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The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film might be remembered by most with nostalgia and fondness, but in retrospect, the larger franchise wasn’t exactly an example of smooth sailing. The films varied sharply in quality, some of the characters were recast for a wide variety of reasons and there was even a lot of on-set injuries that were allegedly covered up.
That last bombshell just came out, thanks to original April O’Neil actress Judith Hoag. She sat down with Variety for an extensive interview, and in it, she opened up about some allegedly non-union conditions she found deplorable.
“They had all these stunt people who came in from Hong Kong, who had no union protections. They were getting hurt. As soon as they were injured, they were shipped out of there. It was not the safest set to be on. That’s a little distressing. People are doing the movie, doing the best they can on the budget and I think producers lose sight sometimes there are actual human beings involved.”
The accusation sounds pretty damaging. If the movie were made more recently, it would probably lead to a pretty big investigation too, but just because Judith Hoag put it out there doesn’t necessarily make it true. In fact, there are some reasons to think she may have been a bit out of the loop.
Because of her commitments to the Robin Williams film Cadillac Man, she only flew in during the weekends to shoot her scenes. In addition, we know she was very concerned about the level of violence in the film, to the point where she spoke to producers about it. In fact, that’s probably the most important reason why she was recast for Round 2, and it makes one think she was likely more jumpy and squeamish about people getting injured during these scenes than she might have otherwise.
Does that mean she didn’t have a right to be pissed, though? No. If Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles really was shipping in stuntmen from Hong Kong and simply shipping them back home when they got hurt, that’s as devious of a scheme as anything Shredder and Krang ever tried to pull off. The Foot Clan are people too, damnit. They’re people too.
Because of the length of time that’s passed, it’s unlikely anyone will kick the tires around too much over this allegation, but if it leads to increased safety measures on the set of the next Ninja Turtles flick, then job well done, Judith Hoag. Job well done.