Jonathan Liebesman is the hero in a half shell. The director, whose Wrath of the Titans opens March 30, is in final negotiations to helm the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie at Paramount.
Michael Bay and his Platinum Dunes partners Andrew Form and Brad Fuller are producing the live-action adaptation of what first was a cult black-and-white comic in the 1980s before turning into a kiddie sensation with a Saturday morning cartoon series and toyline. TMNT first leapt to the big screen with a hit 1990 movie from New Line that grossed $202 million worldwide, but two sequels generated diminishing returns. Warner Bros. gave it another go in 2007 with TMNT to merely fair results.
TMNT centered on four turtles given anthropomorphic qualities through a chance encounter with radiation. They take on the names of Renaissance artists – Leonardo, Raphael, Michaelangelo and Donatello – and, through the teachings of a rat-turned-sensei named Splinter, hone ninja fighting skills to combat their arch-nemesis, an evil martial artist named Shredder. The brand prompted a slew of merchandising (Halloween costumes, video games, clothing).
Scott Mednick and Galen Walker, who produced the 2007 film, are also producing the new iteration, which was written by Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec (they wrote Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol for the studio).
Paramount has been developing a new live-action take on the property since 2009, when it purchased global rights to the brand for $60 million with the goal of producing a feature for its Nickelodeon label and a new animated TV series. Nickelodeon Movies made unsuccessful attempts to launch franchises with the book-based Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) and The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008), while recent releases have included The Last Airbender and Rango.
The search for a director for the TMNT film has heated up in the last several months, with Brett Ratner also in consideration to take on the franchise.
Repped by CAA and Principato-Young Entertainment, Liebesman first sharpened his katana in the horror field with Darkness Falls and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, which was the first time he worked with Platinum Dunes. He then made the indie thriller The Killing Room, but it was his sci-fi war movie Battle: Los Angeles that convinced the town that he could orchestrate mayhem on a much larger scale. It grossed $212 million worldwide.