Q: Hey William. How did you get involved in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Were you a fan of the comic or animated TV series and pursue the role?
A: It is something that came up pretty quickly. I had just finished shooting a period piece with Tommy Lee Jones called The Homesman in a little place called Las Vegas, New Mexico. Not Las Vegas, Nevada, but Las Vegas, New Mexico. My manager called and said, ‘There will be a script waiting for you when you get home. Read it. I hope you like it because if you do you are leaving the next day to work on it’. He said, ‘I’ve read it and I’m telling you right now, I know the things you’re looking for, but just read the whole thing’. I said, ‘What’s the name of it? They’re closing the door on the plane’. He said, ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’. Then he hung up (laughs). I got home and read it that night and thought, ‘It’s really good’. It’s not something I thought would be the next journey. Obviously the Ninja Turtles were not part of my youth, but after talking to (the director) Jonathan Liebesman this is anything but cartoon based. It’s grounded in a way that’s going to surprise people.

Q: Can you talk about your character Eric Sacks and how he fits into the movie?
A: It’s hard for me to describe. Eric Sacks is a very wealthy gentleman. I’m hoping in the telling of this story Eric will be one person and as time goes by you see many sides. That was part of what was so appealing about doing this in the first place. When I read the script the first time and got to page 25 I called my manager back and said, ‘I’m in. This Eric Sacks guy – it’s a really good part’. He said, ‘Read three more pages’. So I read three more pages and I said, ‘OK. There’s a different side to Eric Sacks’.

Q: Did you do the ninja fighting yourself or did you have a stuntman?
A: You bet I had other people stepping in (laughs). I had a guy who did my ninja stuff who is so amazing. He does things that you can’t believe he just did. I’m not just talking about interesting moves. We were on set and somebody said, ‘You have to go online and see this video he put together’. They showed it to the producer and he’s doing things on this video that make you go, ‘What!’ His video exploded on YouTube.
Q: Like what?
A: This guy can stand there and do a front flip without moving his arms. The producer showed it to Jonathan and within five minutes they said to this guy, ‘We were just watching your video. Can you do that?’ He did and it was in the movie.

Q: It seems like the script kept evolving while you were shooting.
A: What started off as a really good script got better. They made changes for Eric Sacks all of the time. I feel like the writers and director really raised the character. As an actor I couldn’t be happier, but it’s a little crazy sometimes. The first day I came I had 1/8th of a page, a little tiny scene, and I walked through the door and the second assistant director said, ‘Here’s your scene for the day’. I said, ‘I have it’ and he said ‘No, you have a monologue’. They were inspired to do different things with my character. They wanted to play with the guy and fill him out. I was fine with it. I said, ‘Just give me five minutes and I’ll be ready’.

Q: You didn’t have much time to prepare for the role, but did you read the Ninja Turtles comics or watch the TV series?
A: There are certain things I’ve worked on in my life like Black Hawk Down and The Perfect Storm that are stories based on true stories. There are still people around who are familiar with the people involved. In that circumstance, I want to find out about the military aspect of it or the way fishermen in Massachusetts are. With this film, I’m more interested in the story they want to tell. I can go back and read a million things about the turtles, but I was more interested in the story this director wanted to tell.

Q: Without giving too much away, can you talk a little more about the story and Eric Sacks’ role in it?
A: Sure. The turtles and Splinter are mutants. What they have been mutated with is human DNA. Splinter has human DNA from someone. The turtles have human DNA from someone else. The character of Eric Sacks has an investment in these turtles that goes a lot deeper than just wanting to defeat them. He wants them for other reasons. I found that twist alone is way beyond, ‘I want to win’.
Q: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans are very protective about the characters and story. Were you a little nervous about how the hardcore fans would react to the movie?
A: I can’t take on if someone is upset about how it should be. I can tell you this. This story is not ignoring the roots.

Q: With Michael Bay as the producer, we can all expect big set pieces and explosions. Can you talk about some you were involved in.
A: I worked on Armageddon so I know all about big Michael Bay set pieces (laughs). But, you know what, I love that there has been a huge commitment to shoot this movie in New York. The whole thing. We have been to locations around the city and turned them into set pieces that are amazing. We shot a scene on top of a building in Times Square. That’s a big set piece. We didn’t have to build the building (laughs), but when the camera spins around we’re not faking the skyline of Manhattan. I think if you’re going to shoot a film in New York, show New York. If you’re going to spend the money to be here, show New York. We’re not in Cincinnati, Ohio, pretending to be in New York.

Q: You’ve been in some huge films and TV series. I saw you at Comic-Con and fans were so excited to see you. Do you enjoy the fame, red carpets and other aspects that being a Hollywood star brings?
A: You know, I’m 83-years-old so it’s about time (laughs). No, It’s all fun. The true joy is in the doing. I love the premieres because it’s a chance to get as many tickets as I can so I can take my goofball friends. That’s the big pay off at the end of the day. I always take a lot of joy. I’m not one of these people who are like, ‘Arghhhhh’. I can’t do that. I have to find something that’s positive.

Q: How does Jonathan compare with all of the great directors you have worked with?
A: There’s something I’ve learned from everybody. That’s just life. Like what I said earlier, the script I first read has changed. More than half the days I worked we had new material. Jonathan would have new ideas. We’d be writing new things five minutes before we shot them. I always thought his new ideas were better than what was originally on the page. To be on a Michael Bay-produced set with four wild turtles running around, you have to have some imagination and be able to step away and see what’s going on. Jonathan, in the middle of the craziness of it all, can look at that monitor and can see the piece that’s missing. There is no time Jonathan has ever said to me, ‘I think we should try this’ that I didn’t think he was absolutely correct. When Jonathan had something he needs to share I listen because I think he has a great eye.

Q: Was there a show or comic you loved as a kid that you’d like to see turned into a movie?
A: (Laughs) The only cartoon I loved I don’t think you could turn into a movie. It was a thing called Top Cat. There were all of these cats living in garbage cans. There was TC, Benny and Officer Dibble. I just wanted so bad to have my own garbage can. I don’t think it would make a great movie (laughs). I think I better just leave that one to myself.

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