“Footage” Surfaces For R-Rated ‘TMNT’ Reboot, Marvel Star Was Set For Lead Role

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Kristen Dunst as Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man 2002

Credit: Sony Pictures / Marvel Studios

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans have been waiting a very long time for an R-rated TMNT reboot. But has that ship already sailed?

While Paramount Pictures have a bunch of upcoming Ninja Turtles projects, one of which is an animated TMNT reboot from producer Seth Rogen titled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (2023), it’s unlikely any of them will lean into the darker territory in which the Ninja Turtles were first introduced back in the 1980s in the Mirage Comics.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) official poster - turtles lifting the manhole cover
Credit: New Line Cinema

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Luckily, the ongoing IDW Publishing “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” comic book series has brought us closer to an R-rated retelling with “The Last Ronin” (2021), a series that echoes the dark tone of those early comics. Recently, it even got a brand-new prequel series, which introduces four new Ninja Turtles, two of whom are female.

In fact, “The Last Ronin” has been so well-received by fans that last year, someone created their very own fan-made short and uploaded it to YouTube, which gave us a taste of what an R-rated TMNT reboot would feel like. Whether or not such a project will ever happen, though, remains to be seen, although it does seem unlikely.

Michelangelo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin
Credit: IDW Publishing

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Along with Seth Rogen’s Mutant Mayhem, there’s also another live-action TMNT reboot in the works from producer Michael Bay, which is not expected to follow on from the previous two live-action films. Paramount Pictures also confirmed that there are a number of films heading to Paramount+, each of which will focus on villains from the TMNT franchise.

Whether or not any of those films will adopt a darker tone is also unknown, but it was recently revealed that we came very close to a TMNT spin-off film featuring a non-Ninja Turtle character, which would have also answered our prayers for an R-rated TMNT reboot. With that said, perhaps it would have taken the violence a little too far.

Raphael poster for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Credit: Paramount Pictures

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Filmmaker Jason Eisener, director of the incredibly violent cult horror film Hobo With a Shotgun (2011) and Kids vs Aliens (2011), recently took to Twitter to reveal a “pitch trailer” he made a few years ago for a Ninja Turtles reboot/spin-off movie that would have focused on the hockey stick-wielding vigilante Casey Jones.

Check out the tweet below, which contains the link to the video (although you’ll have to create an account in order to view):

“Five years ago I pitched a Casey Jones standalone film to Paramount with Shredders daughter Karai as the heel. The final act saw Casey team up with Raphael who was too look like he stepped out of the 1990 film. Here’s the tone reel I made.”

Related: Paramount May Be Releasing an Open-World ‘Ninja Turtles’ Game In 2023

The reel is a compilation of footage from several films, including The Raid 2 (2014), Maniac Cop (1988), and even the original live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) film. And sounding off in response to the tweet is Marvel and DC actor Joe Manganiello, who reveals that he almost came close to playing Casey Jones in that same film.

Here’s what he says in his tweet:

“About ten years ago, Paramount wanted to make something with me and I said I wanted to play Casey Jones… I would have done this in a heartbeat.”

Joe Manganiello as Flash Thompson in Spider-Man 2002
Credit: Sony Pictures / Marvel Studios

Related: ‘TMNT’ Prequel Follows ‘Ghostbusters’ Reboot, Replaces Beloved Heroes With Female Turtles

It’s not hard to imagine Manganiello play a rough-around-the-edges character like Casey Jones, who has previously been played by Elias Koteas (the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film series), Stephen Amell in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016), and voiced by Chris Evans in the animated sequel TMNT (2007).

Manganiello, 46, is best known for portraying high school bully Flash Thompson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002), opposite Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Kristen Dunst’s Mary Jane Watson. He would later play Gotham City villain Deathstroke in Justice League (2017) and Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021), a role that was uncredited.

Stephen Amell as Casey Jones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Credit: Paramount Pictures

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In hindsight, though, given Jason Eisner’s track record in gory filmmaking (not to suggest that Hobo With a Shotgun isn’t huge fun), perhaps he’s not the best director for a TMNT film, even if it is a spin-off featuring a side-character in the lead. With that said, it does give some food for thought as to the huge potential this franchise has in the R-rated arena.

Currently, it looks like fans are crying out for a live-action adaptation of “The Last Ronin”, which would easily warrant an NC-17 rating, at the very least. But we may end up with a gory Ninja Turtles film either way, as the director of Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey (2023) recently admitted that he’d like to do a TMNT horror movie!

Michelangelo screaming in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Out of the Shadows
Credit: Paramount Pictures

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (2023) will be released in theaters on August 4, 2023.

Mutant Mayhem will be the seventh TMNT film, following Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993), TMNT, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin — The Lost Years” Issue #1 and Issue #2 are on sale now. Kevin Eastman recently confirmed that the series will run five issues with a one-shot called “Lost Day”, which will lead into “The Last Ronin 2”.

Michelangelo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin
Credit: IDW Publishing

Do you think Joe Manganiello would have made a good Casey Jones? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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