Cowabunga! ‘Hunger Games’ Tribute Alan Ritchson Joins ‘Ninja Turtles’

Movie Talk

We hope Alan Ritchson likes pizza... if it's indeed still the favorite food of the rebooted versions of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Despite production delays due to budget constraints and frequent fan outrage over some radical changes to the Turtle mythology (such as cutting "Teenage" and "Mutant" from the title), it looks like it's now full steam ahead for the Michael Bay-produced "Ninja Turtles," the new live-action adaptation of the comic book series created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. "Transformers" alum Megan Fox will be playing feisty reporter and Turtle pal April O'Neil, and now the first of the four wisecracking, ass-kicking reptiles has been cast.

Alan Ritchson will be playing Raphael, arguably the most popular of the four turtles (including Leonardo, Donatello and Michelangelo) that defend New York City from The Shredder and other forces of evil. Raphael's the one with the red bandana and the twin sai as his primary weapon, with his aggressive, sullen nature making him especially identifiable with adolescent boys struggling with mood swings and raging hormones. Raphael, named after the 16th century Italian painter, also has something of a rebellious streak, often striking out on his own as a vigilante and raising the ire of Master Splinter, his giant rat sensei.

Raph was voiced by three different voice actors in the three live-action "Turtles" movies: Josh Pais, who also did the body work, in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (1990); Laurie Faso in the unfortunately titled "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze" (1991); and Tim Kelleher in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III" (1993). Nolan North provided Raph's voice in the well-received animated feature, "TMNT" (2007), in which he moonlighted as a rogue crimefighter called Nightwatcher.

Ritchson will be stepping into the role as he wraps production on "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," in which he plays Gloss, the deadly dagger-wielding tribute from District One. Ritchson's training as a (possible) champion of the Capitol will serve him well in "Ninja Turtles," as the performance will incorporate motion capture a la "Avatar" rather than the (admittedly awesome) full body suits created by The Jim Henson Company for the live-action trilogy. Ritchson is certainly no stranger to larger-than-life and super-physical roles, having played DC superhero Arthur Curry/Aquaman on the CW's "Smallville."

Unless there are any further setbacks, "Ninja Turtles" will commence with production this spring with a look toward a release date of June 6, 2014. Jonathan Liebesman ("Wrath of the Titans") will direct the turtle power.