Of course Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance needed a director who was familiar with high intensity, big action films, and we got two of them: Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the team behind the Crank films and Gamer. Both recently sat down with Dread Central’s Nomad to discuss the project.
The two directors came from very different backgrounds with regard to comic books. “I personally knew nothing about Ghost Rider,” Mark Neveldine said. “I didn’t see the first movie. Other than reading The Hulk as a kid, I wasn’t really a comic book guy so I didn’t know much about it until it got brought up to us.”
Co-director Brian Taylor was the complete opposite. “I was a comic book freak,” Taylor said. “Anything Marvel Comics. I wanted to be a comic book artist. That was the first thing I wanted to be. I would go to comic book conventions and do the art contests, and I would always win. We were probably destined to do a Marvel Comics superhero movie, but this is the perfect character for us.”
There’s been a lot of talk about the excellent 3D featured in the film, which the directors experimented with to perfect. “We wanted to push the envelope of 3D,” Neveldine said. “And we didn’t want to compromise the way we shoot in order to do 3D. We did a lot of prep work. There’s this whole rulebook for 3D… you can’t do this, you can’t do that, you can’t do handheld cameras, you can’t do soft foregrounds. And we were like, we do all that stuff so let’s just find a way to make it work.”
Although the use of 3D and big F/X was appealing, the biggest draw for the duo was the film’s star. “It was really all about (Nic) Cage,” Taylor said. “As movie fans from our era, Cage is god. So to actually walk on set and go to work and Nic Cage is in front of your camera is pretty surreal.” And the directors drew upon Cage’s natural abilities to enhance the Ghost Rider character. “We told Nic, ‘We want you to approach this as a dual role. You’re playing Johnny Blaze, but you’re also playing Zarathos, which is a completely different character’,” Taylor said. “We told him we wanted him to develop a physicality and a style of movement that is distinctive.”
Wanting to improve on the original film, the directors did things a bit differently. “In the first film Ghost Rider’s movements tend to be generic because it wasn’t a singular vision. It was done by CGs and stunt guys,” Neveldine said. Taylor added, “We had the vision of Nic Cage, who’s probably one of the most creative actors in the history of acting, so we wanted his take on what that demon would do. And so every Ghost Rider scene has… I don’t want to call it personality… but demonality. It has something recognizable and you get that character. It’s very Nic.”
As far as the Rider’s presence, which can be described as a praying mantis and a pharaoh, Neveldine said, “We had a lot of creative meetings with Nic. He (Ghost Rider) has this regal presence but also something bestial about him. Nic is incredibly cerebral in everything he does, no matter how outrageous or huge or strange. There’s a reason for it, and he can explain it to you. He’s not random.”
And horror fans will be happy to know that Neveldine and Taylor did their best to make Ghost Rider as scary as possible, even with the PG-13 rating. “We wanted to treat Ghost Rider as a horror character more than a superhero,” Taylor said. “He’s a demonic presence, and he doesn’t really discriminate. And if you make a deal with him, you’re making, literally, a deal with a demon, so you’d better be careful. We thought the whole idea of the character… let’s treat him like a horrifying thing. You would not want to be in the same room with that creature. There’s nothing cute or funny about the Ghost Rider.”
“We didn’t have to water him down,” Neveldine said. “He could be as demonic as you like. And the goal is to get the kids in the seats and give them nightmares.”
As for now, Neveldine and Taylor are ready to unleash Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance into theaters. “We want audiences to feel like it’s a comic book movie like they’ve never seen before,” Taylor said. “We wanted some bigger than life performances, especially with guys like Idris (Elba), just this big movie star performance he gave us playing this French drunk monk. Overall we wanted everything to be darker and really separate this movie from the original in every way, shape and form.”
And when asked about the pair moving forward with the Ghost Rider series, Neveldine said, “We just want to see the fans enjoy this take. If they like it, then hell yes!”
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, starring Nicholas Cage, Johnny Whitworth, Ciaran Hinds, Fergus Riordon, Idris Elba, Violante Placido and Christopher Lambert, opens everywhere this Friday, February 17th.
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