'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance' directors Neveldine and Taylor Discuss Wall*E and Bambi Urinating Flames
The photo that you see associated with this story depicts the Ghost Rider, the main character from "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance," urinating flames. Yes, the main character in this movie urinates flames. This would be the doing of the film's directors, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.
"Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance" is not a sequel. Nicolas Cage, of course, returns as the Ghost Rider, but as they explain, the events of the first movie did not happen to the character that we see in the second movie. Over the course of my conversation with the somewhat eccentric duo to discuss their new film, we discuss Cage's self-awareness level, the unfortunate lawsuit between the creator of Ghost Rider and Marvel, how David Hasselhoff almost wound up in this movie and why they left "Jonah Hex" -- a wise move, as it turns out. Also, they somehow seared into my brain the image of Wall*E pissing flames -- something that will most likely stay with me for the rest of my life.
So, before talking to you, I was warned that you two are crazy. Is that true?
Neveldine: Yeah, we are crazy. And you caught us at the end of the day and the beer is supposedly in the other room.
Am I withholding you from your beer? Now I feel bad.
Neveldine: You could have brought beer for us.
Taylor: Because you could win with that, very easily.
Neveldine: We started off the interviews this morning in bed, so you kind of missed out.
Taylor: It was the John and Yoko interview.
That's an image I really didn't need. Have you guys still not seen the first "Ghost Rider"?
Taylor: I saw it.
Neveldine: I haven't.
What did you like about it and what didn't you like about it?
Taylor: I like Nic's take on that movie. He talks about it like a Faust movie made by Walt Disney. And if you watch it with that in mind -- you look at the lighting and the framing -- it does feel like a Davy Crockett. And it's definitely more for kids. And what Marvel really wanted from us is to, "Let's make the Ghost Rider feel more like a Marvel movie -- let's bring it more up to date." But I don't know if we made it feel like a Marvel movie. I think we made it feel like a Neveldine/Taylor movie. But it's definitely not Disney.
I will agree that not many Disney movies feature a character pissing flames.
Taylor: Not many.
Neveldine: Maybe "Bambi"?
Taylor: Did Wall*E piss flames?
Neveldine: Maybe "Lady and the Tramp."
You're right. I do remember the Tramp pissing flames.
Taylor: Bambi's mom went up in flames.
Neveldine: No, she was shot.
Is Nicolas Cage self-aware?
Taylor: You know, he has a reputation for a lot of over-the-top performances or being this crazy man -- you know, that will just go crazy and say anything. That's not really the case. He's actually really thoughtful and really cerebral. And no matter how mad and over-the-top his performance gets, be assured that he's thought about that. He has a reason for everything that he does.
I feel he can turn it on and off, depending what movie he's in.
Taylor: He embraces the tone of whatever movie he's in.
Neveldine: He's methodical about that and the way he approaches the characters.
Taylor: He just wants to see that you're passionate. As many movies that he's done, he's just as passionate as you can imagine. Probably the most so of any actor we've worked with. What he wants is to have the filmmakers on the same level as him in terms of being totally committed, creative and excited about what we're doing. If he feels that, he's unleashed. And we welcome all of that. We wanted all of it. So, we invited it. It's like inviting a vampire into the room.
So, we see Ghost Rider urinate flames. Is there anything crazier that didn't make the movie?
Neveldine: Well, we did some stuff at the hospital that was really, really over-the-top. Basically, he wanted to rip the head off of the nurse if she was going to tell the cops that he was there. He was saying stuff like, "I'm going to break your arms! I'm going to rip your head off!" And that was like the greatest thing, to watch it and to shoot that.
Taylor: We were rolling on the floor.
Neveldine: But the audience isn't going to root for you if you go that far that quickly! So, we pulled it back. He's got a knob on the "Nic-o-meter," so we were like, "Let's go down to a four from an 11 and see if we can deal with it."
Taylor: "We don't want you to be Bad Lieutenant here because we need you to be Bad Lieutenant later."
Is that a term you coined? The "Nic-o-meter."
Neveldine: Yeah, we just coined it.
Did the events that happened to Johnny Blaze in the first movie at all happen to the Johnny Blaze we see in the new movie?
Neveldine: The stuff in the first movie happened, sort of. But it happened different. This is later, and we really don't go into it that much.
Taylor: At first, we didn't know how much we could take for granted what people knew. Early on in the process we kind of assumed that everybody saw the first movie -- so they know this, this and this. And then we found when we started showing early cuts to people, they didn't know what the hell was going on. So we realized, wow, a lot of people don't remember the first movie. So we had to go back and re-tell certain things from the first movie just to kind of get you on your feet. For instance, we re-did the signing of the contract.
Neveldine: It was such a wimpy way to go out. "Oh, he accidentally cuts his hand…"
Yeah, I'm not sure that's legally binding. "Oh, my pen fell and it left a mark…"
Taylor: Right. The whole thing falls apart.
Neveldine: So if we were going to go back and show anything, we'll at least do it in a way that works with the story that we're trying to tell and gives it real consequences. So now Peter Fonda became Ciaran Hinds -- I'm not sure how that really works. But, at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter.
Do you feel the timing of the lawsuit story between the creator of "Ghost Rider," Gary Friedrich, and Marvel is unfortunate?
Taylor: Yeah, I've heard some really bad stories.
Neveldine: Yeah, I heard that [Friedrich] lost several weeks ago and I thought that was a closed case. I'm not really sure. But it doesn't affect us at all. And it's not like people see it on the news or hear it on the radio. They only know it if they go to certain websites. They have to chase it down -- do you know what I mean?
Taylor: I know the stories that are out there are bad stories. They don't sound good. I don't know if they're true or not. I generally don't trust anything if the only thing I've seen about it is a tweet or something on the Internet. You know, I just don't know. But you usually find that the sharks follow the blood.
Near the beginning of the film, a photo of Jerry Springer pops on screen and it's insinuated that he's the Devil. Was it always Springer, or did you have someone else in mind?
Neveldine: It was going to be Hasselhoff. But it didn't work out. It was one of those things where Sony was like, "Here's our selection."
Taylor: And we went through a lot of people for that, but they didn't make sense. It's hard to find just the perfect picture of the perfect person where there's that instant read. And we had that with Hasselhoff, and we're like, "We know this is funny, but it's just not quite landing." People thought it was funny, but it wasn't quite as funny as it was supposed to be.
Neveldine: We had a long list: Charlie Sheen, Donald Trump, competing studio heads.
What happened on "Jonah Hex"?
Neveldine: We left early in the process. The movie has, maybe, 1 to 2 percent of what we wrote in it.
And you guys were supposed to direct it.
Taylor: We were. We thought it was going to happen. A lot of strange things happened on that movie.
What strange things happened? Because that movie should have been good.
Taylor: I guess every movie should be good. And a lot of great people worked on it. And the people at Warner Bros. were awesome. And despite all of the efforts of these great people, sometimes movies don't work. And it's hard to really trace down what happened. But the thing is, we came in really early and were in discussions with them about the version of the story that made sense to us.
Neveldine: It was a "hard R" version. That's the version that we wrote.
Taylor: He seemed like a "hard R" kind of character to us. He felt like "Sin City" in the Old West. At least, that was our vision of it. And clearly they wanted to do something a lot broader than that. We just had two different movies in mind.
Was it a tough decision to leave?
Taylor: No. It was obvious to them and it was obvious to us that we just weren't the right guys. And that's okay.
Well, I have good news: You can drink beer now.
Neveldine: Nice! Wait, we have to sign posters.
You can't sign posters while drinking beer?
Neveldine: Well, I can.
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com, GQ.com, New York Magazine and Movieline. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter