Hollywood. The way the industry saw it, women were there to look pretty and stay schtum. She had challenged convention and would be made pay for her presumptuousness. "I got myself in this whole mess," was Fox's response.
"But it doesn't matter. I know that the things they said about me in the crew letter were not true, but Bay is not happy with some of the things I've said about him. I was waiting for someone to defend me, to say, 'That's not accurate', but nobody did. I think it's because I'm a girl. They left me out there to be bludgeoned to death."
Her career as an A-list movie star looked to be over. However, it appears her falling out with Bay is now all vitriol under the bridge and that relations are mended.
Speaking about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - a Bay project - Fox certainly appears to have had a positive experience. Indeed, she was so keen on doing the movie she was not dissuaded when, a fortnight in, she discovered she was to be a mother again.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is, in many ways, an exceedingly strange franchise. The characters' first appearance was in an independently published comic book in 1984. But the real breakthrough came in 1986, when the creators of the strip licensed a series of Ninja Turtle toys.
This, in turn, led to an animated series and catch-phrases such as "heroes in a half shell" and "turtle power". Originally rather dark and weird, by the late 1980s, Ninja Turtles were mainstream and inescapable, their likeness adorning cereal boxes, skateboards, pez dispensers and duvets.
"In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I was interacting with actors, playing the turtles through motion-capture technology instead of giant robots that were never really there. Also, having a dialogue with someone that is physically in front of you saying his lines changes everything you do and just makes it easier."
Ninja Turtles is doing well - its global box office already stands north of $320million - and will almost certainly revive Fox's career. She seems, to put not too fine a point on it, ambivalent about this. Her 'feud' with Bay left her shaken.
She also needs to decide what sort of actress she wishes, in the long run, to be. Perhaps naively, she'd sought, in her media appearances, to portray herself as a sort of Angelina Jolie 2.0 - sexual, quirky, tattooed and dangerous. Actually, she was a stay at home girl in a long-term relationship (with Beverly Hills 90210 actor Brian Austin Green, now her husband).
She has, it is true, drawn ridicule by complaining about the cost of celebrity - even while promoting the Turtles movie, in which she plays a journalist, she manages to have a dig at popular celebrity media - "I don't think that I would thrive in that industry because I would never want to cover frivolous things like celebrity news" - this from a woman who appears on red carpets and best dressed lists. However, parenthood appears to have mellowed her (she is mother to Noah, two and a half, and Bodhi, 18 months).
And articulate as she may be, there are still moments of little girl-ishness that are jarring with her sexy mom image. For example, when asked at the junket for the film if she'd ever had a pet turtle, her response was almost juvenile for a mother-of-two. "When I go to Hawaii there is a sea turtle I always visit that I named Franklin. I know who he is because he has an oozy left eye." Ooookay, Megan.
For Arnett, Ninja Turtles was ripe with opportunity. Through his career, he has always been cast as the oddball or lovable weirdo. He's made those roles his own, yet it is understandable he would crave more straightforwardly dramatic parts. TMNT is hardly Scorsese; nonetheless it gave Arnett a chance to demonstrate his range.
"I wanted to do something like this and had been looking for a while now. I used to talk about it with my friend who created Arrested Development, and he said to me, you should do some more action-y stuff. I am finding it to be really, really good. It's very hard, it's very physically demanding. The first time I had to do an actual fight scene, fighting 10 guys, I remember after the first take I thought, oh my God, this is incredibly difficult. But then you kind of get the hang of it and it's addictive."
With Bay producing, Arnett understand that TMNT would be over the top - albeit not nearly as camp as the early 2000s Ninja Turtles movies. However, he admits that he did this one for his children (with ex-wife Amy Poehler).
"I'm the voice of Batman in the Lego Movie sequel, and I'm in a Turtles movie, so I think I have the cool dad quadrant ticked off for the rest of my life."
The action is one thing, but how did he cope with the stunts?
"This film is produced by Michael Bay, so it's going to have that element of action and explosions that people come to love and expect from his films, so I think it will have that balance. There will be tons of action, it will be accessible; there will be comedic moments, but it is a bit of a departure for me in that sense."
Has it made him want to do more action movies? "Definitely. In doses though; I find that as long as I have access to ice and Advil, I am into it for sure."
TMNT previews on 11th and 12th October. It is on general release from 17th October.