David Forman, a prolific stunt coordinator and stunt performer who’s been active since the mid-1980s, served as Leonardo’s in-suit actor in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” Longtime “The Muppets” puppeteer Michelan Sisti and creature performer turned location manager Leif Tilden similarly donned the 70-pound costumes to portray Michelangelo and Donatello during filming. All three actors “wanted to play the voice, and it wasn’t fair to not give them a chance to be the voices,” Barron told THR. In hindsight, he admitted, it “was obvious it was going to change. But we didn’t know as we were making the film. We had no volunteers or stars saying, ‘We’ll do the voice.'”
Pais, in his own comments to THR, said he was told his physical performance was a little too closely attuned to Raphael’s vocal mannerisms for his voice to be replaced by another actor:
“Raphael’s New York accent was my decision. They went along with it. I was actually the only actor that it’s my voice and I’m in the body. I think it was because this physical way of moving, they just said it was so connected to the voice that we can’t see anyone else doing it. I brought that to it. It wasn’t in the script.”
Tochi, by comparison, revealed that two other actors were hired and then fired to voice Leonardo before he came aboard. “I thought, ‘What the hell does a turtle sound like?'” he explained. “It came down that they were looking for something that was kind of surfer-dude-y. I said, ‘Ah, that I know!'” Likewise, Rist said his inflections as Michelangelo were inspired by the uptick in “surf-speak” (e.g. using words like “gnarly” and “dude”) among his peers after the release of Martha Coolidge’s hit teen rom-com “Valley Girl” in 1983.