The first thing people want to know about the Ghost Rider sequel is how will it be different from the first film. So who better to answer the question than Nicolas Cage:
“I don’t want to compare too much between the two movies, but I will say that this movie is going to have some genuinely scary and wild moments that are going to make you wonder what you just saw. Moments that are for lack of a better word: freaky. You are going to be like, ‘Did I just see that happen?’ Hopefully it will mess with your mind, which is what I’m excited about.”
What you just read comes from an extended interview with Cage on the set of Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance. Last year, when the production was filming in Romania, I got to visit the set with a few other online reporters. We conducted group interviews with the cast and watched some filming. It was an awesome experience. Besides talking about the differences between the two films, Cage discussed working for Neveldine/Taylor, his passion for the character and the comic, the great cast, the stunts and the action scenes, the new bike, and a lot more. Hit the jump to either read or listen to the interview.
Before going any further, if you haven’t seen the new trailer, I’d watch that first. Here’s the synopsis:
Nicolas Cage returns as Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance. In the successor to Ghost Rider, Johnny – still struggling with his curse as the devil’s bounty hunter – is hiding out in a remote part of Eastern Europe when he is recruited by a secret sect of the church to save a young boy (Fergus Riordan) from the devil (Ciaran Hinds). At first, Johnny is reluctant to embrace the power of the Ghost Rider, but it is the only way to protect the boy – and possibly rid himself of his curse forever. Directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.
As usual, I’m offering you two ways to get the interview: you can either click here for the audio, or the full transcript is below. Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance opens February 17.
Nicolas Cage: I’m thrilled and very happy to work with Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor and experience their vision of the movie, which is a completely original take on it.
Now probably this movie wouldn’t have happened if you didn’t decide to do it. I assume they would have to start from scratch. I was curious about the connection between this movie and the first movie because it seems like there’s not so much besides you. I was curious about how you felt about that.
Cage: I feel that we got up to something really interesting with the first movie and I’m very happy with the first movie, as I know he is and even Brian likes the first movie, but it really ends there. It’s a completely different experience. For me, John Blaze, his head is already ignited so when you meet him, he’s in a much different place in this movie than in the other movie. It’s almost a completely different character in many ways. A much edgier, almost cynical interpretation than the original or than the Ghost Rider movie. In that movie John was trying to keep everything at bay and so he’s trying to almost pacify himself with these kind of absurd habits that he was forming to keep things from erupting. In this one, he’s already been living in isolation in Romania. When you meet him, he’s a much different kind of persona.
We know you are a big comic book fan. You’ve had opportunities to be in other comic book movies and other characters over the years but now you are Ghost Rider. That’s the character you will be indentified with. Can you talk about your passion for that character and that comic?
Cage: Well, he was always interesting to me. Ever since I was a child, I gravitated towards the monsters, be it The Hulk or Ghost Rider. I couldn’t understand the complexity of something that looked that scary but also was in some way “good”. To me that already gave it a level of depth that seemed to be missing in some of the other characters. For someone who was interested in becoming an actor, that made sense that I would gravitate towards that. I’m very happy with the way this worked out. This was the character that Marvel and I teamed up on.
Is this more of a monster movie than the first one? Is that what you wanted to do with the second one? To make it more of a classic monster feel?
Cage: I don’t want to compare too much between the two movies, but I will say that this movie is going to have some genuinely scary and wild moments that are going to make you wonder what you just saw. Moments that are for lack of a better word: freaky. You are going to be like, “Did I just see that happen?” Hopefully it will mess with your mind, which is what I’m excited about.
Cage: You are going to see a lot of it in terms of that style. Just want to talk about Mark Neveldine for a minute, what’s fascinating about him is he’s not like any other director I’ve worked with. He’s literally 40% stuntman. He’s on rollerblades with the camera hanging on wires. He’s getting shots that no other director can really get. I think he’s smart to have put a patent on this whole thing because he’s the only one really doing it. He’s routinely risking his life to get these extraordinary, high adrenaline shots. He’s perfect for the modern age of extreme sports and high-octane adrenaline junkies who go out and do bungee jumping and skydiving. Mark is that guy. He’s bringing it into cinema.
Brian, I owe this experience completely to Brian in terms of the Ghost Rider and that character. When I worked with Mark, we didn’t work on that because it was like a separate entity. With this one, it was very important to Brian to tap into what he thought I could lend to the Ghost Rider as a character in and of itself and not just John Blaze. A lot of thought went into that together and continues, even though we are only four days out; it continues to develop. I don’t want to talk too much about it because I want to keep it in the abstract for you. I don’t want to explain any of it away or label it.
Cage: Well, except that there is, and again I don’t want to label it. There is a kind of elegance, dignity to this Ghost Rider character within the violence. That’s all I want to say about it.
As an actor who’s made a lot of movies, I think people always look for through-lines in your work, whether it be Drive Angry and Season of The Witch where it’s good versus evil and evil really is the Devil. I was wondering does this subject interest you a lot lately? Doing these movies with a similar type theme.
Cage: Well it’s no secret that I’ve always had an interest in mythology. Whether it’s Arthurian or ancient greek or even Marvel universe. I’ve always connected with it on some level. These are like abstract archetypes that trigger emotions in people whether they are aware of it or not consciously it still lands, it still has an impact. Somewhere along the way I thought if I’m dealing in some kind of fantastical landscape I can get as violent as I want and give you as many entertaining thrills as I want without resorting to slasher or gratuitous violence for violence’s sake. We are dealing in a much more fantastic landscape.
Nic, can you talk about working here and living here for a few months and exploring the mythology and folktales that are part of this land?
Cage: I didn’t really get to do too much of that. The only thing I did do was go to this forest, which is quite well known. It’s thought of as the Bermuda Triangle of forests. It’s called the Hoia-Baciu forest. I did go there to see what it was like and I asked someone who was wandering through the forest, “Is this place haunted?” He looked at me, rolled down the window and paused for about 4 minutes just staring at me and he said, “Yes.” I said “In what way?” He said, “Have you seen the people who levitate with no legs?” [laughs] That was the only experience I had like that.
Is there some mythology that you haven’t tackled yet that you’d really like to?
Cage: As you know or maybe you don’t know, I’ve always like science fiction. Jules Verne and such. One day, one of my dreams is to someday get to do Nemo in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I think anything that opens my mind and triggers my imagination I’m reading. I like to read science fiction and imagine the character or even older works more poetic stuff like Yeats. Anything that keeps my imagination flowing. I don’t know how it will come out again, I just know that if I keep reading and keep looking at things it will hopefully inform me in some way.
Cage: There is, but it’s almost like trying to set up a borderland between material and imaginary or spiritual or crossroads to create a different character, a completely different aura or energy on the set for myself and for the other actors. The attitude and the presentation are completely different. That’s really all I’m going to say about Ghost Rider.
You have a hell of a supporting cast in this film…
Can you talk about these great actors that you worked with?
Cage: They are all very different and they are all extremely talented. Idris Elba is a grand actor. He’s very larger than life, he’s bigger than life. He’s got this presence about him, an incredibly masculine energy which he plays to wonderful effect as Moreau who’s a sort of alcoholic priest. Violante Placido is an Italian actress who has this mysterious, tragic charm about her which reminds me of when I was watching Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion. You don’t really know how she’s doing what she’s doing, but it’s coming through. Fergus Riordan who plays Danny, is the consummate professional. He’s not even 14 or 15 and he’s just always on time, totally efficient and really, really strong in his presence. He’s someone to really watch. You’re going to see a lot of him. Johnny Whitworth, who plays Blackout, there’s just something about the guy that just cracks me up! He’s scary, it’s like watching a train wreck or car accident; these things just come out of him that are full of surprises and quite tragic and funny at the same time. It’s a really good group. And they’re all approaching from different angles.
Cage: I’ve really had good luck working with younger actors. Every younger actor that I have worked with has always been really on top of their game and fascinating to watch. Fergus, I think will definitely transition into an adult career that will be exciting to watch.
It seems to be a very physically demanding movie with the bikes and the stunts. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Cage: Well, I was blessed with a really good motorcycle on this movie. Without sounding like a Yamaha commercial, I will be honest with you and say that that bike is totally in tune with what you want it to do. Maybe it’s because the company makes musical instruments, but it’s like this artistic relationship man and motorcycle and it’s a hell of a lot easier to get that bike to do what I want it to do while filming. On the other movie, I had a raked front-end chopper. When you have 400 people watching you making a movie, it doesn’t go where you want it to go. It’s a lot of pressure. This bike just performed effortlessly. I’m completely convinced that these are the best bikes in the world.
Cage: I think they can look forward to, going back to some of the Ghost Rider sequences, a really trippy, mess with your mind, freaked out, high adrenaline, wild energy in the photography and in what the actors are doing.
It seems like they are doing a lot more practical stuff on camera. Is that the case?
Cage: I don’t want to compare to the other movie. I can just tell you that this movie, they are putting a lot of thought into what they want to do. They are also giving it an improvisational style at times where there would be some surprises and spontaneity. There’s a kind of “Gonzo” attitude and also a very methodical approach as well. They are bringing a little bit of both, the best of both worlds.
Can you talk about a couple scenes that will cause an impact on people?
Cage: There’s a scene in the quarry, we call it “the quarry scene” where there are some moves that Ghost Rider gets into that I think will have you replaying it in your mind and wondering what was going on, like some of the moves within the action.
Will there be a bit of black comedy streak in the film?
Cage: Anything I do, I try to have some sort of humor in it somewhere in some way even if it is tiny. I’d like there to be a little bit of humor.
You filmed in Turkey. Something that’s really exciting to me is the on-location filming.
Cage: Well, the locations definitely were a character in the movie and also contributing to the energy of the performance for all of us. Turkey was a landscape I had not seen before, nothing like it. These spires of rock, with carved out areas of windows without glass where people would live 10,000 years ago in the Byzantine Empire. You’re overwhelmed by the alien appearance of it and at the same time, the idea that people were actually living in these places; it’s just so ancient. That was helpful to a character like Ghost Rider who’s ancient and a little more of that comes out in the movie. Hopefully, even in a subliminal or enigmatic way that was felt by all the actors.
Cage: It’s more about the interplay between Ghost Rider and John Blaze and how the two of them sort of inform each other and that’s quite a bit different. Also, trying to go into areas that are more enigmatic or abstract. When you’re playing a character like Ghost Rider, again without telling you what my thoughts are and I don’t want to label it but I want to be the kind of thing where you have to ask yourself, “What was I thinking?” or “What were we thinking?” because I don’t want him to be anything that you can relate to. I want him to be a completely alien entity to you and how you receive him. Anything I say to it will take away from that.
Is Johnny more comfortable with his role as Ghost Rider now or there still this turmoil between the two?
Cage: No, it’s still a very painful situation for him to have this spirit in him.
You shot Drive Angry in 3D. You shot this movie in regular 2D but is being converted. Have you studied the differences and what’s your overall view on the process and how it’s affecting movies?
Cage: I don’t really see that much difference. When I work, I really try to get absorbed in the character. Unless I want to do something playful with the camera, I’m not too worried about where the camera is or positions, unless I think about it in advance and discuss it with the director and say, “Well, how about we do a move like this and see what we can do about spatial relations and the format for 3D?” In some cases, this posed some complexity for Mark and Brian because you have to think how if one person obscures another person, what that does to the 3D and the depth of field and they have to think it through a little bit. But it hasn’t been, in any way, an impediment to production. It hasn’t slowed us down at all.
You’ve done a bunch of genre movies back to back, are you ready to go and play maybe an adaptation of Moonstruck like a normal guy again or are you having fun doing these kinds of roles?
Cage: Umm…a normal guy? That sounds kind of boring but possibly fun to do.
Cage: Yeah, he’s not normal at all. I do like characters that have flaws, some sort of pathos to them that they are trying to sort out.
Do you think it’s fair to pigeonhole this Ghost Rider film as a comic book movie or a superhero movie or do you think it’s something more than that?
Cage: I think a good movie is a good movie whether that falls into a genre or not. All movies on some level can aspire to be more than just whatever the label is of the movie. Avatar to me was more than a science-fiction movie, District 9 was more than a science-fiction movie, but they were wonderful science-fiction movies. But I was very upset about what was happening to the characters in District 9 and I made parallels to what happens in our world. I think any movie wants to operate on more than one level.
Do you see this as a reboot as much as it is a sequel?
Cage: No, I don’t see it as a sequel at all. I see this as Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. The other movie was Ghost Rider. This is Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, it’s a different movie.
Do you see this as being part of a new series or do you envision the story continuing?
Cage: We’ll see what happens, but yeah I could see them going in different dimensions with this.
Cage: There’s nothing really fashionable about it. It’s more like form following function. This is a real biker jacket, it’s something that someone who really rides would wear. It’s not something that Chrome Hearts would make. I just really played it more to my own personal look.
It seems like the film is going in a very practical, gritty look and feel. Is that actually what’s happening on screen?
Cage: I think so. I haven’t seen any of the movie and I’ve seen very little playback, but the energy of it feels pretty edgy and gritty.
Are you going to be involved in the post-production as well?
Cage: If they want me there, I’ll be there. I usually let the directors do what they want in post. My instinct is, they’re going to have to think about the quality of any sounds that Ghost Rider makes and we’ll have to talk about that together, but I have faith that they’re going to find something that will really be exciting to listen to.
For more on Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance: