Masamune Talks Shredder Secrecy In “Turtles”

Just who is Shredder? In the lead up to the release of the reboot of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” this week, the idea that was generally being pushed was that actor William Fichtner and his Eric Sachs character would become the great adversary of the turtles, not Oroku Saki like in the comics, cartoons and previous live action films.

Then a trailer came out in which Sachs is seen talking to an Asian man in the shadows about upgrading his armor. It was a quick hint only though, and led to some confusion – was Fichtner originally Shredder and then someone else brought in during reshoots as reaction to the fan backlash?

With the film in cinemas, it has now been revealed that Japanese actor Tohoru Masamune is the person playing Shredder in the film. In fact, right from the start this fact is made clear and there is no big ‘reveal’ or mystery over his identity. So why the secrecy/confusion? Even Masamune himself doesn’t know, and was under strict orders to keep his role secret. He tells Movieweb:

“They told me that I couldn’t say anything until it opens. It’s been really weird not being able to tell my friends. Its like I was in the witness protection program or the CIA. But yeah, its something they wanted to keep a lid on. It’s supposed to be a surprise for fans. It will be interesting to see what the reaction is.

Hopefully it will be positive. I think it was a great move. I think that it will be fun for folks to realize that Shredder is indeed a rocky-socky Japanese dude, you know? Anybody who’s a fan knows that he is. So, that was nice. It’s interesting that they kept it secret. It’s awkward for me in certain ways, because it’s very weird for me to have a major role in a big feature, and not be able to tell people.”

So why keep a secret that has no real narrative impact, yet automatically led to a backlash and build up of anger amongst the very fan base the film was trying to court?

“The truth is, I’m with you on that. On top of that, I’m an Asain American! Hollywood loves doing that, taking an Asian character and making him white. Also, the books go so far back, so it’s always been part of the lore. I am with you on this. It’s hard. I can’t answer this. I wasn’t part of the decision making process.

I’m happy to be a part of the whole process and its been an amazing experience. I wanted to be very respectful to what Paramount wants. They are the ones making this all possible. I told them from the beginning, I was on board. Just let me know what I should say. They held to it. They told me not to say anything until it opens. I said, ‘All right.’

I’m guessing…I don’t know…Cause it did make people angry. At the end of the day, when I look at the ‘why’ or ‘what’, they obviously did the right thing. I’m happy that they used me. As a fan, I think they really did a good job remaining respectful. This isn’t some hack job Japanese caricature. It wasn’t classic Japanese theater. They wanted to make the character real, not some weird version of a Japanese dude.”

Masamune acknowledges he only shot two scenes for the film, then did the rest of his work during ADR as his character was then in the suit (and thus all CGI). So did they change the idea of having Eric Sachs be Shredder midway through shooting?

“Here’s the deal with that… If we’re talking about that…I don’t have much more input into that then you do. As a fan, I came in after William Fichtner was announced as Shredder. That’s why I was confused when I got the job. He was the first guy I worked with. It didn’t seem weird on the set, or anything like that. So, I don’t know.

At the end of the day, I was dealing with the director and some of the hands on producers, but I was not privy at all to anything that was going on upstairs at Paramount… As far as I could tell…Everything was just to make the story work, and not the result of any backlash. As a fan, I couldn’t speak to that any more than any true fan could, really.

But as far as I could tell, I came in after I’d heard he was Shredder, and I thought, ‘Hmm. This is kind of weird.’ He was acting like it was normal. I don’t know. I wish I could give you more details, but I’m really as much in the dark as you are. But I think, I didn’t sense…These stories always evolve. Even as we were working, we kept changing this part. It would change as we went along, and that seems to be something that happens on these kinds of movies.”