Q: Youíve wanted to play Ghost Rider for a long time, where does that love for it come from?:
Nicolas Cage Because itís unusual, itís not standard superhero fare; it doesnít follow any of those traditional rules. As a boy I was really attracted to the monsters that were in the Marvel universal, the Hulk and Ghost Rider, because I couldnít understand how something so terrifying could also be good, and it appealed to whatever complexities I was feeling about life; that paradox to me is inherently interesting.
Q: How old were you when you first read it?:
Cage I was seven or eight, and I would sit in my room and stare at the covers; I liked the way they looked. But thereís something about the iconography of the flaming skull itself, even going beyond Ghost Rider, I think itís been around for thousands of years, that I think depicts honesty, thereís no mask, you canít hide, there it is, itís the truth and I like that.
Q: Could you ever have imagined playing the role?:
Cage I must of because I think I willed it into happening, because here we are and weíre talking about it. I think I was always excited by the idea of the comic books going to film, and I knew that when the technology was at a level where it would be palatable visually to the audiences, it would be great entertainment. I had no doubt that Batman was going to be enormous, and Superman and Spider-man, and all those characters would be wonderfully successful because itís entertainment that is wholesome, itís full of excitement and action but thereís not a huge body count, thereís not a lot of gunfire, and you can take your whole family to it. Ghost Rider is different in that heís really the only character that I know of that is in the supernatural arena, and he walks through both worlds. I thought it was time for a character like this. Rather than me playing Superman, which at one time was talked about, I think this is more appropriate for me because I like the enigmatic and paradoxical quality of it.
Q: The scenes we saw depict your kind of humor. Was that in the comic books?:
Cage No. It was really important to me that it had humor. One of my favorite movies is American Werewolf in London, and one of my favorite tonalities is horror and comedy. If you can get those two together itís a great buzz. The character is absurd, itís an absurd situation, you canít take it too seriously, youíve got to have fun with it, and thatís why I really wanted to make sure that we were playful, so I took the chain-smoking and the hard drinking out, and I said, ĎWait a minute, heís trying to avoid the devil, heís running from the devil, he doesnít want to invite the devil.í So instead he listens to Karen Carpenter and he eats jellybeans, which is fun.
Q: In terms of Clark Kent and Peter Parker, what makes Johnny Blazeís alter-ego stand out?:
Cage That heís really grappling with these forces, and how heís dealing with it and trying to avoid it makes him separate from the other characters. Plus he really is a daredevil, heís a stunt cyclist and heís got this sort of seventies aura about him like George Hamilton in the Evel Knievel movies. I wanted to have that kind of fun with it.
Q: How did you deal with the special effects aspect? When you turn into a burning skull, did writhing on the ground imagining that there are flames around ever make you feel silly, or did you take it very seriously?:
Cage Oh no, no, no, I felt great, I loved it. I was so excited to do it, I felt like I was a kid again. I wanted to get that spirit of like a B monster movie with Vincent Price, I was going for it, like oh there are bugs on my face, Iím screaming ahhhh, and then I would look at playback on the monitor with Mark Steven Johnson and Iíd be like, ĎYes, monster movie, monster movie,í because thatís what I want to make, I want to make a movie that eight year olds and thirteen year olds can get excited about, the way they used to about Vincent Price and The Fly in the Fifties.
Q: How did you prepare for the transformation scene?:
Cage I had to imagine what it would feel like, and also I knew where I wanted to go with it in terms of performance in that I wanted it to be operatic. My earlier works like Vampireís Kiss, or Face/Off even; thereís imagery thatís like that, and I wanted to get back to that, which is that sort of wide-eyed excitement, ecstasy and pain.
Q: You laughed at one point:
Cage Oh yeah, yeah, I wanted there to be a moment or two where it seemed liked he was really enjoying it, like he was having more fun than anybody else in the world, that itís really scary and awful, but it feels really good because itís so powerful. I wanted that kind of energy coming out of that transformation scene.
Q: How many of the stunts did you do, and how many did the stuntman do?:
Cage I try to do as many as I can, but the thing is we did want to bring in some real excellent motorcycle stunt specialists for the jumps and things like that, and also for some of the road work, thereís some really cool effects that came out of it.
Q: Did you and Mark out-geek each other in terms of the knowledge of the comics?:
Cage I think Mark is more knowledgeable about the lore and the history itself about Ghost Rider. I really was just interested in the Faust-like mythology of the character, also the iconography of the character, and I wanted to bring whatever I could bring to it. For me, because the character is not as well known as Spiderman or Superman it liberated me to bring a little of my own twist to it, and introduce this character outside of the hard core fans of Ghost Ride. I wanted to open him up for mainstream audiences as well and give the fans something that they could enjoy, something that would be funny and also scary.
Q: It seems like this is an amalgam of the different eras of Ghost Rider:
Cage Yeah, Mark would know about that more than I would. But he did pull from different eras, decades of Ghost Rider and his back story. Blackheart is from later issues, whereas the origin of it naturally is from the Seventies.
Q: Can you talk about Peter Fonda being cast as the devil?:
Cage Yeah, I really wish he had worn the jacket from Easy Rider because to me that would have been like, I, Johnny Blaze, will give you whatever you want because youíre Captain America!
Q: Whose idea was it to cast him?:
Cage Originally I wanted to Tom Waits, and then for whatever reason that didnít happen, and then someone suggested Peter Fonda and I thought, okay, if there is going to be the ultimate icon of motorcycles itís Captain America; itís Peter Fonda. So it was the perfect idea.
Q: Wasnít the first script for Ghost Rider darker than this one?:
Cage Yeah, David Goyer wrote the script and it was much darker. It was a good way to go, but I think that movies work out the way they work out for a reason and I think ultimately this is potentially going to appeal to more people and be more entertaining for more people. I donít want to tip the scales and have it be too scary; I want it to be still accessible, especially since younger people are going to be going to see the movie.
Q: You were cast for Superman, youíve been linked with Green Goblin and Constantine as well Ė is this a case of youíve always been actively trying to get a comic book movie off the ground?:
Cage There were certain movies that were interesting to me for certain reasons. Green Goblin was something I talked about with Sam [Raimi], but at the end of the day I went with Adaptation because I wanted to do a smaller movie at the time. And I think it worked out well because Willem [Dafoe] was great as Green Goblin. Sam is one of my favorite directors; I hope one day we can work together. Constantine just didnít happen, for whatever the reasons it just didnít work out, the timing of it. And then Superman was a situation where the studio lost faith in the project at that time, and Tim [Burton] went another way and that was that.
Q: What did you think of Superman Returns?:
Cage I liked it because it was nostalgic, and it was clear to me that Warner Brothers wanted to go that way, which is not the way I would have gone with the character, because I would have wanted to do something new with it. Thatís why I think for me Ghost Rider is a better match, because it gave me a chance to do things with it in my way that would work with the character, whereas Superman I think is so dear to so many people for a variety of reasons that going with Brandon Routh was a good choice, because I was going to turn the character on its ear.
Cage How? Well I was going to have giant black Samurai hair, and I was just going to go for it! [he laughs]
Q: Is there talk of a sequel? Have you signed for one?:
Cage I havenít
Q: Would you do another one?:
Cage I feel like I really laid it down on this one. My instinct at this moment is it would depend on the script.