In 2011, CBR News spoke with “Crank” directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, picking their brains about their upcoming Sony Pictures release, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.” Best known for their over-the-top action vehicles — most notably, the aforementioned 2006 Jason Statham-helmed movie and its sequel, 2009’s “Crank: High Voltage” — Neveldine and Taylor are no strangers to comic book film adaptations. The duo also penned the screenplay for the DC Comics’ “Jonah Hex” and their take on fan-favorite Marvel Comics supernatural stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze has been highly anticipated, especially following the lackluster reception of 2007’s “Ghost Rider,” which also starred Nicolas Cage in the title role.
Neveldine and Taylor have made a name for themselves with an outside-the-box shooting style, high-octane pacing and cliffhanger endings, so we were curious to know about the trademark spin they’d put on their latest movie. They were all too happy to hint at what fans can expect from “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” — from the cast (Cage, Idris Elba and Johnny Whitworth), to the stunts, to the inspiration behind the infamous fiery urination shot that capped the movie’s first trailer.
How, exactly, does “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” relate to the 2007 “Ghost Rider” film? Is it a loose sequel? A reboot? Obviously, Nicolas Cage is reprising his role as Johnny Blaze, it must relate to the first in some way.
Mark Neveldine: I didn’t see the first one.
Brian Taylor: That’s pretty much the answer to your question — it doesn’t really relate at all.! It’s not really a sequel. It’s more like a reboot. It stands on its own, except that it still has Nic, so it’s kind of like a prequel.
Neveldine: I’m super-excited about the box office of “Ghost Rider” one.
You guys have a very specific aesthetic in your films…
Taylor: How would you describe that?
I would say POV-style, adrenaline-charged, really stunt-heavy…
Neveldine: Hot and sweaty?
Well, we were talking about a pretty hot and sweaty scene before we started recording — can we expect something similar in “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” to the sex scene in “Crank?”
Neveldine: Let’s just say it gets really hot in “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.”
Taylor: It’s a hot, sweaty kind of a movie. Because even in “Crank” we couldn’t actually light people on fire.
Speaking of fire — in regards to the infamous moment in the trailer, whose idea was the whole peeing fire bit?
Taylor: That just came straight from God.
So you’re saying it came from Nic, then?
Neveldine: [Laughs] Well, the great thing was that Nic can really pee fire, you just need a lighter.
Taylor: So it was low budget filmmaking. We take advantage of things that actors can really do.
While we’re on the topic of actors, how did Idris Elba come to you? Did you guys approach him after seeing him play the supremely badass Stringer Bell in “The Wire?”
Neveldine: Yeah, we saw some of “The Wire,” which he was awesome in, and the Guy Ritchie film [“RocknRolla”]. We watched interviews online and just thought, “This guy’s really charming, let’s get in a room with him.” We met him, and he wanted to take this in a direction that he hasn’t done yet. I mean, he plays a French, drunk monk. So he had a lot of fun with he. He’s an incredibly believable French, drunk monk.
Was that your direction for him? Be a “French, drunk monk?”
Taylor: Yeah, that’s pretty much the only direction we had to give him. People are going to be surprised by Idris in this movie. He’s a guy who’s known for being super contained, cool, grim — kind of like Jason was before we did crazy things in “Crank,” Similarly to that, we think Idris is really going to break out as being an action superstar. He’s amazing. He’s really charismatic, and all the physical stunt stuff, he can do it as well as anybody. He’s probably the biggest surprise for us in the movie.
I remember reading something about Idris. He said you guys made him go on a motorcycle. He hadn’t be on one in like 20 years, and you made him do all his own stunts.
Neveldine: It’s true.
What about Johnny Whitworth as Blackout? You guys worked with him on “Gamer,” so he must’ve left quite an impression.
Neveldine: Johnny is a crazy insane energy. He’s got so much going on in his head. We needed someone who truly was nuts and dangerous, and he was the perfect guy to play Blackout. I mean, Carrigan turns into blackout — he plays this dual personality.
Taylor: He has personalities he hasn’t even met yet.
What can you tell us about this rollerblading technique you guys created on your first film? You took it to another level with this movie — didn’t someone get hooked up to the back of a motorcycle while filming “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance?”
Taylor: I just held onto the back of motorcycles — you know, a couple of ’em — and the back of a truck, and I said, “Idris, look man, I’m holding on to the back of motorcycles — so you can sit on this thing and drive it.”
Neveldine: He was great. He couldn’t turn, but outside that, he could drive straight and really fast.
Taylor: And we knew if he crashed, we would just write that into the script and make sure the cameras were rolling.
Just throw some CGI around it, make it a bigger explosion.
Neveldine: And if I crash, there’s two of us, so he takes over [points to Taylor] — it’s great. Insurance doesn’t mind!
“Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” hits theaters on February 17, 2012.