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Norvell gives a complete report on GHOST RIDER and MSJ's Appearance at Wizard World Texas!

Hey folks, Harry here... This is an OUTSTANDING report from Wizard World Texas on GHOST RIDER and Mark Steven Johnson. It's very detailed and very well done. I'm really hoping for the best with GHOST RIDER - I just wish it was allowed to be an R-rated scary as hell film. And I keep hoping that Peter Fonda gets full Mephisto makeup like in the comics - and I know that's a bullshit fanboy dream.... but I can't help it. Here ya go...

GHOST RIDER – MARK STEVEN JOHNSON PANEL at Wizard World Texas. Hello! I'm a long time reader, and this is my first time writing in to the site. I had the privilege of sitting in on the panel for director Mark Steven Johnson's Q&A for Ghost Rider at Wizard World Texas this year. He quickly introduced himself and advised that he was about to show us some footage of Ghost Rider. He didn't want to show us another trailer so he brought a full 8 ½ minute clip that takes place approx 60 minutes into the movie. He mentioned that the film has not been screened with an audience, so what we were about to watch was exclusive footage that has only been seen by the studio. He advised that some of the visual effects shots were incomplete, and that Ghost Rider has a temp voice in the clip. Clip Description: The scene begins at night as Ghost Rider is on the run and is in hot pursuit by a large police force. A quick shot of GR tearing down the street towards an arched bridge over water. I don't recognize the bridge but it's white with two thin, arched support beams going over it. GR drives his hell-cycle onto one of the support arches and comes to a stop in the middle. He looks around as police cruisers create roadblocks on both sides of the bridge, and a police helicopter flies up and shines a searchlight on him. The police call out over a megaphone informing GR that he is surrounded with no place to go. GR then tips his bike over the edge of the beam and plummets towards the water scraping the side of his bike down the bridge until he hits the water. The police all stare at the river dumbfounded as the camera cuts to an overhead view of the water with three glowing spots under the waves. To the shock of the police GR slowly emerges from the water until his bike rests on the surface. He casually looks up at the bridge and defiantly flips them the bird. He then rides off on the surface of the water much like a jet ski, with water shooting up on both sides of the bike. GR is now cruising through the city leaving a trail of fire as he cuts down an alleyway. It cuts to a dark interior shot of Wes Bentley as a very pale human version of Blackheart surrounded by two henchmen/demons. They react to the ever growing roar of a motorcycle engine outside of their building. The henchman on the left who has long hair and appears to be soaking wet utters, "He's coming for us" with a look of concern. Blackheart turns to the dread-locked henchman on the right and says, "You know what to do". The henchman responds with a smile of sharp yellow teeth and unnaturally blue eyes. He then vaporizes and you see a vaguely human-shaped cloud of dust fly towards the door. Cuts back outside to GR coming down the alley. All of a sudden the dust-cloud slams into GR, lifting him from his bike, carrying him through the air and slamming him into a parked car, smashing the cab and shattering the windows. The dust cloud flies up to a nearby rooftop and forms into the henchman, laughing. GR climbs off of the car and roars angrily at the henchman as he flies off towards a nearby office building. GR gets back onto his waiting cycle as a police car comes around the corner and begins chasing him as he calls for back up. GR tears down the alley towards the office building and it cuts to a close-up of GR's eye-sockets as he lifts his cycle into a wheelie, gunning the engine. We then see over the handlebars from GR's POV as he hits the building and proceeds to drive vertically up the side. GR then zooms past the camera as he roars up the building shattering all of the windows that he runs across. Cut to an interior window washer who is running a squeegee across the glass while listening to headphones. He turns away for just a moment and GR flies up across his window shattering the middle of it leaving glowing hot glass on the edges. The window washer turns around in shock not knowing what the hell just happened to his window, which gets a laugh from the auditorium. The camera cuts to Eva Mendez and the cops as they circle the bottom of the building. They look up in disbelief as GR reaches the top of the building flying into the air and slamming down onto the rooftop. As GR looks around for the dust-cloud the police helicopter emerges from the side of the building shining his searchlight. GR gets off of the bike and casually walks towards the chopper while unwrapping the chain from his body. He starts twirling it around in the air like a lasso and flings it so it latches to the landing gear. He then starts reeling it in towards himself, much to the shock of the pilot. The chopper tries to fly away, and it cuts to a shot of GR's boots sliding slightly on the rooftop, which seems to be burning the surface as he slides. GR really starts pulling hard and as the chopper gets close to the roof the nose dips some and he looks through the glass at the pilot and says with a booming voice "STOP FOLLOWING ME." The pilot says in a scared wimpy voice "O-o-o-ok. I'm sorry." and GR lets the chain have slack As the chopper pulls away eventually the chain gets taut and GR yanks on it with super-strength, swinging the chopper to the other side of the building and lets it go. The dust –cloud henchman appears floating in the air and lands on the roof saying something to the effect of "You really should have joined us…" and makes mention of the new order of hell. GR walks across to him with attitude and grabs the henchman by the jacket with both hands, lifting him off of his feet, and says with his booming voice "Look into my eyes". Just then the demon fades to dust again and lifts back into the air out of GR's grip. GR grabs his chain and snaps it like a whip at him, but it just goes right through him. The demon laughs and says something along the line of "You can't hit air, stupid." GR whips through him again with frustration and the demon says, "You're a slow learner aren't you?" GR grabs his chain with both hands and sets the entire chain on fire. He then starts twirling it at the demon who begins laughing until he realizes something is different and starts crying out as the chain creates some sort of flaming funnel/vacuum which starts ripping him apart and setting him on fire until he's vaporized. The way he burns apart reminds me of the way the vampires burn and turn to ash in the Blade movies. Looks cool. As the flame goes out you see the scene from the trailer as GR snaps the chain against himself and it wraps around him as the camera closes in on him for a close-up. Looks badass now, as the special effects are much better now than they were in that trailer months ago. The scene cuts to the police on the street below as a swat team emerges from a van. Cuts back to GR and the other scene from the trailer of him driving off of the roof in slow motion while snapping his chain to the windows to pull himself back to the side of the building. It cuts to a great profile shot of GR as he hauls ass down the glass. He lifts his front wheel as he slams into the ground shattering all of the nearby concrete and showering the police, cars, and Eva Mendez with concrete dust and debris. As the dust clears there is a great shot of GR just sitting on his bike amongst the broken, flaming concrete. Eva starts slowly walking towards GR and calls him "Johnny". GR dismounts and as he walks towards her with an outstretched hand, his flames turn to a light blue and subside somewhat. The police snap out of their daze and yell "OPEN FIRE!" and the entire squad peppers GR with bullets. After they stop shooting, GR just looks at them obviously unaffected. His flames turn yellow again and burst out of him in a raging fireball. He creates a wall of fire between himself and the police. As the police run back, he mounts his cycle and burns out, slamming two cop cars aside as he runs between them, out onto the street, and away. The camera shows a birds eye view of the dark city at dawn and you watch a trail of fire as GR drives alone out of the city. There is some great, somber, acoustic guitar music playing as we watch GR drive some distance out to a graveyard. It sounds like a western. At this point the sun is coming up and GR stops his bike and falls off limply to the pavement in pain. He writhes on the ground screaming as his flesh starts growing back over the bone, forming muscle, and then skin, to become Johnny Blaze. The transition effects are excellent and merge seamlessly. The audience reacts, as it looks painful. The flames burn out on the bike to expose a skeletal frame that recedes and slithers off, revealing Blaze's regular bike. Blaze then begins crawling across the grass, still very much in pain, until he reaches his father's tombstone and collapses in exhaustion. A shovel then hits the dirt in front of his face and he looks up at the silhouette of the caretaker, played by Same Elliot, who greets him with a "Hello, bonehead." Fade to black. The auditorium roared with applause as the lights came up and the director thanked everyone. He said it was great to see it with an audience finally, and he was really happy that we liked it. We then went into the Q&A. Info from the Q&A: In order to give expression to a faceless character, they use the color, shape, and movement of his flames to show you how he is feeling. There will be an extended cut of Ghost Rider on DVD , and he is very excited about it. He is happy with the current theatrical cut, as he has had no outside interference while editing, but there are many cut scenes that he hated to lose that he will have inserted back into the extended edition. He originally pitched doing a Ghost Rider film before he directed Daredevil, but the rights were not available at the time. When asked who his favorite actor to work with was between Ben Affleck and Nicolas Cage, he responded with laughter and said that it was an unfair question. When pressured for a response he chose Nic because he said he has been a fan of Nic's long before working with him. Nicolas Cage was attached to the project for years, before the director was brought on board. He said he would really like to make Daredevil 2, in a "Born Again" storyline, as long as he didn't have studio/producer interference like the first film. He said the studio was looking at Elektra to be the sequel to Daredevil, and with that movie being a disaster they have seemingly shelved DD2. He said he would also like to do a sequel to Ghost Rider if Nicolas Cage would return. When asked about bringing in the Midnight Sons in possible sequels, he said he would very much like to do so. He says that he is really happy with how the Director's Cut of Daredevil turned out, despite some flaws. He's just disappointed because he feels that not enough people have seen it. In response, a fan stood up and said that the director's cut kicked ass and that it is one of his favorite comic movies. The auditorium applauded. Back when the release date was still in August, the studio was so happy after viewing the film that they bumped up the release date a month to July, which the director turned down, as he didn't want to compete with Pirates 2. The year-long delay from the original release date was due to having to re-work the fire effects. They created an entirely new program to render realistic cg fire and after seeing the finished result they realized that real fire isn't that visually interesting and dynamic. They ended up having to go back and re-create the effects shot for shot for dramatic effect. They will be finalizing the visual effects until the end of January. He stated that approx 30 million of the budget has gone purely to visual effects. He said the origin story of Ghost Rider is entirely Johnny Blaze with very minor changes. He only took a few things from Danny Ketch that he liked, such as the current costume and the penance stare. Blackheart will eventually be shown in his familiar demonic form as depicted in the comics, and his look will evolve by the end of the picture. Mephisto will also appear in a demonic form in the movie, as the director thinks his normal visual interpretation in the comics is ridiculous. Ghost Rider is ordered by Mephisto to hunt down and destroy his son Blackheart, as he is trying to take over hell. Blackheart is searching for hidden demons that can control various elements as part of his plot to overthrow Mephisto. Ghost Rider has to hunt down and destroy these demons in order to defeat Blackheart. The bike is 12 feet long from end to end, and can reach up to 90 mph. The stunt riders were terrified of taking turns, as they didn't want to lay it out. When asked who would win in a fistfight between Walter Matthau, Nicolas Cage and Ben Affleck, the director chose Walter Matthau. He stated that it is difficult to make a decent trailer of the movie as due to MPAA regulations you can't show a man on fire. He was then asked how they could get away with the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four trailer. He responded that it went through because it was an instant and painless transformation, but with Ghost Rider it's a long, graphic and painful transformation with his flesh peeling away. He stated that Nic Cage's perspective of what it would be like to be a man with a werewolf-like curse is like living your entire life in a dentist's chair, never knowing when the dentist will hit a nerve. He said that he approached the Blaze/Ghost Rider characters as having a Jekyll and Hyde relationship. It's a painful transformation and the Ghost Rider demon enjoys being released, and does not like changing back to Blaze. The Ghost Rider demon is not referred to by the name Zarathos. The director thought that is was an unnecessary addition made later in the character's mythology. When asked whom he would choose to make a movie out of in the DC Comics line other than Batman or Superman, he said he would like to adapt Preacher, to which the audience responded with applause. He chose to screen the clip of the movie at Wizard World Texas due to the fact that the movie takes place in Texas. They scouted in Dallas, Houston, and Austin, but ended up making most of the film in Australia however, due to budget reasons. He said they filmed enough of Texas to where the audience shouldn't question where the story takes place. The demon/cowboy Phantom Rider, that is seen riding his demon steed alongside Ghost Rider in the trailer, was included to give the impression that there have been various Ghost Rider's chosen by the devil throughout history. The director stated that they have become some of his favorite scenes. When a little boy asked him who his favorite comic character is, he said it was Dazzler with a straight face. The auditorium started laughing and the boy seemed disappointed because he had no idea who that was. He told the kid he was joking and said that his favorite character has always been Ghost Rider. Any time he noticed someone in the audience that was wearing a costume, he cheered them on. When asked if he has been in contact with John Favreau about Iron Man, he stated that he had just been visiting him before the panel. He said that he hasn't read the script because it wasn't finished yet, but he has spoken to John about the movie overall, and he believes that it will be very good and is looking forward to seeing it. He said he would possibly like to use the Marvel Scarecrow as a villain in a Ghost Rider sequel. He said Scarecrow was the villain in his original draft of the movie, but he had to replace him with Blackheart after the studio learned that Scarecrow was going to be the villain in Batman Begins. Ghost Rider is ordered by Mephisto to hunt down and destroy his son Blackheart, as he is trying to take over hell. Blackheart is searching for hidden demons that can control various elements as part of his plot to overthrow Mephisto. Ghost Rider has to hunt down and destroy these demons in order to defeat Blackheart. When asked if he had to choose between either just writing or directing, he said he would direct because writing is such a lonely process, and he enjoys being surrounded by people actually making a movie. He said he was amazed that they got a PG-13 rating on Ghost Rider without cutting anything from the movie. He said he has learned that the MPAA is very unpredictable with what they will allow to slide as far as violence goes. He believes that Ghost Rider made it through due to the strong fantasy elements. He believes that an R-rating is unnecessary to make a good Ghost Rider film. Stan Lee does not have a cameo in the movie as he did not contribute to the creation of the Ghost Rider character, and due to the fact that is was filmed primarily in Australia. Dane Davis, the sound designer, combined Nic Cage's voice along with animal growls of a lion, leopard, and tiger, the sound of fire, the sound of wind being blown through some pipes, and the sound of a greased up chain being dragged on the ground to create the voice of Ghost Rider. After the Q&A, he allowed us to watch the clip one more time as the audience was crying out to see it again. He then stayed to sign autographs on the free Ghost Rider movie posters they gave out, and I also had him sign my copy of the Director's Cut of Daredevil. Mark Steven Johnson was in high spirits, very polite and cheerful, and it's professionals like him that I have no problem waiting in line for to get an autograph. I personally thanked him for coming out to Texas to premier the footage of Ghost Rider since I've never been able to attend San Diego Comic-Con. -Norvell
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