What was something you really wanted in this character, considering how involved you were in the production?
Nicolas Cage: “It’s a deeply personal character and I was trying to find a new way of presenting how he would keep dark spirits at bay. I didn’t want him being a heavy drinker or a chain smoker. I wanted him eating jellybeans so he wouldn’t invite the devils in. I wanted him listening to Karen Carpenter to help him relax so he wouldn’t allow the devil with satanic Goth rock or something.
Or, he’s watching chimpanzees do karate instead of The Exorcist. And, all three of those things I was doing in my own life. I was eating jellybeans out of a martini glass and listening to Karen Carpenter and on the Internet watching chimps do karate. And I thought, ‘Well this is funny, let’s put it in the movie.’ But it’s also true.”
Can you talk about the skull x-rays?
Nicolas Cage: “Yeah, we did all that. They grafted my skull so I guess it is me, which is kind of wild. But what I really love about this character is that we’re all him. We all have human skulls, right? You’ve got one, I’ve got one, and we’ve all got one and yet we look at it and we go, ‘That’s scary.’ And then after a little while you go, ‘Wait a minute. That’s beautiful. He’s human and he’s a total bad ass.’ He’s fighting the dark forces, but he’s human. It’s pretty neat.”
Eva, were you happy your character got to kick some butt?
Eva Mendes: “Yes, I was very happy.”
Was that in the original version of the script?
Eva Mendes: “No, it wasn’t.
Mark added that for me. He probably just felt bad since I had major superhero [jones] the entire shoot. I was like, ‘I want my head to be on fire,’ you know?”
Nicolas Cage: “Well, I have plans for her.”
Eva Mendes: “Oh, that’s right. I’m gonna hold you to that.”
Nicolas Cage: “I’m working on it. I want her to be the She-Hulk.”
Eva Mendes: “Wouldn’t that be cool?”
Nicolas Cage: “That is what I’m working on. I have to talk to Avi [Arad] about that.”
Did you read the David Goyer script? It was much darker.
Nicolas Cage: “Yeah, that was a good script. It was really good. Steve Norrington of Blade was directing and David wrote that script. I was on board for that. But, whatever happened the studio didn’t want to make it.”
Because it was more R-rated?
Nicolas Cage: “Yeah, that would have also been a good movie. But that movie dissolved and then Avi brought Mark [Steven Johnson] in and I talked to Mark…and Mark found a way to make it more palatable to larger audiences. It became more of a spooky ride. You know, you go to the amusement park and you have a rollercoaster and then you have the Haunted Mansion. This is just the right amount of scares to get your adrenaline up, but not so much that you can’t finish the ride. It’s something for the family.”
What was it like working with Sam Elliott?
Nicolas Cage: “Sam Elliott is an elegant cowboy. I used to be his neighbor in Malibu Canyon. It’s funny, we are from the same place but he has a much more pronounced drawl than I do. He comes off screen beautifully as this cowboy icon. I think his performance is very poetic. Every word, every movement, is precise and nothing is wasted.”
And working with Peter Fonda?
Nicolas Cage: “That was a trip - and he made a movie called The Trip.”
Eva Mendes: “And he was on a lot of acid trips during his days (laughing).”
Nicolas Cage: “Peter is the reason why I ride motorcycles. I saw Easy Rider and the next day I bought a Harley Davidson and went from LA to San Francisco and back to LA and became Captain America in my mind. So, when they decided to make this movie and we thought about who was going to play Mephistopheles, originally I wanted Tom Waits. And that was the whole lamp, wig, Pinocchio thing, you know? But the studio decided with Mark on Peter. I thought about it and I said, ‘That makes sense because who better to seduce a stunt man to sell his soul but Captain America, Easy Rider himself.’ And we were there playacting together and there is this bike there and this is Peter there and he’s talking. I stepped out of myself and looked at the two of us and thought, ‘This is really cool.’”
Eva Mendes: “I have to tell you my little Peter Fonda story because I love this story so, so much. We’re hanging out on set, and there is me and Peter and a couple of people and they are talking about Easy Rider. I’m like, ‘Shoot, I didn’t see it. I haven’t seen it. I can’t be part of this conversation. Ugh! I hate this.’ I finally confess and say, ‘Peter, I’m so sorry. I never saw Easy Rider. I know it’s a huge deal for American cinema.’ And he’s like, ‘You never saw Easy Rider?’ I go, ‘No.’
He got a group of like ten people together. We all met up at my director’s apartment in Melbourne and he played the movie for me, and he sat next to me. I had a personal commentary by Peter Fonda. He’d sit there and pause it and be like, ‘Now, on this scene, it was my 27th birthday and Jack and I were up for two days….,” and that’s as far as I can go with that. (Laughing) You know what I mean? It was awesome because he was right there with me. It’s one of those moments when you are going, you’re so thankful because it’s one of the coolest moments. It was very awesome. He’s so generous, too. He’s so eager to share. He’s a lovely man.”
Nick, you said you weren’t sure you wanted to continue on with this series. The director said there have been some talks since then. Can you now see yourself in Ghost Rider 2?
Nicolas Cage: “Well, it depends upon the reaction from the moviegoing audiences. If they are enthusiastic about it and if there is a good script… I would say of all the character’s I’ve played, my interests coincide with where this particular character could go. I am interested in the metaphysical nature of Ghost Rider and his world. I am a man with an open mind. I really don’t know anything, but I’m very interested in the spiritual and the material. This is the one superhero who walks between both worlds. I think it’s pretty exciting because he’s new and there is a lot of room for adventure with this guy.”
Page 3:An Extended Cut of Ghost Rider, the Status of National Treasure 2, and Mendes as She-Hulk