Johnson Talks To Wizard Texas Audience About Ghost Rider!

GR director had a question-and-answer session for his Wizard World Texas audience!
Mark Steven Johnson, writer and director of the upcoming Ghost Rider, answered questions for fans at the Wizard World Texas audience after showing 9-minute preview clip:

* Johnson said the last time he was in Texas was when he was scouting for Ghost Rider, which he ultimately shot in Melbourne, Australia. "The spirit of Texas is really a big part of the movie," Johnson said. "We've kind of created a fictional city; we never name it. It's a little bit of Dallas, a little bit of Houston and a little bit of San Antonio."

* The transformation from Johnny Blaze to Ghost Rider can't be shown in a trailer, Johnson said, because of MPAA regulations involving showing people on fire. "It's frustrating for me because it's my favorite stuff in the movie," Johnson said.

* Johnson said Ghost Rider was a movie he tried to make even before Daredevil. "This was the one I always wanted to make," he said. "I come from Minnesota, a big cycling state, big Harley state. So being surrounded by all these bikes, and I'm a huge Evel Knievel fan growing up. So between, a horror movie and an Evel Knievel movie, it was like a dream geek project for me."

* Asked about a Daredevil sequel, Johnson said, "Oh man, I would just love it. I wish they would. I've spoken really bluntly about my feelings about the movie. I still love the movie, even with all the flaws. Fox, for some reason, they have it in their heads that Elektra was the sequel to Daredevil -- which was a terrible movie. I'm hoping they'll still go ahead with it or if not, they'll give the rights back to Marvel, who has their own money now and can do their own thing and get it right. My dream would be to go back, reboot it and do a 'Born Again' storyline. And then maybe do a Daredevil: Yellow -- or at least a Daredevil: Yellow televisions series. That would be awesome. I think there are so many great stories to tell."

* Johnson said he felt "really lucky" about getting his cast. "I got the people I wanted," he said.

* How true will the movie be to the comic? "It's very, very true to the Johnny Blaze storyline," Johnson said. "As you can tell with the introduction of Caretaker, I did cherry-pick a couple of my favorite stuff from the Danny Ketch era. I think there's great stories in there.

"But it's the Quentin Carnival. It's very, very true to the comics. Very slight changes. One of the changes was that he makes a deal for his own father, who is dying of cancer, with the devil, versus his step-father. And, like I said, mixing the 70s with the 90s. But other than that, it's very authentic to the comic."

Johnson said that even in the nine-minute clip, there were some of his favorite Ghost Rider comics images incorporated.

"Everybody became a Ghost Rider fan who worked on this movie. It was mandatory," Johnson said. "There were comics everywhere."

* Johnson said he was surprised the film got a PG-13 rating. "There's some intense stuff in here," said. "I was pretty shocked. I didn't have to cut anything to get the PG-13 rating."

Johnson said he didn't think a hard R-rated Ghost Rider would be better than a PG-13 Ghost Rider. "I think that's kind of a bogus argument," he said. "For me, growing up, my favortite movies most of them are PG movie. Even Jaws was a PG movie."

Johnson said he didn't think more gore would make Ghost Rider a better movie. "God knows, there are so many horrible horror movies," he said.

Johnson said he signed a contract with the stipulation that Ghost Rider would be PG-13.

* Johnson said he has a project in the works with HBO, but he couldn't talk about it until the deal closes.

* About Nicolas Cage, Johnson said, "There's no one like him. The thing he really brought to it, and I should have expected it but I was still surprised, was all the Cage-isms, you know what I mean. The way he makes things different. And they don't feel phony, they feel operadic and exciting and weird."

Johnson related how Cage said being Johnny Blaze was like being in a dentist chair all the time, waiting for a nerve to be hit.

"You never know when you're going to go," Johnson said. "And once you start thinking that way, it changes everything. With Johnny Blaze, he shouldn't be this boring alter ego. He should be this interesting, really far-out guy."

Johnson said viewers will see Mephisto and Blackheart in demonic form. "Not Mephisto like the comics," Johnson said, laughing. "That's one I had to take a little liberty with. I couldn't imagine that one."

Johnson said that Blackheart's look will evolve in the movie, particularly toward the end when he takes on souls.

* Johnson said he emphasized the theatrical in creating Ghost Rider's Hellcycle, desiring a "Giger-ish" look. "I always loved how the Batmobile looks like Batman," he said. "And I wanted the Hellcycle to look like Ghost Rider, with twisted metal and bones."

Johnson said the bike used in the film is "a bitch" to drive.

"It's 12 feet long," he said. "It goes up to about 90 (mph). In a straight line, it's great. But it corners really badly. So you see him coming around the corner, it's all sped-up shots. It's like, 'Don't dump it! Don't dump it!'"
* Cage delivers all of Ghost Rider's lines, which are then manipulated by sound designer Dane Davis.

"He took his voice and aded three animal growls to it -- a lion's growl, a tiger and a leopard," Johnson said. "He then ran it through a fire thing and then he came up with air going through pipes. And then he took some oily, rusted changes and drug them around the room. And you combine all these things, and that's what the voice is."

* Asked who was a better actor, Cage or Ben Affleck, Johnson laughed and said, "Oh, that's a bad question. You're setting me up here."

He said he had been a longtime Cage fan. "I never know what to expect from him," he said.

* Johnson said he was interested in a Ghost Rider sequel. "You have to wait and see how this goes," he said. "I sure hope so. I know Nic would love to, and we'd all love to.

"What's great about second ones is you can go right into the fun, you don't have to worry about origins. You can go, 'OK, who's the next villain? What kind of fun can we get into?'"

Johnson said he might be interested in using Marvel's version of Scarecrow, who was in his original plans for the first Ghost Rider film before hearing that a Scarecrow would be in Batman Begins.

"I think you could still do it here and do Marvel's version of Scarecrow, which was such a cool character," Johnson said.

* Johnson said he would be interested in bringing some of the other Midnight Sons characters into the movie franchise.

* Johnson said he was well aware of the DVD while shooting Ghost Rider.

"The one for this is going to be pretty extraordinary," Johnson said, hinting at an extended cut.

* Johnson said he wasn't sure if there was going to be a soundtrack. Christopher Young, who is also working on Spider-Man 3, is doing the score.

"He has a beautiful Ghost Rider theme," Johnson said.

Australian group Spiderbait is contributing a cover version of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" for the film.

* Johnson said Marvel has asked him to write a Ghost Rider comics story, but he won't commit to it until he knows he can finish it on time.

"I, myself, get so upset when comics are late," he said. "If it's months late and it's still now showing up ... I don't want to be that guy. If I do it, I want to make sure I can do it and I can finish it."

* Stan Lee does not make a cameo in the film. Johnson, who used Lee in Daredevil, noted that Ghost Rider is one of the few Marvel film characters that Lee did not have a hand in creating and that filming in Australia also made it very difficult to have Lee involved.

* Asked what DC Comics character he would like to work with, Johnson said Preacher.

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