A couple of weeks ago I went along to the Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Press conference. I went mainly to get a better understanding of Nicolas Cage the man behind the tabloid headlines whose films have made close to £3 Billion and hopefully get the chance to talk comics and films with the actor.
During the 30 minute discussion which included some baiting and frankly bizarre questions asked of Nicolas Cage I did indeed get some of the way to understanding the man - as well as talk comics with Cage.
Since watching Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (my review of which can be found over here!) and this press conference my enthusiasm for some of Marvel's less well known and older original comic titles from it’s Curtis brand imprint has been reinvigorated and I have set about scouring London's comic shops and online auctioneers for titles like; Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, Doc Savage, Kull and the Barbarians, Monsters of the Movies, Rampaging Hulk and Savage Sword of Conan. All classic stuff that never carried the Comics Code Authority seal and has subsequently been forgotten. But there is a wealth of imagination and untapped source material waiting to be re-discovered and hopefully with time permitting over the months I’ll post about some of the titles I find.
Although Nicolas Cage did not jump on the table shouting LULU as I was hoping - he came across as a dedicated professional, who takes his work very seriously and throws himself wholeheartedly into every project he is involved in - as is with the case of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance showing in cinemas now. Cage was surprisingly open and frank about many aspects of his career and the making of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Nicolas Cage was very entertaining and had the room laughing out loud on more than one occasion - so it probably worth noting that some of the comments below may read a bit strange or off the wall when removed out of the context of the fairly jovial atmosphere of the room that they were made in.
Nicolas Cage on what the Ghost Rider means to him
Nicolas Cage: I felt I had more to say with Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Ghost Rider was a character that had an enormous influence on my childhood. I was eight when I discovered Ghost Rider and in fact I had the very first comic. I would stare at that picture of that cover and I couldn't get my head around how something so terrifying to look at, who was in fact using forces of evil, could also be considered good. How is this a superhero? So it was like my first philosophical awakening - here's a character that's literally inspired by Goethe and this is a Faustian contract.
But of course it's really all just a metaphor; this movie isn't sanctimonious at all, it's about pop art, it's about having fun, it's about going along for the ride.
But in my opinion a deal with the devil happens every day. Everyone sells their soul everyday. So for me the movie and that character is just a metaphor for life, and if you want to compete in this day and age where every other movie is a comic book movie you have to provide an alternative, and Ghost Rider does that.
Nicolas Cage on playing both the roles of Johnny Blaze and The Ghost Rider in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Nicolas Cage: It was an opportunity to experiment with movement and with my state of mind - to really believe I was this character. It was actually Brian Taylor who had the idea for me to do that, he was an enormous advocate of it.
The first thing I said was can I wear a mask so as not to feel totally ridiculous as I would walk on the set and play this part?There is a writer named Brian Bates, who wrote a book called The Way of Wyrd and as well as The Way of the Actor. In that book he put forth the notion that all actors whether they know it or not come from a long distant pre Christian past of medicine men and shamans. These shamans would do is go into an altered state of consciousness to try and find answers and solutions for the village people. In this day and age this person would be considered psychotic. But when you think about - it was a way of channelling the imagination to either talk with spirits to give answers to the village.
So, they would wear masks, or they would gather objects that had some magical relevance, and so I thought, well I’m dealing with this supernatural character why don’t I try a little bit of that and see what happens? So, I would paint my face with black and white make-up, so it looked like a skull, like some sort of Afro-Caribbean voodoo icon, or a New Orleans voodoo icon by the name of Baron Samedi, or Baron Saturday, who looks like a skeleton but he’s very finely dressed. He’s the spirit of death. He’s also a spirit that loves children and he’s a very lusty kind of voodoo icon.
But the point is it stimulated my imagination to think I really was this character. And then I would walk on the set projecting this kind of aura of horror and I would see in the eyes of my co-stars they would light up. The fear was there and it was just like oxygen to a fire. And that led me to believe that maybe I really was this spirit of vengeance. The problem is if you have a Christmas party in Romania and you’re shooting until 2am and you’re invited to go to the Christmas party and some Schnapps is involved, and you’re still in character, all hell can break loose and it did. I’m lucky I’m not in a Romanian prison.
Nicolas Cage on regret about not playing Superman
Nicolas Cage: None. The only regret that I have is to have not worked with Tim Burton, I hope that some day we will work together because I know it will be special. As for that particular character I have no regrets, I think Ghost Rider is a far better match for me.
Nicolas Cage: Idris Elba and I hit it off. Idris is someone I consider a friend.I like him as a person, we had some good conversations. I admire his film presence - he's got a larger than life presence that was interesting to me. So we had a good connection.
Mark and Brian have a great appreciation for all things cinema and they really know their movies. They did all the casting; Christopher Lambert, Ciarán Hinds. How brilliant to cast those two and Ciarán in the Rome series - so to think of him as the devil, to me is very inspired. I was lucky to work with Violante Placido and also Johnny Whitworth is, what can I say? He’s Johnny Whitworth! He’s full of surprises!
Nicolas Cage: They're daredevils. They're literally risking their lives to entertain you. You have Neveldine with a camera in one hand and a motorcycle in the other on roller blades being pulled at like 60 miles an hour to get a shot and - at any moment he could break his neck. Or flying off a cliff with a wire and a camera where he could collide into Idris’ stunt man - they're the only guys doing it.
There are a lot of young poetic filmmakers out there, but only Mark and Brian are poetic and risking their lives. It's like daredevil extreme sports film-making and you have to give them credit for that.
Nicolas Cage: Well - I don’t want to play any other comic book characters.
Nicolas Cage on the progress of adapting Voodoo Child the comic he has created with his son Weston
Nicolas Cage: Voodoo Child would be great to see either as a TV series or a movie. I’ve tried and tried to get that to happen and talked to different directors who seem interested and then suddenly aren’t interested. So, I don’t know where that’s going to land.
Now in an attempt to keep his soul sucking alter ego at bay, Blaze has isolated himself in the remotest of locations, but, when Moreau, a spirited monk (Idris Elba) implores him to save a young boy from the devil himself (Ciarán Hinds), Blaze must put aside his reluctance to bring out the Ghost Rider in order to face his own demons and possibly rid himself of the curse forever.
From the writers/directors of Crank, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, comes the adrenaline filled GHOST RIDER SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE, loaded with action and incredible 3D special effects.
Based on the Marvel comic book and a story by David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel), GHOST RIDER SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE IN 3D sees Nicolas Cage return as Johnny Blaze alongside British talent Idris Elba (Thor), Ciarán Hinds (The Debt), Christopher Lambert (Highlander), Johnny Whitworth (Limitless), Violante Placido (The American) and introducing Fergus Riordan.
The Establishing Shot: Nicolas Cage talks Ghost Rider & comics with us, he sets the record straight on his comic obsession, lets us know his favourite comics & favourite film, reveals secrets behind the Ghost Rider as well as no regrets about Tim Burton’s Superman, ideas for a Wicker Man sequel and much, much, much more