Nicolas Cage Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance

Nicolas Cage Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Ciarán Hinds, Idris Elba
Directors: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Thriller

Synopsis: Johnny is still struggling with his curse as the devil's bounty hunter - but he may risk everything as he teams up with the leader of a group of rebel monks (Idris Elba) to save a young boy from the devil and possibly rid himself of his curse forever.

Release Date: March 15, 2012

About the Film

Nicolas Cage is back as the Ghost Rider in a gritty new vision for the classic character, Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance. The film is directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor who have earned a cult following with their stylish and edgy films, including Crank and Gamer.

Brian Taylor explains that the directors were excited to approach their new film for two major reasons. "We were thrilled to have the opportunity to direct a franchise film with Nicolas Cage, and, second, to work with this really cool, edgy, comic book series - I mean, this dude has a flaming skull and kicks major ass," says Mark Neveldine. "I think the studio wanted to do something edgier with this franchise, so our attitude and style of filmmaking fit perfectly with the tone they were hoping to see. We were all on the same page."

With a free hand to give the film that edgy tone, the directors could let their imaginations run wild. "The only thing we knew we wanted to keep from the first film was Nicolas Cage. We wanted to change everything else - the way he looks, the way he dresses, the bike. We wanted souls to be burned and dragged to hell. And lucky for us, the studio said, 'That's great; that's what we were hoping you'd say.' And that became the start of our process. What we were really going for is a mood, a feeling, an aesthetic - to make him badass."

That process continued all the way through production, as Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor employ a kinetic style both in front of and behind the camera, as Nicolas Cage explains. "The energy of making this film was a different experience," says the actor. "It's a much more wild, almost daredevil experience - even the way Mark Neveldine shoots. He's like a stuntman, risking his life hundreds of times, hanging off of wires or shooting while skating on Rollerblades - he's a very active, macho filmmaker. Fans are going to be blown away by the photography and Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor and (Director of Photography) Brandon Trost's daredevil camerawork."

Describing their intense set experience, Makr Neveldine says, "At the end of the day, we have to get the performance and the shots, and we'll get them any way we can. You'll see us hanging off of cars and shooting on Rollerblades to push the cinematic envelope."

Where other directors might choose to create the Ghost Rider's world inside a computer, Mark Neveldine Brian Taylor capture as much as they can practically. "We use real stunt guys and real motorcycle action - though we did set the guy's head on fire in the computer afterwards," says Brian Taylor. "We think it makes for a better, more visceral experience for the viewer if they're seeing something real."

Editor Brian Berdan, who worked with the directors on Crank, says, "They are so creative; it's all hand-held and intuitive and not totally planned out. That liveliness of a hand-held camera and someone with the sense of what to do with it makes it all really come to life. It can be a challenge to edit, because you get a ton of footage - some of which makes you initially think, 'I can't do anything with this,' and then the camera will come in at just the right point and you grab exactly what you need!"

Idris Elba was impressed by the directors. "They managed to catch everything, paying attention to detail and performance and background. They're a very courageous set of filmmakers. You can see that they're having fun, but you also feel that they know what they want. They're really full-on fellas. When I saw Mark Neveldine break out the Rollerblades - and I'm on a motorcycle on a motorway in Romania (and I can hardly ride, I just learned) - I'm like, 'This dude is nuts, but, hey, let's go for it!'"

It's a style that Nicolas Cage relishes. "They have this gonzo energy, this wild intensity - they're both really up for anything. I think I fit into that, too."

"We were excited for our tone and dark humor to leak into the project," says Mark Neveldine. "At the same time, it was important to keep it grounded and hard-hitting."

Mark Neveldine Brian Taylor's extreme filmmaking required a story that broke new ground as well. It wouldn't do to simply pick up where the last film left off. "This story takes place years later, when Blaze - and the Ghost Rider - are in an entirely different place," says producer Ari Arad. "Johnny Blaze is now miles away from his place of birth, trying to run away from the demon inside him. In comes a priest, Moreau, played by Idris Elba, who promises to help Johnny - if Johnny can help find a certain boy. If Johnny can find the boy and save the child's soul, he might be able to save his own soul as well."

Some ideas for the new film started while Nicolas Cage was promoting the first film. "I was in England, doing a junket for the film, dressed in leather from head to toe, and I decided I'd go to Westminster Abbey on my lunch break," he remembers. "I had no idea that I was walking into an environmental summit with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the head of the Greek Orthodox Church. I snuck in, and they sat me in the back, when a bishop from Colorado sees me and invites me up front. He introduces me to the Archbishop, who says, 'Let me give you a tour of Westminster Abbey.' We're walking around, and he sees how I'm dressed, and he says, 'Oh, and by the way, I can be naughty, too.' Well, that was the beginning of it, for me - that John and the Ghost Rider would somehow be working with the church, that the church would need him in some way."

For Nicolas Cage, approaching Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance was "like starting from scratch in many ways. It's a whole new John Blaze - by now he's been living for a while with the Rider. In the original film he was always trying to calm down - by avoiding alcohol, listening to Karen Carpenter stuff that wouldn't make his head ignite. It's now years later; his head has ignited and he has to live with that. So it's an entirely different Johnny hiding out in Romania."

"Nicolas Cage is a brilliant actor and a gentleman," says Mark Neveldine. "He always puts the film first and we were humbled by his commitment. He brought ideas to the set every day that pushed us to be better filmmakers. He also embraced our style and enjoyed how we work. That made us feel good and kept us on our toes. It made coming to work every day a complete pleasure."

"Nicolas Cage seems like a lunatic when you see him in movies, but he's super-cerebral in his approach to acting," says Brian Taylor. "Everything he does is really well thought-out - there's a method to the madness. That's why his performances are so interesting - he's not just acting crazy. And that extends to a project like this one - it's a guy with his head on fire on a motorcycle, but we got really deep into the mythology. Not only did we construct a new arc for Blaze, we wanted to explore who the demon is, what his story is, what makes the Ghost Rider the way he is."

Nicolas Cage's co-stars were also impressed with the actor's range and commitment. "He's just one of the funniest and most gracious actors I've worked with," says Idris Elba. "You know, he's obviously a huge superstar, but when you meet him, you know, he's very much down-to-earth. Happy to work. Happy to rehearse. Happy to do it again and again. He's a good guy."

Nicolas Cage notes that just as the Ghost Rider has a new look in this film, so does Johnny Blaze. "The look is a lot more rugged. The jacket is more fitted and you don't have spikes coming out of it. It's less heavy metal," says the actor. "When Blaze, wearing a tight-fitted traditional racing jacket with leather pants, morphs into the Ghost Rider, it's a more organic and alive look. Something I talked about with Brian Taylor was how it starts to become hot, black, oozing and bubbling."

Costume Designer Bojana Nikitovic adds, "Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine didn't want it to be stylised; they wanted things to look real - like you wouldn't even notice the costumes. Almost every principal character has only one costume - these are characters that really live in their clothes, so their costumes become their skin, especially Johnny Blaze and Moreau. Everything has to be worn out."

John Blaze is not the only role that Nicolas Cage plays in the film; he also plays the Ghost Rider for the first time. (In the 2007 film, the Rider was played by a number of stunt performers, whose faces were replaced by the famous flaming skull.) "Brian Taylor really wanted to get into the feeling of the sacrifice - always recalling the pain of the actual initial deal with the Devil," says Nicolas Cage. "So, he was a huge advocate that I should play not just John Blaze, but the Ghost Rider as well. It was important to Brian Taylor that I inhabit the spirit, Zarathos - he is the corrupted and fallen spirit of justice who became a spirit of vengeance. That opened up all sorts of new doors for me. I'd played multiple roles in movies in the past, like Adaptation, but this time, I was dealing with a character that was not human. How could I bring that to life? It was exciting to me - and let's face it, the movie's called Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance, it's not called John Blaze. The Ghost Rider is the star of the movie."

"We thought it was a great opportunity - you have Nicolas Cage, this unbelievable actor, and you can have him play the dual role of Johnny Blaze and Ghost Rider," says Mark Neveldine. "I think he loved getting in there and playing this dark soul, dealing with the addiction of this demon inside of him."

"We really did approach it as a dual role - Ghost Rider is not Johnny Blaze," says Brian Taylor. "Johnny has been taken over by the demon, Zarathos. It's something else completely. So Nicolas Cage had to imagine, what does that demon look like when he's in hell? Now he's inhabiting a human body - what does that look like? How does he walk? How does he move?"

In their re-creating the character for the new film, Nicolas Cage and the directors worked on how they would portray the demonic spirit. "Brian Taylor and I thought that he was like an ancient pharaoh; he has a regal quality about him, and he's not something you can relate to," says Nicolas Cage. "And I also thought about animals that I could draw on; I had two pet cobras at one time in my life, and I would watch them move and what they would do when they turned their back to me. If you look at the back of a cobra, there's a pattern on it that almost looks like an occult eye. They would start dancing and then turn and just lunge and bare their fangs. That became a motif for Ghost Rider, that sort of hypnotic movement to try to put you to sleep and then attack. Those were some of the little ways of trying to create an entity that would be unlike anything you'd seen before that would, hopefully, scare and entertain you at the same time."

While audiences would never see Nicolas Cage's face when playing the Ghost Rider in the finished film, the actor nonetheless arrived on set in makeup of his own design that created a skull-like look and incorporated contact lenses that blacked out the entirety of his eyes.

But why create such an elaborate make-up, when Nicolas Cage's head was set to be replaced by CG a flaming skull? For Nicolas Cage, the reason is simple: to find the character and to assist his fellow actors in their reactions to him. "Ghost Rider, to me, is a fallen angel," continues the actor. "Since he's not anything you can relate to it was important to me that there be some distance and some fear present when playing that part. When you work from the outside in, it sometimes helps you channel or believe or commit to a character that hopefully not only stimulates my imagination but my fellow actors as well - they know that there's something else in the room now and it's not John Blaze, it's a whole other being."

Violante Placido (The American) says that all of the actors are adept and practiced at using their imaginations to picture what the computer will put on the screen but nothing takes the place of the real thing. "It made a real difference when Nicolas Cage put on his makeup and wore these dark contact lenses," she says. "The makeup made him so different, like an insect or like a snake with its black impenetrable eyes. Two black holes which hypnotise, horrify you at the same time."

"At the end of the film," says Ciarán Hinds, "he roars up on his bike and I'm trying to crawl as much as I can in any direction. When I turned and saw this extraordinary makeup that he's done, his face just came straight into mine and became otherworldly - he'd gone somewhere with this powerful, powerful energy."

Idris Elba leads a group of European actors and rising stars opposite Nicolas Cage. Idris Elba plays Moreau, "a religious man who has gone on his own path -a Lone Ranger type character," he says. "When you meet him, he's in the midst of a journey, searching for Nadya and Danny, and has been for a while. He's traveled around the world, lived in many different places. When I met Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, we discussed that the character has to have a feeling of 'been there, done that.' Even though he's a monk, he likes a little bit of a drink. And he has a motorcycle and cool threads - he goes for it."

Director Mark Neveldine predicts, "Idris Elba has a tremendous physical presence and physical skills matching the great action stars of the past 20 years. I love his take on Moreau, his energy and charisma. He has a never-say-never attitude, loves doing his own stunts and he's one of the best-looking guys in the business. A true tough guy who has the talent of twelve actors, and by the way, so much fun to work with."

"First of all, I like him as a person - he's somebody I enjoy talking with and, as an actor, he's brave," says Nicolas Cage. "Idris Elba is not afraid to be big, to give his character Moreau size. There's a kind of enchanting madness in his eyes and this wonderful kind of crazy laugh he does every now and then. "

As he did for his memorable role in Thor, Idris Elba chose to wear special contact lenses that would lighten his eye color. "The character was described as a man who has a light in his eyes - which I interpreted as a light coming from his eyes," he describes. "So I said to Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, 'Hey, why don't we change his eye color? Why don't we make it a little bit more ambiguous as to what's going on with those eyes, you know?" He's not a superhero, he's not mystical - he's real - but I wanted him to look like he might be other-worldly here and there. And they loved the idea."

"The moment he put those on, it was the icing on the cake for Moreau," says Mark Neveldine. "It was this spiritual power, beaming through those eyeballs. We needed that - he's not just a drunk monk, he's a drunk monk with a powerful stare, and he'll need that when he's up against the Ghost Rider."

Ciarán Hinds plays a character named Roarke, but let's not kid ourselves. "There's no way you can mince words, Roarke is the Devil," says Ciarán Hinds, "and he's not looking for redemption. He's inhabited the body of a human being; unfortunately, human beings, being what they are, are weak and fallible, so the body's starting to disintegrate. Since he has spawned a Devil child, a young boy, he has a back-up plan, but it becomes a race against time, because not only does he have to secure the boy by a certain moment, as he progresses on his journey he starts to disintegrate. After a while, it looks like his whole face is just sliding off him."

Strangely enough, this is not Ciaran Hinds' first time playing the Devil. "A few years ago, Connor McPherson, a well-known Irish theatre writer-director, asked me to be in a play ["The Seafarer"] that he'd written and was directing on Broadway. The character was called Mr. Lockhart - and he turned out to be The Devil. I'm not sure what it is about my choices as an actor that leads to me being cast as the Devil, but it's fun to be evil."

"Ciarán Hinds is the nicest guy in the world - a very gentle soul - but I'm sure the Devil is the nicest guy in the world, too," says Nicolas Cage. "He's worked all that charm into his portrayal. There's a great sense of fun with him, as well."

Director Mark Neveldine calls Ciaran Hinds "a total pro. He's fascinating to watch and he brings so much life to the character with so much ease. We were always excited when he stepped on set. He is a tireless actor who never ever complains and can do a perfect take 20 times in a row. Like Nicolas Cage, he is one of the great actors of our time."

Describing his character's look, Hinds jokes that "contrary to popular opinion, the Devil doesn't wear Prada. The Devil wears Brioni. Bojana Niktovic was very good about delicately sizing up the character - a man carrying himself with what he believes is old school dignity and pride. He is trying to keep it all together, but he's falling apart. He looks impeccable, but meanwhile the body's disintegrating."

Costume Designer Bojana Nikitovic continues, "Brian and Mark gave the right instructions to not make the typical version of devil, so we knew that he needed to be a really immaculately dressed, elegant guy. And Ciarán Hinds absolutely helped by how he wears the costume and the way he carries that character."

And it's not only the wardrobe that makes the man-to play Roarke, Ciaran Hinds also wore makeup and prosthetics. "It's truly creative, fantastic work," the actor marvels. "You need a little Zen and a lot of patience because it's a two-hour job - hair, makeup, lenses. Most of it is prosthetics work that is blended and sealed into the skin on the side of the face and along the nose. I watch how it progresses bit by bit and, at the end, half my face is not what it was when I sat down on the chair."

Violante Placido takes on the role of Nadya, who forms a bond with Johnny when a secret sect of the church recruits him for to help her son. "She has led a tough life, on the streets, and that has made her tough," says Violante Placido. "I imagine her like a stray cat. She knows how to use guns and knives - she's ready to kill if necessary. Her biggest sin is her son, Danny; it's a paradox, because he's also her only reason to live. Her mission in this movie is to protect her son and maybe redeem herself, start a new life."

"Nadya is crazy - she's cheated, stolen, probably killed. But at the end of the day she wants to be a mom; she wants to take care of her son," says Mark Neveldine. "Violante Placido puts that front-and-center; you feel that she is putting the role of being a mother first, and she makes the character redeemable."

Nicolas Cage observes, "There's a tragic mystery to Violante Placdio's performance as Nadya that's right for the role. She is a gypsy vagabond who fell in with the wrong crowds and now feels really heartbroken for this child - she's concerned for his future and feels guilty.

And that all comes out in her eyes. Violante Placdio's one of those actors who is so mysterious because you don't know what she's thinking; it's all very fluid and effortless."

adya has a mysterious, unconventional beauty. "I really like the look that she ended up having - and there was a lot of Brian Taylor in the procedure," notes Violante Placido. "We decided for a dark, punk rock look. She has these dark eyes. It's like a protection that she uses - a makeup that she can make herself. It's not really glamorous and it accomplishes two things - it makes her appear melancholy, even desperate, and, at the same time, tough. It's a kind of cat look."

"It is unclear whether she's a Gypsy, but she's living her life that kind of way," observes Costume Designer Bojana Nikitovic. "When you dress a beautiful woman, it's good to see the curves and a little bit of skin, so the search for the right costume was not helped by the fact that the story takes place in wintertime. To protect Violante Placido from the cold, we found a jacket that we liked, then we played with colors. We definitely wanted color on her because other characters are almost monochrome, like black, gray. After trying a number of possibilities we found this red that we loved very much."

Johnny Whitworth takes on the role of Carrigan - Nadya's ex-boyfriend and a character who transforms into the malevolent Blackout. "He's a sociopath - definitely a bad guy," Johnny Whitworth explains. "Roarke hires him to track down Nadya, because he wants the child. But the Ghost Rider has been hired by the good guys to do the same thing. An ordinary guy can't go up against the Ghost Rider, so when he almost bites the dust, he finds himself turned into Blackout - and now, he's on the same supernatural level as the Ghost Rider, this other Devil creation."

Johnny Whitworth had worked with Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor before, in their film Gamer as well as Pathology, which Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor wrote. "They have such different voices, but they complement each other," he says. "Sometimes they'll give you different direction, but when that happens you realise that they are giving you two avenues to the same destination."

"Johnny Whitworth is the type of actor that we'd have for one or two scenes and he'd steal the show," says Brian Taylor. "So we figured this was the time to give him a chance to really blow it up. He's an unpredictable actor, playing a really good bad guy, a dark soul of a man. For the comic book fans out there, I think they're going to find that he's true to the spirit of Blackout, and for the people who aren't, they'll find he's just really cool."

To make the character that cool required extensive makeup and prosthetic work. "The standard was really high on the makeup, because we had to make sure that Blackout and the Ghost Rider, which would obviously be CG, felt like they existed in the same world," says Brian Taylor. "I think the end result was that our people just knocked it out of the park."

For Johnny Whitworth, completing the transition from handsome actor to devil creation took four hours. "It was a painstaking process, but definitely worth it," says the actor.

Christopher Lambert plays the pivotal character Methodius, the leader of the sophisticated if monastic sect to whom Moreau struggles to bring Danny, Nadya and Blaze for what they all believe will be the boy's safe keeping.

"It's great to have someone like Christopher Lambert - with a legacy like his - in this film," observes Idris Elba.

But Methodius' conception of what will make the world safe in terms of Danny's fate is shockingly different from the boy's friends and mother's. "It's impossible to say if he's a good guy or a bad guy. He's just a guy with a conviction and he's going to go forward with this conviction," notes Christopher Lambert.

But playing a man of faith who is quite prepared to execute a young boy was not the actor's greatest challenge - that involved coming to terms with how the directors envisioned that would Methodius look. "When Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor asked me if I wouldn't mind shaving my head and having my face covered in tattoos, I was really scared. I didn't know how I'd look with my head shaven - I tried unsuccessfully to convince them to let me do it with a bald cap. Ultimately, I shaved it gradually. I didn't have long hair, but I had enough that I wanted to go step by step. I started to cut it really short, then shorter, then shorter and, to my amazement, I really liked it. I'm going to grow it back a little, but I'm going to keep it very short because first of all, it's very practical and, secondly, I feel good about its pleasant feel. I was going to say 'the wind in your hair,' but the wind on your skull is pretty nice."

The tattooing process designed by special effects makeup artist Jason Robert Hamer was, as described by Christopher Lambert, "pretty simple. Fortunately, the tattoos stay on; I can sleep with the makeup. The day before shooting, we do half my face and my skull and then, the morning of the shoot, we do the rest. All together, it's about a two-and-a-half-hour process, and it takes more time to take off than to put on. "

The then-thirteen-year-old actor Fergus Riordan rounds out the principal cast in the pivotal role of Danny. "Unfortunately, he's the son of the Devil," says Fergus Riordan. "His mom made a pact with the Devil to host his child. So he runs away from good guys and the bad guys; in fact, he's not really sure who is good and who is bad. Ultimately, he has to decide between good and evil."

"We were very lucky to find Fergus Riordan," agrees Executive Producer E. Bennett Walsh. "We were getting ready to do this complete European search for ten-year-old boys. We had already cast the major parts and we thought we were going to have to do this huge search to find the kid. Our casting directors in London sent Fergus' tape and we flew him in on a weekend; he read the lines and Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor cast him right there."

Nicolas Cage found Fergus Riordan to be "one of the most professional actors I've ever worked with and he wasn't even fourteen yet. He is the model of how you want someone to behave on the set--he's always on time, always prepared and he's really, really good. He's just got a presence about him, timing and confidence. He was out there in these remote locations, working very hard in the cold, outside, and he never once complained. Plus, he's adorable."

About the Bikes and Stunts

For Johnny Blaze's iconic motorcycle, the filmmakers chose the Yamaha V-Max. Its rider, Nicolas Cage, loved the choice. "I was relieved to be able to ride a Yamaha because it made my job so much easier," says Nicolas Cage. "When you have to ride a chopper with a raked front end, it is very hard to hit your mark. It's almost impossible to maneuver and when you have three hundred people watching and a camera on you, you don't want to make a mistake. The V-Max handled it all for me. It performs beautifully - I feel like I'm one with it. I feel completely connected to the motorcycle."

Production Designer Kevin Phipps and Picture Action Vehicles Supervisor Alex King worked to dress the V-Max bike for the screen, making it look like an oily and burly but well-loved machine with age and scuff marks, burnished where the paint has worn off.

Then, of course, they would need another bike, for the Ghost Rider. Blaze's bike changes as he does - when he becomes the Ghost Rider, his bike becomes the Hell Cycle. Alex King explains: "The Hell version, the Ghost Rider's bike, is transformed - it's like molten lava, a seemingly burnt-out bike. For it to burst into flames, the visual effects people needed LED lights and orange marker points for the effects."

Ken Phipps adds, "This machine that has heated up to a molten state and cooled down again a thousand times. We looked at lava fields, high temperature steel manufacturing, and other expansion-contraction processes with metals that come about through heat expansion and corrosion. We experimented with paint finishes, using sands, high temperature paints, and expanding foams and gradually layered up the bike with very complicated paint finishes. Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor would come along, give notes and were ultimately delighted with what we achieved."

Also, the bike would have to be set on fire (through the computer, in post production). To give the VFX Supervisor Eric Durst and the 3D Stereographer Craig Mumma ample reference, Ken Phipps and Alex King added LEDs and orange tracking markers to the bike, which could be removed by the VFX artists as the fire was added.

The motorcycle that Moreau rides is a Russian Ural Solo 750 customized with a new leather seat and vintage-looking saddle bags.

But what may be the most impressive vehicle in the film is the giant Bagger 288 commandeered by the Ghost Rider during his explosive fight in the quarry with the well-armed Carrigan and his crew. The Bagger is a gigantic bucket-wheel excavator or mobile strip mining machine that is up to 721 feet long and approximately 315 feet high.

As much attention was paid to riding these vehicles as the finding them. With Stunt Coordinator Markos Rounthwaite overseeing the stunt work, stuntman Rick English took on an important role as the Ghost Rider's stunt double. "The stunt team is incredibly important," praises Nicolas Cage. "Rick English is one of the great motorcycle riders in the world and the things that he can do with a bike are absolutely acrobatic. And Markos Rounthwaite, who knows martial arts incredibly well, has designed moves that really bring a pop to the scenes."

Markos Rounthwaite was responsible not only for helping to design and plan an aggressive slate of stunts for his own team, but also keep his directors safe as they pushed the filmmaking envelope. "Markos Rounthwaite came to us with a natural, old-school stunt approach," says Mark Neveldine. "He just wanted to crash cars and put guys on wires. He had an incredible stunt team - riders that could do wheelies on motorcycles and take great hits and jump off of trucks and were precision drivers. He also put us on the wires when we had to get a shot going over the cliff."

Markos Rounthwaite observes, "In stunt doubling, you need to really concentrate on how the actor moves, how they act, so they can mimic the actor's body movements. So it's not just the overall action you've got to take into consideration, it's also how the actors move as well, and Rick English's very experienced and great at that."

Stuntman Rick English adds, "We like the actors to do as much as they're capable of doing - and Nicolas Cage is very capable. We'd show him rehearsals, get some feedback from him and tweak the plan - he'd be very up for it all and very good at doing stunts. The same with the motorcycle riding. I went out riding with him when he first started on the picture; he hadn't ridden for a long while and I thought we'd take it nice and easy, go nice and slow. And then, two minutes later, he shot past me about a hundred miles an hour and I thought, I better go catch up with him! He's a very good rider and very safety conscious as well, which is good. He always respected Markos Routhwaite and the stunt team's opinion."

"Rick English is the Michael Jordan of stunts," says Brian Taylor. "He is so dominant in everything. He could fight, he could do wire work, he could lay down a bike at eighty miles an hour. He could do all that and perform, too - Nicolas Cage had developed a pretty complex and interesting style of movement for the demon, and for the scenes in which the demon is on the motorcycle, Rick English was able to channel that and recreate it -not just mimic it, but make it happen."

In addition, Markos Rounthwaite was responsible for other behind-the-scenes stunts as well - notably wiring director Mark Neveldine and his camera to hang and sway over a cliff to get a shot. "I'm quite happy to put a highly regarded director on that hot seat," Markos Rounthwaite laughs.

About the Visual Effects and 3D

Though the directors' focus for Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance was to capture as much of the action in camera as possible, it was clear from the beginning that the film would have to employ CG effects as well. After all, the title character has a flaming skull.

Overseeing the VFX is Visual Effects Supervisor Eric Durst, who says, like all of the departments, the new Ghost Rider film would have a very different look from its predecessor. "Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor really wanted a new look for Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance. It's a darker film, so we created a look that integrated with that. The look of the character isn't stylised at all - it is as if Ghost Rider really existed, really had a flaming head. The skull is dark and charred - just as it would be if you really had a skull that was on fire. Another touch like that is the shoulders of the jacket - they would be bubbling up from the heat inside the body."

The primary challenge in creating the VFX, says Eric Durst, is that the character is "interactive. The light that comes off the flames on his head - it interacts with his shoulders and anything else nearby. But interactive light is very difficult to recreate in the computer. It's so subtle, and it interacts in different ways with different fabrics and objects. So to achieve that, we took a hood with LED lights on it that flickered on and off. That had two great benefits for us: first, the LED lights served as tracking markers in the computer, so when Nicolas Cage moved his head from left to right, we could make the skull match those movements. But the LEDs also cast a light on anything that was in proximity, so it would give us the light that would occur if the flame really was on his head."

Eric Durst also notes that since the release of the first Ghost Rider film, there have been tremendous advances in CG animation. "The foundation of getting flames in CG is fluid dynamics, and so much has happened technologically in just the last five or six years," he says. "For the original film, Sony Pictures Imageworks created their own code and worked within the software systems that existed at the time. It was very labor intensive. For the new film, with six years' worth of development of the technology in the field, we had a big head start. You can make things look stunningly real now."

The effects were completed by Iloura, an Australian company. "We canvassed the world to see who had the best fire," says Eric Durst. "Their first test had everything - the right, dark look for the skull, the flames, the right vibe. Everyone fell in love with it right there, and Iloura did a great job on the movie."

The film also brings the Ghost Rider in 3D. "The movie for us was always going to be in 3D, from the very beginning - we love making the movie a more immersive experience. It seemed like a really cool idea, especially with our style of shooting," says Brian Taylor. "We tried to push the envelope with the technology. The first thing they told us was all the things we couldn't do - no handheld camera, no quick cuts, no lens flares, no soft foreground, no super-long lenses, no super-wide lenses and we asked, well, why?"

"There are rules, and Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor wanted to break those rules, so it was my job to break them," says stereographer Craig Mumma. "We wanted to take their style and adapt it to the screen and make 3D an enjoyable experience. The way Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor shoot, the camera work is an integral part of the movie, almost like another character. There's no changing the way they shoot, so we had to come up with tools to adapt."

Shooting in Romania and Turkey

Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance was filmed on location in Romania and Turkey. "Romania has an established film community," says E. Bennett Walsh, executive producer of the film. "They have been brought up on lower-budget Hollywood films - they've done thirty or forty films in the five-to-ten-million-dollar range, plus Cold Mountain, but that was the exception. They understood the systems of how we make our films. The difference between Cold Mountain and our film is that for Cold Mountain they brought in two hundred people from outside Romania. We brought in approximately 25 people and the rest were Romanians."

About the country and its film crew, Nicolas Cage found that "Romania has an energy, it has a buzz to it, and ours was a hardworking crew that did a really good job. These people care; they value their work."

The production of Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance was based in the Bucharest area, shooting a number of scenes on the sound stages and back lot of Castel Studios in Snagov. The crew also spent more than a month traveling and filming throughout scenic and historic central Romania (including parts of Transylvania).

"Shooting in Transylvania, we got those mountain roads, the majestic castle, and the grit we wanted for the Eastern European setting. Romania was perfect," says director Mark Neveldine.

The roads on which Moreau rides in the opening scene of the film and, later, Carrigan pursues Nadya and Danny after they escape from the monastery were shot on the hairpin turns of the Transfagarasan Highway, the most dramatic paved road in the country traversing the crest of the Fagaras Mountains. As winter and snowfalls approached soon after filming, the highway was closed to traffic until June. (Although it is not seen in the film, the ruins of Cetatea Poienari, the 15th century castle of Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) are perched along the highway, a 1400-step climb from the production's base camp.)

One key scene was shot in a square in picturesque Sibiu, the largest and wealthiest of seven walled citadels built in the 12th century by German settlers (the Transylvanian Saxons). The beautiful city was designated a European Capital of Culture for 2007. A recently surfaced highway outside Sibiu that was not yet open to traffic is the location for another scene in which Blaze wins over Danny on the bed of Nadya's stolen truck.

Moreau's destination at the beginning of the film, where he will meet Nadya and Danny in the heavily-fortified monastery, was filmed at the Corvin Castle (also known as the Hunyadi Castle) in the city of Hunedoera (also located in Transylvania). The beautifully restored and maintained 14th-centrury Gothic fortress (complete with giant moat) is one of the most spectacular castles in the world.

Carrigan's near fatal encounter with the Ghost Rider was shot in a giant quarry outside of the city of Targu Jiu in southwestern Romania. Parts of the quarry sequence, including Carrigan's resurrection at the hands of R