Ghost Rider: Nicolas Cage

From Marvel Comics, creators of Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and X-Men, comes a new hero, “Ghost Rider.” Long ago, superstar motorcycle stunt rider Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) made a deal with the devil to protect the ones he loved most: his father and his childhood sweetheart, Roxanne (Eva Mendes). Now, the Devil has come for his due. By day, Johnny is a die-hard stunt rider, but at night, in the presence of evil, he becomes the Ghost Rider, a bounty hunter of rogue demons. Forced to do the Devil’s bidding, Johnny is determined to confront his fate and use his curse and powers to defend the innocent.

“Ghost Rider” stars Nicolas Cage (National Treasure, Gone in 60 Seconds), Eva Mendes (2 Fast 2 Furious, Hitch), Wes Bentley (American Beauty), Sam Elliott (Hulk), Donal Logue (Blade) and Peter Fonda (The Limey, Easy Rider).

Directed by Mark Steven Johnson, the film is produced by Avi Arad, Steven Paul, Michael De Luca, and Gary Foster. The Screen Story and Screenplay are by Mark Steven Johnson, based on the Marvel Comic.

Unique Mythology

“I think Ghost Rider is one of the most unique mythologies in the comic book universe,” says Nicolas Cage, who brings the classic Marvel comic book character to life in the movie. As the Devil’s bounty hunter, the Ghost Rider’s supernatural thrills are a perfect match for Cage’s intense and engaging persona. “He’s a complicated character who makes a decision to sell his soul to the Devil, but he does it out of love, not out of greed or personal ambition. To me, that is really rich material to play with. This scary-looking guy really is a hero.”

Cool Character

For director Mark Steven Johnson, who previously wrote and directed the comic-book adaptation “Daredevil,” bringing “Ghost Rider” to the big screen was the culmination of a lifelong love of the character. Ive been a huge comic-book fan from the time I was in third grade, says Johnson. I got comics every week: Daredevil, Spider-Man, X-Men–all of them. Ghost Rider was one of the most visually interesting, and, in my opinion, the coolest character.

With such visually striking source material, Johnson was determined to make a creative and stylized film that did it justice. The result is a film that captures the arresting images of the comic book, while it reinforces the moral choice forced upon the character. The look of Ghost Rider was so amazing–it makes him one of the most memorable characters in the Marvel universe and can’t be improved upon, he says. It was our job to bring it to life. Our production designer, Kirk Petruccelli, and visual effects supervisor, Kevin Mack, were up to the challenge, and they have created a stylish world unlike any movie Ive ever seen.

Right Tone

Weve been trying to bring Ghost Rider to the screen for a long time, says producer and former Marvel CEO Avi Arad. Just trying to catch the right tone, the right script. When I got Nic onto the project, it began to take shape. It’s incredibly gratifying to see a project through from initial casting to completion.”

Behind the camera, one of the first on board was producer Michael De Luca, who is also an ardent comic-book fan. As head of production for New Line Cinema, De Luca worked with Arad on the first movie adaptation of a Marvel property, the highly successful “Blade,” starring Wesley Snipes. Then, after the success of director Mark Steven Johnsons adaptation of Daredevil, it was clear that the time was right to bring Ghost Rider to the screen.

When a writer-director like Mark is in creative control of the vision of the film, its an advantage in every way, De Luca says. Mark loves comic books–hes the perfect person to make the leap from the two-dimensional printed page to the three-dimensional movie screen. The character has always intrigued him because its so visual–the Ghost Rider is such an arresting image.

“Mark is a comic-book geek, but hes also a sensitive guy not afraid of emotion, which I think is hugely important in filmmaking in any genre, says producer Gary Foster. He has the enthusiasm he had as a kid and all the knowledge of someone who loves every detail and nuance of these characters.

Nicolas Cage’s Humor

The team wished to present a different kind of comic-book hero on the screen, one whose evil visage belies his good intentions and unique personality. According to Johnson, Nicolas Cage was the only actor who could pull off such a multi-faceted character. I think the best horror movies and thrillers are full of humor, says the writer-director. You need to release the tension. Having Nic Cage on board really cemented that, because he is naturally very funny. He took the character of Johnny Blaze and made him a lot more fun.

De Luca adds: In trying to make the character real, Nic acknowledges how outrageous his situation is: I made a deal with the Devil and now I am a flaming skeleton on a motorcycle. You cant help but discover the humor.

Once Nic was in the role, the humor came organically, says producer Gary Foster. As Nic plays him, he has a great sense of humor which works well, because despite Johnnys tough life, he still has the lightheartedness he had as a teenager.

Origins

Johnson spent over a year crafting the script for Ghost Rider, which draws its character and storyline from multiple versions of the comic-book series. The Ghost Rider comic-book franchise started in the 1940s as a western-themed series about a gun-slinging horseman; it was later purchased by Marvel and re-invented in the 1970s as a supernatural story centering on motorcycle stunt rider Johnny Blaze. The property was revitalized again in the 1990s, again with a new lead character.

De Luca explains, There was a certain amount of license because of the two incarnations of the comic book itself: The 1970s version that I collected and remember, and then the 1990s version. It changed so many times over the years that we were able to cherry-pick the parts we liked best.

Intriguing Villains

What most intrigued the filmmakers were the villains against whom he faces off. Not just fighting evil, Johnny Blaze is fighting the Devil himself, the very being that gave him his powers. According to De Luca, the fact that Johnnys motivation and main antagonists come from the comic books was a welcome guiding hand for the filmmakers. Blackheart and Mephistopheles are from the comic book; the reason and way that Johnny makes the deal and Roxanne are all pretty much the same. It is a fairly faithful adaptation, even though the comic book itself changed storylines over the years.