Some dream projects inspired by a filmmaker’s preferred fandom never materialize and a lot of them don’t because they never reach farther than the creator’s imagination. Every fandom and IP has someone in Hollywood wishing and willing to put their own spin on the concept or a facet of it. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one such property.
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Between the comics, popular characters, the handful of action-packed films that spring into action each decade, and the ubiquity of their cartoon series over the years, it’s no wonder the Turtles developed a devoted following of creatives ready to crack some shells. But, in some cases, their hopes are quietly dashed, and details of their vision surface years later.
This is what happened to filmmaker and producer Jason Eisener, the mind behind Hobo With A Shotgun and Vice’s Dark Side of… documentary series. As he explains, Eisener tried to sell Paramount on a TMNT movie five years ago that concentrated on a beloved side character who’s not a Turtle or mutant. He wanted to make a film focusing on Casey Jones.
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Sharing a “tone reel” as proof of concept, Eisener tweeted, “Five years ago I pitched a Casey Jones standalone film to Paramount with Shredders daughter Karai as the heel [antagonist]. The final act saw Casey team up with Raphael who was [to] look like he stepped out of the 1990 film. Here’s the tone reel I made.”
Shy of two minutes long and featuring “I” by Dio, the reel is a montage of clips from several sources including the 1990 TMNT – in which Casey was played by Elias Koteas – 2009’s Warrior, Tango & Cash, Maniac Cop, Black Rain, and Stranger Things. Each image presented depicts hopelessness, hurt, crime, violence, dystopia, and rage in some way – usually on the streets of New York.
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Even though the reel is compellingly put together, Paramount clearly passed on the idea. If, however, Eisener had an actor ready to play Jones, they might’ve said yes. He’s a couple of years too late but Deathstroke and Magic Mike actor Joe Manganiello not only replied to Eisener expressing his interest but revealed he informed the studio of his desire to portray the self-styled vigilante.
“About ten years ago, Paramount wanted to make something with me and I said I wanted to play Casey Jones…” Manganiello tweeted. “I would have done this in a heartbeat.” Eisener, using a surprised-face emoji, tweeted back how amazing it would have been to have the actor – arguably an upgrade from Stephen Amell – in his movie.
Paramount went in a different direction with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows at the time, casting Amell, but barely scratching the surface of Casey Jones’ potential.
A standalone movie featuring Casey Jones could be made with a Joker or 1990 TMNT-level budget and reap massive rewards. The studio, though, appears content with Seth Rogen getting first dibs on an animated feature.
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