A lot can change for a Spirit of Vengeance in a few short years. He can move to the mountains. He can get a lot crazier. He can become more of a badass. He can get a new set of wheels. He can get a new director and a new movie, and he can actually have Nicolas Cage play him this time.
"This is a chance to go a whole different direction with Ghost Rider," Cage told a packed Hall H at Comic-Con International in San Diego. "The [directors] said, it's also important that you play Ghost Rider, which I didn't do in the last film. I tried to give it a scary dimension with movement." Cage is of course referring to the much-maligned 2007 "Ghost Rider" film written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson, based on the Marvel Comics hero.
An extended clip of the not-quite sequel "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" was shown to the crowd. It featured new look Ghost Rider -- more detailed and menacing -- with a new Hell Cycle and even a new set of wheels, something borrowed from a heavy construction operation.
In one impressive scene, a bad guy unloads a magazine full of bullets point-blank into Ghost Rider's mouth. Ghost Rider then unleashes the bullets right back at him.
Cage said he had more to say with the character, and wanted to take Johnny Blaze in a different direction
"The first [film] was more a Grimm's fairy tale, and for the whole family, which is what I wanted," Cage said. "This one I wanted to scare and entertain at the same time."
A lot more has changed than the tone and the special effects since Ghost Rider's first film outing. "First of all, Blaze has been living for several years now having his head catch on fire, so it's affected his mood. He's a bit more sarcastic, edgy, ironic," Cage said. "With Ghost Rider, I didn't get to play Ghost Rider in the other movie. So I really got to think about that; how it would move. We talked about it and how we could mess with your minds. Just be a little bit mysterious and scary."
Also different is the man, or in this case men behind the camera for "Spirit of Vengeance." The directing duo behind "Crank" and "Gamer," Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor" replace original writer/director Mark Steven Johnson and took extreme risks to make sure this film looked amazing. A clip was shown detailing how they got certain shots, including methods where one of them would be pulled by a motorcycle while wearing roller blades and being harnessed to wires and thrown over a cliff.
"Why give the fun to somebody else?" Neveldine said about the daredevil style of filmmaking that puts them at risk of bodily harm. Their philosophy, they said, was that they never ask stunt men to do something they wouldn't do themselves.
Another rule on their set: if a stunt man gets hurt during filming, that scene is going in the film.
"So you will see real bones breaking," Taylor said.
"Really, what you saw in the other segment, Mark is holding on to a motorcycle literally risking his life to entertain you," Cage said of the extremes the filmmakers went through. "That's infectious, and we get into that adrenalin frame of mind. They're extremist, and I feel like I'm an extremist. We got along, we pushed each other and we became friends. It was a perfect marriage."
Idris Elba, who played the role of Heimdall in Thor and will portray a character he described as a "French wine-drinking, motorcycle-driving warrior monk" in "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance," expounded on the team's crazy filmmaking style.
"With actors you have a certain amount of safety. With directors you have a certain amount of safety," he said. "With these guys, you have no safety. I hadn't ridden a motorcycle in 20 years, and they said, 'Hey, we want you to do your own stunts!'"
A fan asked the directors about the new-look Hell Cycle. The two gave their take on Ghost Rider's vehicles.
"It's still a Hell Cycle, it's just based on a real bike," Taylor said. "Anything the Ghost Rider rides, that transforms into the Hell Cycle. You saw a little bit of... it's called a strip-miner, it's an awesome thing! It's made to strip mountains. When Ghost Rider gets on that, it's awesome."
Taylor also talked about the appeal of the character to him.
"He's one of the most badass characters... he makes no sense at all... he's not a superhero, he doesn't wear tights," Taylor said. "His power is he sucks out your soul. The madness and the nightmarish quality is what drew us to it."
Asked which comic characters they would play given the choice, Elba and Cage were both happy to respond.
"I'm very proud to have been a part of 'Thor,'" Elba said. "If there was another opportunity, definitely Luke Cage. We just need to know that people want to see it."
Not surprisingly, Cage stuck with Ghost Rider.
"For two reasons: one, because it happened and two, because I grew up reading it," Cage explained. "I like the monsters and the complexity. In this day and age where we're making comic book movies all the time... you need a couple bad boys, and Ghost Rider brings that."