We travel to Bucharest, Romania to visit Nicolas Cage and the rest of the cast on the set of Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance
Johnny Blaze will ride again! Scheduled for release on February 17th is Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance, the long-awaited sequel to '2007s anti-superhero film Ghost Rider, which was based on the popular Marvel Comics character and starred Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage, and Eva Mendes. In the original film, Nicolas Cage plays Johnny Blaze, a stunt motorcyclist who sells his soul to the Devil and as a result, transforms into the flaming vigilante Ghost Rider. While the first movie was a financial success earning over $200 million at the box office, it was a critical disaster and failed to score with fans of the original source material. However, with only Nicolas Cage returning for the sequel from the original cast, and new directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (Crank High Voltage) behind the lens, Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance promises to win back disenfranchised fans of the Marvel character and infuse the film with the appropriate dark tone and religious themes missing from its predecessor.
The new film takes place eight years after the original and features a Johnny Blaze who has accepted his place in the world as the Ghost Rider and is heavily drinking to compensate for his nightmarish dilemma. While traveling through Europe, Blaze meets an ancient league of monks that are trying to protect a young boy named Danny Ketch (Fergus Riordan) from his father, the Devil (Ciarán Hinds), who wants to take over the boy's body on his birthday. Marvel fans will recognize Danny Ketch as the future Ghost Rider, as he would eventually inherit the mantel from Blaze in the comics.
In fact, the sequels subtitle, Spirit of Vengeance and part of the film's plot are very likely taken from writer Jason Aaron and artist Tan Eng Huat's famous Ghost Rider comic book storyline, "The last stand of the Spirits of Vengeance." In addition to Nicolas Cage, Fergus Riordan, and Ciarán Hinds, the upcoming film also features actress Violante Placido as Ketch's mother, Idris Elba and Christopher Lambert as monks Moreau and Methodius, respectively, and Johnny Whitworth as the villain Blackout.
Last February we had the chance to travel to Bucharest, Romania to visit the set of Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance and talk to some of the cast and crew including co-director Brian Taylor, and actors Fergus Riordan, Ciarán Hinds, Violante Placido, Idris Elba, and Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage.
We also had a chance to watch the crew and the actors filming some of the movie's incredible action scenes. We arrived in the morning on the film's set at a soundstage in Bucharest and began our visit by getting a tour of the vehicles and costumes that will be used for the movie. We also had a chance to tour the set, which included the monk's underground lair filled with every weapon that you can imagine from the last one thousand years including machine guns, crossbows, and swords.
Brian Taylor was directing a scene in which Idris Elba's character introduces Violante Placido and Nicolas Cage's characters to the monk's arsenal of weapons. However, our tour would eventually end later in the evening when we witnessed the filming of a scene shot outside at night in which the Ghost Rider attacks a full SWAT team armed with machine guns and explosives.
But before that, when Brian Taylor was done shooting the scene in the monk's lair with Idris Elba, Violante Placido, and Nicolas Cage, we had an opportunity to sit down and speak with the star of the film himself, Oscar-winner 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," Nicolas Cage began by saying. We followed up by asking the actor about his reasons for returning to the role and how he feels in retrospect about the first movie. "I feel that we got up to something really interesting with the first movie and I'm very happy with it. I know Brian Taylor likes the first movie, but it really ends there. This is a completely different experience."
"For me, John Blaze's head is already ignited so when you meet him, he's in a much different place in this movie than in the other movie," continued the actor. "It's almost a completely different character in many ways. It's a much edgier, almost cynical interpretation than the original 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."
Nicolas Cage is a well-known comic book collector and was even set to play the man-of-steel once in an unmade, Tim Burton directed, Superman film. But now the actor will forever be best associated in the comic book world with the Ghost Rider character, so we asked Nicolas Cage if he could discuss his love for role.
"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 ways 'good.' To me that already gave it a level of depth that seemed missing in some of the other characters," he explained. "For someone who was interested in becoming an actor, it 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."
We followed up again by asking the actor if this film would feel more like a classic monster movie than the original. "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,"
Nicolas Cage explained. "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."
The actor also talked about directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor's approach to the material and their take on the character. "I 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 and skydiving. Mark Neveldine is that guy. He's bringing it into cinema."
"Brian Taylor, I owe this experience completely to him in terms of the Ghost Rider and that character," Nicolas Cage continued. "When I worked with Brian Taylor, 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 character in 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."
As previously mentioned, the Devil is the main villain in Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance and this continues a similar theme in Nicolas Cage's last few films, which include Season of the Witch, and Drive Angry. The actor discussed the "man vs. God" theme and what fascinates him about the subject. "Well it's no secret that I've always had an interest in mythology. Whether it's Arthurian, ancient Greek or even the Marvel universe. I've always connected with it on some level. These are extract archetypes that trigger emotions in people, whether they are aware of it or not conscientiously 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 gratuitous violence. We are dealing in a much more fantastic landscape."
The Oscar-winning actor also finds himself surrounded by a group of exceptional performers in the new film and Nicolas Cage discussed working with the impressive cast. "They are all extremely different and they are all very talented. Idris Elba is a grand actor. He's very larger than life. He's got this presence about him, an incredibly masculine energy, which he plays to wonderful affect 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," he explained.
"Fergus Riordan who plays Danny is the consummate professional. He's not even fourteen or fifteen and he's just always on time, totally efficient and really strong in his presence," Nicolas Cage continued. "He's someone to really watch. Johnny Whitworth, who plays Blackout; there's just something about the guy that cracks me up! He's scary, it's like watching a train wreck or car accident things just come out of him that are full of surprises, quite tragic and funny at the same time. It's a really good group."
Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider can be a very physically demanding role and Nicolas Cage talked about how he prepares for the part. "It's almost like trying to set up a borderland between material and imaginary or spiritual or crossroads to create a different character. It's a completely different aura or energy on the set for myself and for the other actors. The attitude and the presentation are completely different," he explained. "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. Trying to go into areas that are more enigmatic or abstract. When you're playing a character like Ghost Rider, I don't want him to be anything you can relate to. I want him to be a completely alien entity."
Finally, we asked the actor about the motorcycles that we were shown earlier in the day and what fans can expect from the stunts in the new film. "Well, I was blessed with a really good motorcycle on this movie. Without sounding like a Yamaha commercial, 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 between 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," Nicolas Cage explained. "On the other movie I had a raked front-end chopper. When you've got four hundred people watching you making a movie, it doesn't go where you want it to go. It's a lot of pressure. This bike performed effortlessly. I'm completely convinced that these are the best bikes in the world."
Next we had a chance to speak with actor Ciarán Hinds. In the film, Hinds plays the Devil and we asked the actor about playing the iconic role. "I suppose you have fun with it. But then there's the Devil in all of us, or the light side in all of us, the generosity that we all have. What side comes out at different times? I suppose that's what the Devil is. But at the same time you have to give this essence of bile or something. Kind of like, don't fuck with me. I will be kind to you, but don't fuck with me. At the same time, you can over-embellish stuff and it can become a bit pantomimic. A couple of times suddenly I sort of felt myself going over that way, and Brian Taylor said, 'Pull it back a little. Just get pissed off, rather than go, I want to eat you all up, just get pissed off" But I think the way the character is placed in it, he's there and he's gone, and it's a race against time to see if he can transport his dark soul into the child that he himself has created as almost his perfect time capsule to be continually on Earth. That's the race for him," explained Ciarán Hinds.
"He's not a very good Devil," continued Ciarán Hinds. "Because if he were, everybody would be in tatters, you know what I mean? But at the same time, you only actually see him use his powers twice. Most of the time it's a race against time for him. He's a devil on his way out. That's what it is. His body is giving up and that's why he's trying to retain a sense of ease and control, and having everything happen. Meanwhile, his body and his face are starting to fall off. It's sort of the human weakness that he's placed himself into, the vessel of a human being and it's giving out on him, which also pisses him off. So for him, with the whole shell disintegrating, the idea is that he has to find a new receptacle in which he can regenerate and push on to further adventures. That's the journey. So for him, he wants to remain calm in the situation. But he comes to the moment where there's a prophecy that you have to be in a race against time."
The actor went onto discuss working with the film's directors, and much like Nicolas Cage, was surprised and impressed with their willingness to take dangerous risks for their craft. "I was filming something in London when a couple of guys came in to do the EPK. They said, 'I believe you're going to work for Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor,' and I said, Yeah, they're directing Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance. They said, 'They're crazy guys!' I said, what do you mean?' He said, 'Well, they're just kind of wild, bold and brave." I said, what do you mean? Then they started telling this story about how Mark Neveldine sometimes just takes a camera and goes on rollerblades, and hangs onto the backs of lorries (automobiles). So I'm just thinking, I can't be doing this at my age, because I didn't know really what it entailed. But what I have found out when I met them is that they're fantastic. They're both so sharp, so energetic, they know what they're doing, they know what they want to play with, and they're so vital. They're actually full of life, and how they stitch all this together I don't know. That's their business. But it's been a very energetic ride. They're actually really good. I'd trust them to direct me in almost anything, never mind the genre, because they just have a mind for what is required in the fabric of the whole thing."
Ciarán Hinds also discussed Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance and the film's connection, or lack of connection, to its predecessor. "I think Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine had decided that we were going to take this and put our own stamp on it. We're not following a track that's been laid down. We're taking the story and we're beginning with what we want to do, therefore they don't feel, I don't think, obliged to follow what's been set down before," he explained. "They have their own energy, and their own creative juices. Except the one connection is that the producers were on the first one as well, so maybe they have an overall idea on how it should be done."
We followed up by asking the celebrated actor if he has seen the original Ghost Rider or if he's checked out any issues of the popular Marvel Comic. "I haven't," he replied. "I'm not a comics person at all. It never reached me in the north of Ireland, in the '60s and '70s growing up. But this whole big American imagery of darkness and superheroes, I never really got into that. It's fun because it's something where you go, what is this stuff? Yet you understand its allusions to myth and the battle between light and darkness." We continued by asking Ciarán Hinds what he thinks about the American superhero film and the way that genre has taken over in our country. "It really has, hasn't it? Of course, Christopher Nolan has revitalized Batman and then Iron Man kicked it up a notch in a very big way and that was fantastic. So here's our project, let's do the best we can. But then suddenly you have The Green Hornet, Green Lantern, and ... I don't know, How Green Was My Valley..." the actor joked.
Finally, we asked Ciarán Hinds what his experience has been like acting opposite Nicolas Cage. "It's very funny, because the scenes with Nic, basically, I just see something coming and have the lights punched out of me. That's scene one. Then I come to, and have a couple of words with him, and then I go on the run," Ciarán Hinds explained. Then the next time I meet him, he just picks me up and throws me way up into the sky, and then lashes me back down into the inferno that's called Hell. That's my work with Nic. I don't think he tolerates devils. I don't think he likes to objectify them, talk to them, or rationalize with them. I think he's on a mission to get the hell out of here. But he is one of the most unique actors in the world, his style, his rage, his commitment, his passion, and his imagination. But then there's films that I've adored like Adaptation, which has just an extraordinary performance. Then, is it Matchstick Men? He was just brilliant in that."
After we were done speaking with Ciarán Hinds, we had a chance to sit down and chat with Fergus Riordan, the young actor who is portraying Danny Ketch in the film. We began by asking the young actor if the introduction of the comic book's other official Ghost Rider into the character's film world, actually signals a passing of the torch (no pun intended) between Nicolas Cage's Blaze and his Ketch. "Well, I'm actually the son of that guy. So I don't know because if there is another Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance they can still say I'm not in it, but it's in my contract that I can do another two Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance movies," he explained. "I'm not sure if they are setting me up for it, but there is definitely a demonic side to me, and I have the power to give... oh, I'm not sure I should be telling you this."
We followed up by asking Fergus Riordan about his character's "powers," which he had just alluded to. "There is a moment where I pop up and I sort of turn into the devil's son and not Danny. I think almost every single character in this movie has two sides to them. Carrigan is Blackout. Blaze is Ghost Rider. I think the only ones that sort of stay the same all of the time are Nadya (Violante Placido) and Moreau (Idris Elba).
We continued to press the young actor about his character's powers and by asking him if they interpreted on screen using practical or visual effects. "When we actually do it, it's all imagination. I think everybody who has two characters tries to get into a certain mind frame where it's not them. It's not the other character ... it's somebody completely different that they try not to associate with it," explained Fergus Riordan. "I think that Nicolas Cage and Johnny Whitworth have helped a lot. When I saw the first Ghost Rider movie and then realized that I had this one I was like, oh my god, this is going to be so awesome with the fire and stuff! Then, I realized that there wasn't going to be a fire. I think I needed to see Nicolas Cage and Johnny Whitworth do it before I could. They helped me a lot with it. I feel more confident now and I try to just do it."
Finally, the young actor talked about working with Nicolas Cage and his limited knowledge of the Oscar-winner's impressive career before they had met. "I think before I had done this movie I had only seen Ghost Rider and maybe one or two others of his. Now, that I am actually working with him, I decided I wanted to know him a bit better," Fergus Riordan said. "So I have been watching some of his recent films. I watched The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Season of the Witch. I liked both movies. He is a really nice guy and good to work with. Recently, I've been into mythology and stuff like that, and he's very spiritual in a way," the actor continued. "He's been doing stuff like The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Season of the Witch, which are both very magical. So I really like that. The other day he was recommending a couple of books about mythology to me. Right now, I'm really into Greek Mythology. I've never really read comics. I've watched most of the action movies and stuff like Spider-man, and Superman. I mean, I like them but I really like magic and stuff."
After speaking with Fergus Riordan, we had an opportunity to talk to actress Violante Placido who plays Danny Ketch's mother Nadya in the film. The actress began by talking about her character's dark past and poor choice in men. "Well yeah, she has this kind of dark past. I mean, I think in this movie, everybody's damned in a way, and she's a damned soul. She, now, at the point where the story starts, mainly she's a mother. She's a very protective mother. She's protecting her child like a wild animal. She would do anything to protect him and she's running away from something much bigger than her that fell upon her in the past. I'm not going to reveal too much, but she is paying a big price for how she's lived her life until then, and she has made lots of mistakes."
"She probably chose a short cut to follow her dreams, or whatever her dreams were, but her life on the street, maybe even her dreams," the actress continued. She doesn't have the possibility or didn't have the possibility to dream of a good life. Carrigan seemed, probably for her, the best way out of what was her life until then, but in reality even Carrigan is a psychopath, he's a bad guy. But anyway, they have a past together, that is part of what her dark past is. I mean she's human, she's just chosen the wrong path in life to achieve what she wanted to achieve, her personal dreams."
Violante Placido also discussed working with Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor and how she has had to adjust as an actress to their fast paced style of filmmaking. "It's like getting on a ride on a rollercoaster. It's totally different and it's a very new experience for me. I've never had such an experience, in my country also, because Italy doesn't even produce these kinds of movies. So it's very new for me and it's fun. It's a new challenge. It's a different way of working because the acting I'm used to is slow paced and kind of acting with less dialogue, getting more into intimate kind of acting, more introspective. So it's totally different from here and I have to get used to it a little bit at the beginning," she explained. "I mean, there were times where I would ask Brian Taylor, maybe I'd get a bit meticulous about something, and he would say look, this is going to be really fast, you can't even imagine. Then I got into this pace. I had to get used to it at the beginning. I started realizing that it will develop a lot also when the movie is edited so it has to have this kind of rhythm that keeps getting tense and also full of adrenaline at times. It's totally different."
The actress mentioned that her character is a weapons expert and not afraid to use a gun, so she talked about what that experience has been like for her to perform. "Yes, my character knows how to use guns and knives and she's ready to kill. I just decided to have fun with these elements and try to deal with them in the most natural way possible, even if it seemed quite absurd," Violante Placido said. "At the beginning, when I first saw this huge gun, I said okay, I could try that. Then you know, she's got a mission, she's very determined, and she's confident, even with the guns that are really out of scale for her. But maybe you know, they turn out to be useful and effective."
Finally, the actress discussed working with Nicolas Cage, his unique acting style, and some of her favorite movies of his. "Well, when I was really young, I got moonstruck by Moonstruck. I loved that movie. I really loved it and I was very fascinated by his role, I was just a kid. But I really liked him there. Then I liked him in Vampire's Kiss. When he does these kind of crazy, quirky roles where he's got a very unique way of delivering his roles. He puts a lot of wild creativeness in his characters, and I think he's doing that in this movie too," said Violante Placido. "I mean, I've been in some scenes, because I'm not in all the scenes with him, but in some scenes I've seen wild stuff coming out. I mean obviously, having to do with the devil, he's got complete freedom to go wherever he wants. There's no limit to what he can do."
We finished off our interviews with the cast by speaking with recent Emmy-nominated actor Idris Elba, who plays Moreau in the film. Idris Elba began by talking about his character and how he interacts with Johnny Blaze in the film. "Moreau is supposed to be a very religious man, a monk, in fact. But he's got his vices. He's traveled the world. I'm not sure if his faith is as strong as it should be, but in any case he's a righteous man. His journey in this film is to seek out Danny, and to protect Danny for the day of prophecy," the actor explained. "Basically he goes about that by any means necessary. He meets up with Johnny Blaze and Johnny thinks, 'who is this guy? This crazy guy?' Because you know I like a drink, I'm on the bikes and I'm prepared to go for it. It's actually one of my favorite characters to play; I get to be a little bit more comical than usual and that's fun."
As many comic book fans will note, the actor recently appeared in Thor, as well as The Losers, which are both based on comic books so we asked the actor if he was concerned about type casting at all when he agreed to take on another comic book adapted movie project. "No, not at all, really. Both characters are sort of incidental from the main characters, you know, sidelines. I mean, this is a big part, but it's not the central character, so it's not easily forgotten." Since Idris Elba has so much experience working on films based on comic books, we followed up by asking him if he actually reads the comics that these films are based on before he takes on the role. "No, I push that away. I don't need to read every comic before I film. This character isn't actually in the comic book, so I said; hey let's just create him. I tend to stay away from the comics," Idris Elba said.
While the character of Moreau was created originally for this film, there are several other characters in the Marvel Universe that share the same name, so we asked the actor if there are any connections between this Moreau and others that appear in the comic books. "No, he's completely original. I think the name was inspirational to the writers more than anything else," answered Idris Elba. We followed up by asking the actor where he did end up drawing his inspiration for the character if it wasn't from the comic books. "That's a good question. The meeting that Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor and I had, they wanted a man that had a lot of experience. I said; have you seen those beer commercials? 'The most interesting man in the world.' We laughed about that, and said, yeah, that's him! Let's do him!"
We continued by asking the actor if he feels a certain amount of freedom on a comic book adapted film like this, playing an original character rather than a celebrated one that fans expect to act a certain way, and if it feels like he has a clean slate in a sense. "Yeah. I'm a free agent. It's a free agent character. The actors that play those characters are allowed to carve something quite unique if they want to," explained Idris Elba. "So for me, yeah, it was just great. I'm sure if I was to play a character that everyone knows, the detail, the attention to what the comic readers want would be on the forefront of my mind, but here on the forefront of my mind is creating a dynamic character and having a little fun with it. I like to make him realistic, obviously because of the dialogue and the plot. So I try and steep my character in some sort of realism. Even if it's over the top, I like to keep them grounded and real, so you believe every moment, you know? I want you to believe it."
Much like his fellow actors before him, Idris Elba also discussed working with directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, and their unique style of filmmaking. "This is my first experience working with two directors, you know, a duo, a team. It's quite an interesting one. What one of the directors focuses on, the other steps back a little bit, and then they switch. They're great guys, very courageous. First thing I noticed is that they operate the camera themselves, so that's quite interesting. One of the first sequences I had to do, I had to get on this bike. I'm nervous on this bike, but Mark Neveldine gets behind me on rollerblades and is holding on with the camera. I'm nervous driving this thing on my own, but there's this guy, the director, and we're doing like thirty miles an hour down some Romanian strip, and he's filming me the whole time, which is pretty amazing. But they're really good guys, good directors, and fun to work with."
Finally, with so many great roles behind him, and several high profile projects on the horizon such as Ridley Scott's Not-an-Alien-prequel Prometheus, and Guillermo del Toro's monster movie Pacific Rim, we asked the actor how he prepares for his different roles and what exactly his process is like. "It really depends on the role, obviously. Some roles demand that I do the work, but to be honest my whole style is never to do too much work. Because the truth of the matter is if the script is good enough, and the plot is good enough and it's air tight, it allows the actor to actually live that moment right there off the page, so the preparation takes away."
"Now there are certain things you have to prepare for, like dialect and special skills," Idris Elba continued to explain. "But in the moment of interaction between two characters on the page, I don't need to prepare that. For example, in Luther, my BBC series, there isn't that much preparation for it. It's all on the page. I know my character; it's written on the page. Then basically I show up on the day and the actors and I get on with it. But then in something like Sometimes in April, where I played a Rwandan soldier, I went to Rwanda for a month before that to soak in what it feels like. That was my preparation process, and it was a matter of just understanding the environment that my character lived in. It was a period piece, it was ten years prior, so I needed to understand the time period and what was going on there. So that's my process, it's more cerebral than anything. I try not to overdo it with the method stuff. If it's on the page, then I'll live it, you know?"
Before leaving set, we had just a few moments to speak with one of the film's two directors, Brian Taylor. We met with Brian on the set of the monk's underground lair, surrounded by an arsenal of pretty much any weapon that you can imagine. We began by asking the accomplished filmmaker how he feels like the shoot has gone so far. "It's been going unbelievably well. This troop of actors, I mean this cast we have on this movie is unbelievable. So every day, there are performances that make you walk away super-stoked about what you're doing. And the locations are just unbelievable; I mean churches, and God, Wow!"
The director also talked about working to get the script right and which came first: the idea to set the film in Eastern Europe, or the permission to actually shoot on location there. "We wrote the script then found the locations based on that. A lot of it happened when the production designer came in, just based on the script. We knew we were going to be in Eastern Europe, and knew we were going to take the thing South," said Brian Taylor. "A lot of it was based on weather. We just wanted to get out of the freezing cold this time of year and get someplace where it wasn't going to snow so we could shoot these outdoor scenes, because we wanted to transition into daytime for the end. The most convenient thing South was Turkey so what do they have in Turkey? Kevin started finding us stuff down there. It was so serendipitous, like incredibly fortunate that it just happened to be geographically the perfect place for us to be, the exact perfect thing for this movie."
Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance is clearly on a bigger scale than any movie the directors ever made before, so we asked Brian Taylor if that larger scope has changed their vision as directors. "It changes somewhat but as for the scale of the movie, we don't have a budget like Transformers. So much of the scale of the movie is set by shooting in these exotic places and soaking it all in. You know, shooting in real places, and not a lot of sets," he explained. "The first one was shot in New Zealand, it was all sets, so what we do is we always try to shoot as much in the real world as possible. We like real places even if they're repurposed locations. We wanted to shoot in as many practical locations as possible. We were fortunate because Kevin has a background in Romania, so he had a lot of ideas of novel places that we could repurpose and use. We tried to shoot in real places as much as possible. Then Turkey was just like a gift, like a lucky accident, to have all that stuff right down there. It was a very strange experience shooting there, but some of the things we shot were from another planet, it was amazing."
While the film was shot in 2D, it will be converted to 3D for select theaters when it is released in February, so we asked Brian Taylor if that affects the way he and Mark Neveldine are shooting the movie. "It does somewhat, but this is really going to push the envelope of what people think can be converted. There's like a set of rules, there's a rulebook of things you can't do if you're shooting 2D to go to 3D. You can't have fast cuts. Of course, that doesn't work for us, we've got to have fast cuts because it's disorienting, and it will make people throw up," he joked. "It is valid if it's true but we don't think it's true because there's ways around that, there's ways we can finesse the transitions between the 3D and sort of modulate the depth of it to completely get rid of that."
"But are other things too," Brian Taylor continued. "You can't have lens flares, you can't have soft foreground, things that used to be part of the film language. You can't have something soft in the foreground and sharp in the background. That's the movie language, so sometimes what's shot in 2D for conversion can end up looking really stiff. They don't want to have a lot of handheld, a lot of motion or movement. But the guys we're working with, and sort of the theory we have going into this, is that we're throwing all of that away. We're throwing the whole rulebook away and this is going to be a movie that doesn't feel like other 3D movies. It's going to be very kinetic and very fast moving and very much the language of film that we love. It'll just be in 3D."
We continued our discussion with Brian Taylor by asking him what was the most important thing that he wanted to do with this film as a director, in order to make it fresh, original, and unlike anything we've seen before. "I don't know if there's one thing. It's just that we wanted to really humanize it. I think the main decision we made coming in was that we wanted to differentiate this movie and make it alive and fresh. The title character is a CG guy and in the last movie, it was played by stunt guys, so the big thing we wanted coming in before anything else was that the Ghost Rider needed to be played by Nicolas Cage, always, all the time. Especially when he's fighting. So ninety-five percent of the stunt-work, all the action, everything that is the Ghost Rider is Nic.
"He's playing it as a dual role, because the Ghost Rider is possessed by the spirit of Zarathos, it's a different person, it's not Johnny Blaze," Brian Taylor continued to explain. "So he's playing it as a dual role and a lot of the planning that went into the movie and preparation for his role was finding that character. What's the language of this demon? What's the language of this ancient God or whatever he is? You'll find out what he is and how it inhabits his body. We nailed it and that's what makes it so awesome, because in those scenes, they're alive and every single frame you're watching Ghost Rider. It's going to be the flaming skull, but you're going to feel an actor, you're going to feel a performance and you're going to feel a character in all of those moments. So it brings the raw energy of the dialogue and all of that stuff into the action scenes, too."
We also asked Brian Taylor just how beholden to the original Ghost Rider film Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance is, and if they looked to any of the Ghost Rider comic books for influence. "Well there have been a million Ghost Rider comics. There have been a lot of versions of it and they're all totally different. For me, it's the full range of styles. The only books that we really were inspired by in the Ghost Rider canon were the Garth Ennis/Clayton Crain series, which is a much darker version of the character. We like the first movie for what it is, it's a Walt Disney movie," he joked. "Really and that's what Nick said about it, too, which is that it's a great take on the movie. It's like a Walt Disney version of the Faust story, it's lit that way, and it feels like a ride at Disneyland. We like that."
"But this isn't that at all, so we wanted to just completely depart from that and make it its own thing," he continued. "We're picking up this character, five or six years later, and he's in a much different place. He's a different guy. He's in Europe, and he has a different bike. The physical transformation that happens to him has progressed to where he doesn't look the same, the skull looks different, and everything looks different. It's changed and progressed. Think of it like an illness and this is in the final stages of that illness. It's going to feel a lot different from the first movie," Brian Taylor promised.
Finally, in closing the director talked to us about working with the film's star and the two different, yet impressive performances that Nicolas Cage is delivering for this film. "You know, there's like two different versions of Nicolas Cage," Brian Taylor said. "There's sort of the mainstream Nicolas Cage, and then there's the balls-to-the-wall Nicolas Cage, and we're definitely welcoming that demon. The performance we're getting from Nicolas Cage, it's going to be one of those epic performances that people talk about for years ... both as Johnny Blaze, and in his role as the Ghost Rider."