Johnny Blaze and Roxanne Simpson in the Marvel comic film
Comic book adaptations have become a staple in today's film entertainment - and the latest from Avi Arad's Marvel Entertainment is the motorcycle-driving Ghost Rider.
Nicolas Cage plays the bike stuntman, Johnny Blaze, who as a teen made a deal with the devil for his soul. Now, grown up, the devil is back to collect on his debt - to take down Mephistopheles' son, the evil Blackheart and his gang of ghosts.
Movieweb and SuperheroFlix had the chance to talk to Nic and Eva Mendes, who plays his love interest Roxanne Simpson.
And this isn't the only comic book film Eva's going to do - that is, if Nic has his way. Check out what they had to say:
Talk about what went into making this film.
Nicolas Cage: Some very creative people put a lot of hard movie into this movie; Kevin Mack, he drew those visual effects brilliantly with his team. And it's just a fun ride, it's a spooky ride; I hope to see these movies get a little more attention at some point.
Eva and Nic, how hard was getting into the intimate moment when you touch his flaming head?
Eva Mendes: Well I'm a 5 year old at heart; I still think that there is a monster under my bed - and I'm not joking. It's pathetic, it's really not cute; so, my imagination, I can go there in a second. Actually, I have the reverse problem; it's hard for me to control my imagination from not going there.
Nicolas Cage: Yeah, it's all about imagination, and that's what the comic books did for me as a boy. I read Ghost Rider and I read Hulk; I liked the monsters, I liked them because I couldn't understand how something so scary could also be so good. It got me thinking as a very early age, and I had a lot of rehearsal; I was Ghost Rider in my backyard at 8-years-old - nothing has changed.
What was your barometer in how far you could go?
Nicolas Cage: Well, that was what I was really excited about; I like the old grand Werewolf movies. And I always wanted to find a way to apply my acting in a big mad monster movie where I was transforming into this scary entity. And I worked with Kevin about where I thought I might go in terms of the physical expressions and he would take snapshots of them. So, I thought there'd be pain because the skin was melting off my face, but then maybe ecstasy the power of the Ghost Rider was surging through me and he was starting to get off on that a little bit. And then also sadness about what is happening; so, then he would download all these different facial expressions into the computer. And I would work with Mark on the day with the DP as to where the camera was going to go and match my moves with the camera. So, then it became like a dance and then wherever I had to go in that private place to come up with imaginary belief that I was transforming into this monster. I wanted it to be like an aria; I wanted even the screams to be like music, like an operatic aria.
Eva, your wardrobe is very revealing in the cleavage area; was that your idea?
Eva Mendes: It's obviously not my personal style, but yes, that was a choice that the director and I made; my character in the comic book, Roxanne, is very voluptuous, blonde hair, blue eyes, Caucasian and I'm not Caucasian. I'm a terrible blonde and I don't have blue eyes, so I figure, 'Hey, let's play up my voluptuous nature,' let's say. So, we did and in that way were honest to the real comic book heroine.
Nic, how frustrating is it that some people think your shirtless scene isn't real?
Nicolas Cage: Well, I guess on one hand it's a compliment, but on the other hand that's a lot of hard work and it's just getting written off that somebody just made did it digitally. It's a little frustrating.
What was something you really wanted in this character considering how involved you were in the production?
Nicolas Cage: It's a deeply personal character and I was trying to find a new way of presenting how he would keep dark spirits at bay. I didn't want him being a heavy drinker or a chain smoker. I wanted him eating jelly beans so he wouldn't invite the devils in. And I wanted him listening to Karen Carpenter to help him relax so he wouldn't allow the devil with satanic Goth rock or something. Or, he's watching chimpanzees do karate instead of The Exorcist. And all three of those things I was doing in my own life; I was eating jelly beans out of a martini glass and listening to Karen Carpenter and on the Internet watching chimps do karate. And I thought, 'Well this is funny, let's put it in the movie,' but it's also true.
You got your skull x-rayed for the film?
Nicolas Cage: Yeah, we did all that; they grafted my skull so I guess it is me, which is kind of wild. But what I really love about this character is that we're all him; we all have human skulls, right? You've got one, I've got one and we've all got one and yet we look at it and we go, 'That's scary.' And then after a little while you go, 'Wait a minute, that's beautiful; he's human and he's a total bad ass.' He's fighting the dark forces, but he's human; it's pretty neat.
Eva, your character got to kick some butt.
Eva Mendes: Yes, I was very happy. Mark (Steven Johnson) added that for me; he probably just felt bad since I had major superhero the entire shoot. I was like, 'I want my head to be on fire,' you know?
Nicolas Cage: Well, I have plans for her; I'm working on it. I want her to be the She-Hulk.
Eva Mendes: Oh, that's right; I'm gonna hold you to that. Wouldn't that be cool?
Nicolas Cage: That is what I'm working on; I have to talk to Avi about that.
Did you read the David Goyer script? It was much darker.
Nicolas Cage: Yeah, that was a good script; it was really good. Steve Norrington of Blade was directing and David wrote that script and I was on board for that; but, whatever happened, the studio didn't want to make it.
Because it was more R-rated?
Nicolas Cage: Yeah, that would have also been a good movie; but that movie dissolved and then Avi brought Mark in and I talked to Mark - and Mark found a way to make it more palatable to larger audiences. It became more of a spooky ride; you know you go to the amusement park and you have a rollercoaster and then you have the Haunted Mansion. This is just the right amount of scares to get your adrenaline up, but not so much that you can't finish the ride; it's something for the family.
What was it like working with Sam Elliott?
Nicolas Cage: Sam Elliott is an elegant cowboy; I used to be his neighbor in Malibu canyon. It's funny, we are from the same place, but he has a much more pronounced drawl then I do; and he comes off screen beautifully as this cowboy icon. I think his performance is very poetic - every word, every movement is precise and nothing is wasted.
What was it like working with Peter Fonda?
Nicolas Cage: That was a trip; Peter is the reason why I ride motorcycles. I saw Easy Rider and the next day I bought a Harley Davidson and went from LA to San Francisco and back to LA and became Captain America in my mind. So, when they decided to make this movie and we thought about who was going to play Mephistopheles, originally I wanted Tom Waits. But the studio decided with Mark with Peter and I thought about it and I said, 'That makes sense because who better to seduce a stunt man to sell his soul, but Captain America, Easy Rider himself. And we were there playacting together and there is this bike there and this is Peter there and he's talking. And I stepped out of myself and looked at the two of us and thought, 'This is really cool.'
Eva Mendes: I have to tell you my little Peter Fonda story because I love this story so, so much. So, we're hanging out on set and there is me and Peter and a couple of people and they are talking about Easy Rider. And I'm like, 'Shut, I didn't see it, I haven't seen it; I can't be part of this conversation. Ugh! I hate this.' So, I finally confess and say, 'Peter I'm so sorry, I never saw Easy Rider; I know it's a huge deal for American cinema.' And he's like, 'You never saw Easy Rider?' And I go, 'No.' So, he got a group of ten people together and we all met up at my director's apartment in Melbourne and he played the movie for me and he sat next to me, and I had a personal commentary by Peter Fonda. He'd sit there and pause it and be like, 'Now, on this scene, it was my 27th birthday and Jack and I were up for two days" - and that's as far as I can go with that. It was awesome because he was right there with me and it's one of those moments when you are going, you're so thankful cause it's one of the coolest moments. It was very awesome; he's so generous, too. He's so eager to share; he's a lovely man.
Nic, can you see yourself now in Ghost Rider 2?
Nicolas Cage: Well, it depends upon the reaction from the movie going audiences if they are enthusiastic about it and if there is a good script. I would say of all the character's I've played, my interests coincide with where this particular character could go. I am interested in the metaphysical nature of "Ghost Rider" and his world. I am a man with an open mind. I really don't know anything, but I'm very interested in the spiritual and the material. And this is the one superhero who walks between both worlds; I think it's pretty exciting because he's new and there is a lot of room for adventure with this guy.
What's going on with National Treasure 2?
Nicolas Cage: I think National Treasure is a good one, because there are worse things to do than stimulate young people to look in their history books. There is no gunfire, there is no body count; it's really good entertainment for everybody and I enjoy that. I like the idea of playing a historical detective. This one is going to involved Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth and the Booth diary and Confederate gold and it has the potential to be more interesting than the first. And then "Ghost Rider" for me is probably closer to my heart, because of what I said earlier of my interests in the possibilities of the spiritual and the material with this part. I think we are living in pretty scary times and people are looking for inspiration and are also more open to the spiritual possibilities.
Do we know who the villain is going to be?
Nicolas Cage: I don't know a thing, I don't know what they are doing; that's a whole separate kind of machine at this point. They are over there putting things together and when they are ready they will give me a call and let me know what's happening.
What is the first comic you are going to read to the little one?
Nicolas Cage: Oh, wow, probably Superman.
What comic do you think should be made into a movie that hasn't?
Nicolas Cage: I would go to see the Sub Mariner come to life; I want to see the water and all the animal life.
Eva Mendes: And She-Hulk.
Nicolas Cage: Oh, yeah, well that I'm working on.
Nic, would you produce that one?
Nicolas Cage: I'm trying to put that together - as we speak.
Eva Mendes: You guys got to keep bugging him.
Nicolas Cage: I was talking to Avi. Do you guys get it? Can't you see it? That would be a fun movie wouldn't it? Just you in a bikini just kicking a bunch of ass, throwing cars.
Eva Mendes: Why would I have to be in a bikini?
Nicolas Cage: Because that's how she's dressed.
Can either of you remember scenes you shot that didn't make it into the current version?
Nicolas Cage: No, I hope they don't do that because I think the movie is really right as is it is right now. I didn't like it when they came out with Apocalypse Redux; it's better just to keep it, I think, the way it was made to be. So, I'm not going to add to that.
Eva Mendes: I haven't seen the movie; it's the first time I'm waiting until the premiere actually. I've never done this before, waited for the premiere; I will definitely have some wine before I go in, but it will be exciting.
Do you have problems watching yourself?
Eva Mendes: The first run? Yeah. I hate everything the first run. I'm like, 'That's awful.' I just think I'm terrible; and then I'm more forgiving the second time. So, I always see something for sure one time and then I make myself see it a second time because second time is like, 'Ok, I'm not that bad, I'm not that horrible.' But the first time I just think I'm g-d awful.
Are you doing a cameo in Grindhouse?
Nicolas Cage: My friend Rob Zombie, I know him only socially, I like him; he's a nice man, we have good memories together over the years. He said would I do this part of Fu Man Chu and I said sure; one day, two lines, I mean it was just completely ridiculous. I haven't seen it; I'm not in any of the trailers, two seconds - that's it.
Ghost Rider rolls into theaters February 16th; it's rated PG-13.