The M Interview: Stephen Amell as Casey Jones in new TMNT movie
Split with girlfriend led Stephen Amell, star of latest Ninja Turtles movie, to Hollywood and gave him his big break
Best known for his role as Oliver Queen aka crime-fighting DC Comics superhero Green Arrow in the TV series Arrow, hunky Canadian actor Stephen Amell now plays another type of vigilante on the big screen - Casey Jones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows.
Opening here tomorrow, the sci-fi action comedy sequel to the 2014 movie sees the titular foursome, Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael, returning to save the world from a new bunch of bad guys, including old enemy The Shredder, who escapes custody and teams up with a mad scientist (Tyler Perry) trying to destroy humanity.
Megan Fox and Will Arnett reprise their roles as news reporters April O'Neil and Vern Fenwick respectively, while Amell, 35, is the new addition as Fox's love interest and the Turtles' latest hockey stick-wielding ally.
At the Ritz Carlton hotel in New York City where he was promoting Out Of The Shadows, Amell is upbeat and friendly, dressed down in a T-shirt and sneakers.
Since our favourite "heroes in a half shell" are motion-captured and voiced by actors, a lot of CGI is involved - a process that Amell wasn't exactly fond of.
"The first major scene that I shot was where Casey meets the Turtles for the first time. I'm dealing with the fact that there are metal rods coming out of the top of their heads and ping pong balls up here for their eyes.
"I felt like I got it by about lunchtime on the first day, but at one point I was like, 'Ugh, this is tough'. Megan asked, 'What's tough?' And I said looking above their heads is hard. And she said 'Really? Try looking at Optimus Prime (in the Transformers movies, which Fox starred in) - he's four storeys tall and there's nothing there, deal with it'. Fair enough," he recalls with a laugh.
Fighting as Jones was very different from doing the same as Green Arrow as the former isn't a trained fighter.
Amell says: "He's very much a brawler. I worked with a fight coordinator and stunt choreographer. The nice thing on this movie is that I didn't know if because this was a big feature film they would let me do stunts. They let me do basically everything that I wanted to do on this movie which was a very, very welcome turn of events. There's only one stunt in the entire film that I don't do and it's when I get crashed into a car."
He talks about how he left his hometown of Toronto for the bright lights of Hollywood in 2009 after splitting with his ex-girlfriend and feeling "heartbroken and adrift".
Once Amell got to Los Angeles, he started auditioning at once and "two years basically to the day was my 10th American job, which was Arrow".
He adds: "And then nearly three years later I finally got an opportunity to do a feature film within the schedule of Arrow... and now here we are."
Is he grateful to his former love for breaking up with him then? He says with a laughs: "I thank her every day. I text her every day. She changed her number."
Professionally and personally, he has definitely moved on.
Four years ago, he married US model-actress Cassandra Jean and they have a 2½-year-old daughter.
Being on Arrow has also changed his life, especially when it comes to fan encounters.
"People always ask me to lift my shirt up because they think my abs are fake. I didn't know that (US TV network) The CW was going to put me shirtless on an Arrow poster and then put it on buildings that were seven storeys tall.
"One time I did it. I was at Comic-Con and I was rushed around so much that I hadn't had a proper meal in four days and my abs looked fantastic," he says laughingly.
The M Interview: Will Arnett is back in TMNT for his sons
Canadian funnyman Will Arnett is back for another go-round as wise-cracking, scene-stealing cameraman Vern Fenwick in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows.
And it's all because of his two sons, aged six and eight. Arnett's ex-wife is US actress Amy Poehler.
At an interview at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, the 46-year-old, who will be reprising his voice role as Batman in next year's The Lego Batman Movie, is all buttoned up in a suit, but you can't button down that sense of humour.
What made you return to TMNT?
When the first one came around, my kids loved the Ninja Turtles and Nickelodeon had this animated series, and as a parent, I am forced to watch a lot of things that my kids watch (laughs).
And I liked the show. I thought it was funny and poignant and interesting, so when I heard that they were making the movie at (movie studio) Paramount, I wanted to be a part of it.
I was happy that we resonated with an audience and given an opportunity to make another one, I said yeah, I am game.
Any standout moments?
There were a lot of those "this is kind of crazy" moments. The first sequence we shot was at Madison Square Garden during an actual (New York) Knicks game, Knicks vs (LA) Clippers. We had four or five blocks of time that were TV timeouts during the game where they would go to a commercial break, and then all of a sudden, our crew would rush out with handhelds and Steadicams, and if you are in the stands, it would just look like they were doing interviews.
(US actor) Jason Sudeikis was actually at the game and he was texting me and was, like, 'Man, you keep doing the same interview'. And I said, 'No, we are shooting the thing'.
Because I had to do this bit where they hit me with a pea shooter and I got to spin around and he said 'weird, you keep moving your head around'. He is not a smart guy (laughs).
We only had four or five opportunities and there wasn't a lot of margin for error. And there are 18,000 people watching you.
Did your kids go to the set?
The best part is saying to them, 'Oh, come to the set, the Turtles are going to be there'. And then it's just the guys in the leotards. And they say, 'Where are the Turtles?' and I am, like, 'Well, welcome to showbiz'.
Like you, Stephen Amell is also originally from Toronto. Did you guys bond over that?
Yeah, we did. We both went to all-boys schools and we had that kind of connection. Canadians are very friendly with each other and we kind of seek each other out, so it was great to have him aboard. Stephen has got great energy and is a great young dude and I was happy to have him around.
How was it working with Megan Fox again?
It's our third film together in, like, seven years. And I think she had a lot of fun on this one. We had a lot of scenes where we were shooting in the car and Stephen is driving and Megan and I are in the back seat. We were like two brothers and we were pretty rough on her and she was a really, really good sport and she could dish it back. The other thing is, my (younger) son has such a crush on her, it's so funny, he can barely talk to her. At one point, she grabbed him and was holding him in the chair and I got to snap the picture and he hated it but loved it (laughs).
In this sequel, you get the key to New York City. If you were really given one, what would you open?
The hotel rooms of really pretty girls (laughs). I joke about this, but what I would really want is a key to a subway car so I could (drive it) late at night. I think that would be so cool... imagine just cruising down the express track down the East Side.
BY THE NUMBERS
Worldwide box-office gross of 2014's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Year the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first appeared in the US comic book published by Mirage Studios
Number of TV series and films produced by Michael Bay, including TMNT: Out Of The Shadows
Number of TMNT feature films made since the 1990 original
Number of weeks taken to build the Turtles' lair in Brooklyn's historic Brooklyn Armory in Park Slope for Out Of The Shadows
The year Megan Fox became a breakout star with Bay's Transformers
Fox is the fourth actress to portray April O'Neil in the TMNT movies