MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Nicolas Cage's abs in Ghost Rider were created through computer graphics.
In 2007, the superhero film, Ghost Rider, was released, starring Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blazer/Ghost Rider...
Cage was 42 at the time of the filming of the movie, which is a bit older than most superhero actors in their first films (although Robert Downey Jr. was notably the same age when he filmed the first Iron Man film).
A notable sequence in the film sees a disbelieving Blaze, who can't believe that he just transformed into a supernatural being with a flaming skull.
It's also notable for the fact that Cage is absolutely ripped in the scene.
Did you spend a lot of time getting in shape for Ghost Rider?Nicolas Cage: It was awful. Every break I was in the gym maybe four or five hours a day on shooting days and then all day on the weekends. The day I shot the mirror scene I’d had nothing to eat and I started to have candy corn sugar, which makes you more vascular, so I was going a little crazy. I was trying to be nice on the set but I was starving and I didn’t know what I was saying anymore! If there is another Ghost Rider I’m dreading that kind of workout again.
And Magazine interviewed Cage and his co-star from the film, Eva Mendes, and they discussed the rumors that computer generated imagery was used to create his ripped abs for the scene:
Someone just asked the director if your amazing abs in "Ghost Rider" were real... and we hear they were. Nicolas Cage: Hard work. Hard, hard work. I guess I can understand why people continue to ask me that question, because you could do so many things today with CGI, but if you're a woman, you know that's real, right? You must know. Don't you know it's real?
Eva Mendes: Well, no because it looks so good that it looks too good. If I didn't see it in person that day, I would have asked that question.
As noted, the director of the film, Mark Steven Johnson, was asked about it a lot and he said no, Cage's abs were not CGI.
Cage did note, however, in that And Magazine interview, that they had to use CGI to cover up a tattoo that he had. Ironically enough, the tattoo was of a flaming skull!!
AS: Don't you have a tattoo you had to cover for this film? NC: Yeah, that's the irony. I've got a flaming skull on my arm and I'm covering it up to play the part of a flaming skull in a movie.
Okay, so we know that CGI, therefore, was used on Cage's body to remove the tattoo.
Now, here's the kicker. Here is a shot of Nicolas Cage from the set of the film on the left and then the finished scene on the right....
As you can see, Cage clearly IS in exceptional shape in the photograph on the left. His abs are quite ripped. So if someone were to say, "Hey, Nic Cage, did you have to use CGI to fake your abs looking good?" the answer is clearly no. He looked really good and his abs were in great shape.
However, simply look at the two shots.
Obviously, the hair is different in each shot, so perhaps the first photo was early in the production and the mirror scene came much later.
But most likely, they DID do things to his body with CGI. The body of the Nicolas Cage that we see in the film does not match the actual Nicolas Cage.
That being said, I think while it is clear that they definitely improved his body in the shot (almost surely, they went in there to do the tattoo removal and then figured, "Eh, might as well fix a couple of other things, as well"), I don't think it is fair to say that they gave him "CGI abs." They might have helped things a bit, but the basic body was still Nic Cage's.
So, for this one, I would go with the legend as...
STATUS: False Enough, Although with Some Truth Mixed in There.
Speaking of Ghost Rider and CGI, one of the effects guy shows some scenes from the second film pre-CGI and then post-CGI. What's awesome is that Nic Cage wasn't required to wear skull makeup, but he felt it was important to do so for the scenes, so he still did it. Very impressive by him.
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