Comic-Con Ghost Rider Panel Report

Neveldine! Taylor! Cage! Elba! Flame on!

Sceptical about the idea of a Ghost Rider sequel? If so, you’re probably not alone, since the first film was, well, not all that great. But the Comic-Con panel for Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance set out to emphatically declare that this is not a sequel, but a different beast altogether. This time around, Nicolas Cage is playing not only Johnny Blaze but also his supernatural alter ego (in the previous outing, the Rider was portrayed by a stuntman with a digital head), allowing the star to craft possibly his most gonzo performance to date. And that’s saying something.

“This film goes in a whole other direction. For one, Johnny has been living with having his head light on fire for several years,” said Cage, with an impressively straight face. “It’s certainly affected his mood. He’s more sarcastic this time, more edgy, ironic. As for playing the Rider on this go-round, it gave me the chance to play with movement and create a being from another dimension.” No kidding – the sizzle reel shown to the Hall H crowd showed Mr. Flamey Skull unleashing merry hell, spinning a baddie high up into the air on the end of a spectral chain, swallowing a hail of machine-gun fire and then spitting it back at some burly unfortunates, and, in one memorable shot, literally pissing fire.

If those all sound like deranged beats from a Crank film, it’s no coincidence. Crank writer-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are in the driving seat for Spirit Of Vengeance, and making sure it’s a hell of a ride.

“You’re going to see actors doing stuff that looks extremely perilous — because it was,” promised Neveldine of the movie’s action.

“With these guys, there’s no safety,” chipped in Idris Elba, who plays a warrior monk. “They’ll throw you under a bus. I hadn’t ridden a motorcycle for 20 years but they still wanted me to do my own stunts.”

The sense of danger was a plus for Cage: “Mark was often on rollerblades, holding onto incredibly fast motorcycles, risking his life to get shots, to entertain you. There’s a real buzz to the way they shoot. They’re extremists. I feel like I’m an extremist too, and we really got along. We became friends. It was a perfect marriage.”

It remains to be seen whether this Ghost Rider instalment will prove superior to the 2007 model. But one thing’s certain: it’ll be much madder. “The Rider is one of the most badass characters of all time,” enthuses Taylor. “He’s pure nightmare, a horror character. There’s no tights or invisibility power – his power is he sucks out your soul. That’s insane... totally insane!”

For our exclusive set visit report from Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance, plus amazing new pictures, pick up the new issue of Empire, on sale next week.