CCI, Day 3: Sony Pictures Presents…Venom! "Ghost Rider" & "Spider-Man 3" Footage Revealed

Sony Pictures came to Comic-Con International in San Diego with news about two films that should make Marvel fans very happy - "Ghost Rider" and "Spider-Man 3." And not only did the studio bring footage from both films, they arrived with the directors and actors from the films as well. Needless to say, it was a very happy day for those who like to say, "Make mine Marvel."

To kick things off, a new trailer for "Ghost Rider" screened, revealing more hellfire and spine-chilling moments with it. A bit more of Peter Fonda could be seen tormenting Nicolas Cage's Johnny Blaze. A cool sequence has been added showing Cage's skin burning off as he transformed into Ghost Rider. Two funny lines stood out in the trailer - one showing Cage's character saying he was okay, but his head felt like it was on fire; the other had actress Eva Mendes asking Cage if he smelled something burning.

The con crowd seemed to be the perfect group for this trailer, and applauded loudly when it was finished. When the cheers died down, a new round of applause and screams broke out as the "Ghost Rider" team took the stage. In attendance were director Mark Steven Johnson, producers Avi Arad and Mike De Luca, and actors Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes. They then opened up the panel to a Q&A.

The first question posed concerned the release date. The film will open around Valentine's Day, and it was asked why the studio wasn't releasing it at Halloween. While there wasn't a definitive response for this, it was said that the film is more of a "scary, action-adventure romance" than straight horror. Therefore, to the filmmakers, this date was as good as any - plus February contains a three-day weekend for extra viewings.

Another question concerned the music for the film - a fan mentioned how much he loved the "Daredevil" soundtrack (which Johnson also wrote and directed) and wanted to know more about the "Ghost Rider" soundtrack. Johnson responded that while he was glad the fan liked the soundtrack, he wishes "Daredevil" had more score than songs because he felt like the soundtrack "dated" the movie. For this reason, he's leaning heavier on the score-side of things for "Ghost Rider" (which is being composed by Christopher Young) rather than a big soundtrack.

He did mention though that Johnny Blaze listened to AC/DC and ZZ-Top in the movie to pump himself up for a motorcycle jump. Cage chimed in and added that when Blaze wants to chill out, he "listened to Karen Carpenter and ate jelly beans out of a martini glass." The audience chuckled at this, and Cage smiled and stated, "I'm serious."

When asked about his favorite role, Cage responded that the characters he's played are like his children, and he "loves all of his children equally." That said, he did admit to having a special place in his heart for "Valley Girl," as this was the first time he was billed as Nicolas Cage instead of Nicolas Coppola.

Regarding their reasons for doing the movie, Mendes said she liked the idea of a love story taking place in a crazy comic book world; plus she always wanted to work with Nicolas Cage. For Cage, he said Ghost Rider has always been one of his favorite comic book characters. He added that ever since he was a kid, he wanted to be Ghost Rider.

Mendes playfully added that next time she does a comic book movie, she wanted a superpower.

When asked about the possibility of a sequel to "Daredevil" (which Johnson wrote and directed), Johnson said there weren't any plans. He believed the studio viewed 'Elektra" as the unofficial sequel. The director added that he'd like to do a sequel though if given the opportunity. He said he learned a lot from making "Daredevil," and would do some things a bit differently this time around. He also mentioned that this knowledge came in very handy while working on "Ghost Rider." If he did do a sequel, he said he would like to tell a story like "Born Again" or "Yellow" and take the character back to a "Year One" period.

Another fan followed up this question by asking about the possibility of a "Ghost Rider" sequel. Cage admitted that thoughts about a sequel have been tossed about, but nothing firm. In order to do a sequel, Cage said "it would have to be better than the original." And Cage felt this first film is very good.

The actor also said that "being Ghost Rider is a dream-come-true." He then relayed a story of when he was younger and visiting Charlie Sheen at his parents' home. Cage recalled Martin [Sheen - Charlie's father] telling the two of them "All that really matters when you're making a movie is…did you enjoy the work and the people you're with?" By these standards, the actor felt that the film was successful.

The "Ghost Rider" session then concluded, and "Spider-Man 3's" director, Sam Raimi, took the stage with producer Laura Ziskin. The crowd cheered for Raimi, recognizing him as a fanboy such as themselves. Raimi explained that they had just wrapped physical production on "Spider-Man 3" two weeks ago, and he was hoping to have had footage to show. Then Raimi made Ziskin take the microphone to explain that the unfinished footage wasn't really ready to be seen.

A collective "Awwwww…" could be heard throughout the convention hall. Raimi grinned and said, "Let's show it anyway."

The lights darkened and brand new footage for "Spider-Man 3" came up and based on crowd reaction alone, it was unbelievable! A few shots were just rough computer-generated images, but even those showed promise. Sandman and Spidey battled it out in a couple of shots, including one involving a train. Harry Osborne looked very comfortable on his own Goblin-Glider, as he tossed bombs at Spider-Man. Both of the women in Spider-Man's life - Mary Jane and Gwen Stacy - looked beautiful. And as seen in the first trailer released, Peter Parker's "dark side" comes through in this film.

The final shot in the trailer - the one that had the crowd gasping and going wild - was the moment fans had been waiting for…Venom!

That's right, after months of online rumors, it's been confirmed - Venom is here, and he's as frightful as he ever was in the comics.

The director then brought his cast out for the fans: Kirsten Dunst (Mary Jane in the film), Bryce Dallas Howard (Gwen Stacy), Thomas Hayden Church (Sandman), Topher Grace (Eddie Brock/Venom), and Tobey Maguire (Peter Parker/Spider-Man).

The Q&A then followed, and the first question up concerned the behaviors of some of the characters in this film. Maguire stated that the audience would see the Peter Parker that they know and love in the film, but at the same time, his character was going to some "dark places." He added that he enjoyed "delving into the darkness" a bit.

Grace said he enjoyed playing Eddie Brock, and that the character is like a mirror-image of Peter Parker. He imagined his character was like the person Peter would've turned out to be if he hadn't had nurturing people like Uncle Ben and Aunt May raising him.

When asked if he read the Spider-Man comics, Maguire confessed he didn't, but said he read lots of early Spider-Man after getting the part, knowing that's what Raimi based his take of the character on.

Raimi playfully looked shocked, saying that Maguire had told him he was a lifelong fan of Spider-Man before he cast him. Maguire responded, "Well, I really wanted the part."

A young teen fan posed the next question to Dunst and asked if kissing Maguire made her "toes curl." She laughed and replied, "Not just my toes, honey."

The new cast members then talked about their roles a bit. Howard started off by saying that she loved playing Gwen and had a great time working on the film. She added that she felt a big responsibility in bringing a beloved character like Gwen to the screen.

Grace then mentioned his excitement about being offered a part in the film. He told the audience that when he was initially called by the producers and Raimi, he said to himself, "I think I know what this is about…but then it turned out they didn't want me for 'Spider-Man.'"

Church said he had known Raimi from auditioning for the director's film "The Gift." While Church didn't get the role in that film, Raimi kept the actor in mind. Then when they started planning the film, Raimi gave Church a call, they had a lunch where he told the actor his plans, and Church was given the role of Sandman.

"He must have known my SAG card was up for renewal," the actor joked.

In addition, Church commented on Raimi's abilities, saying, "Sam was a very nurturing director, even offering his breast at times." The audience roared, while Raimi mocked shame.

In response to another question, Raimi told the audience that a director's dream is to know the character he's directing and love them. For this reason, Spider-Man is "an absolute dream" for him.

Next, Dunst was asked if there was a superhero that she wanted to play. She confessed that there weren't too many heroes out there that have a strong draw for her. However, she said she would love to play Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman - "So I guess I would prefer to be a supervillain."

Another audience member expressed concern to Raimi about the number of villains in this film, and asked the director if he felt he could do them all justice in a single film. Raimi explained that all three villains in the film serve a different purpose and each has their own motivation: Venom makes sense in the film because they wanted to explore the darker side of Peter Parker, and this villain is the perfect character to do that with.

The director also admitted that he wasn't a fan of the character at first, and that producer Avi Arad had to sell him on Venom. However, "after reading the screenplay by Alvin Sargent and seeing Topher's performance," Raimi has fallen in love with Venom.

Harry Osborne is a "potential" villain in the film, due to the character's comic book history and what has happened to him in the previous movies. The director said that Harry is upset about his father, wants vengeance on Parker, and goes after him. He also added that Harry is neither the new Green Goblin nor the Hobgoblin, but something else altogether.

As for the reason behind Sandman's appearance in the film, Raimi said it's a great reason but he couldn't say anything for fear of spoilers.

In talking more about Venom, Grace said he is "anxious to see the movie." He also informed the audience that it took him an hour to put on his costume, and it took another four hours for his character's makeup.

Next, a fan asked if Raimi's friend (and former collaborator) Bruce Campbell would be in "Spider-Man 3." The director chuckled and said, "I can't keep him out of these films."

This was followed with a question about the oft-rumored remake of Raimi's "Evil Dead." The director said he had been talking about it with Bruce and others, but he had to stop because of work on "Spider-Man 3." He admitted that he's curious to see what a new, young filmmaker could do with the film with today's technologies, because he really loves the core story of the "Evil Dead" films.

And for those holding out hope for "Spider-Man 4" with the same cast and crew, Maguire offered a bit of a reason to remain optimistic. He said that this film is going to be tying up many storylines, including some that go back to the first movie. Therefore, in a way, this film is "kind of conclusive." However, he did say that there are still things to explore in the character, so "there may be more."

The panel then concluded with a little treat for fans: if you're interested in seeing new images from the film, Text 3-4-Sony to get exclusive screensavers.

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