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Nicolas Cage Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Interview
Nicolas Cage Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Interview
Nicolas Cage has a reputation in Hollywood for taking on some of the craziest characters with the most unhinged raison d’etres. He’s had more roles in insane action films than most actors have had hot dinners. From the likes of National Treasure, Face/Off, Con Air, and The Wicker Man, to Bad Lieutenant, Season of the Witch and Drive Angry, Nicolas Cage is a firm favourite with directors looking to inject a little bit of psychopathic action into their film. Back on the spooky ghoul bike once more, and this time playing both Johnny Blaze and the Ghost Rider in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Mr Cage was in London recently to talk about remaking The Wicker Man in Japan, how caffeine calms him down, and why all actors should dress up like pagan shamans and talk in tongues to get the best out of their roles.
You play both Johnny Blaze and the Ghost Rider this time around. Was that one of the major appeals to you?

Nicolas Cage

Yeah, that was an opportunity to experiment with movement and with my state of mind to really believe I was this character. It was actually Brian Taylor who had the idea for me to do that. He was an enormous advocate of it. And the first thing I said was, 'Can I wear a mask so as not to feel totally ridiculous as I would walk on the set and play this part?'

But there was a writer named Brian Bates who wrote a book called The Way of Weird, and also The Way of the Actor and in that book he put forward the notion that all actors, whether they know it or not, come from a long, distant past of medicine men and Shamans, pre-Christian in these villages. And what the Shaman would do is he would go into an altered state of consciousness to try and find answers and solutions to give to the village people. In this day and age that person would be considered psychotic but when you think about it, it was a way of channelling the imagination to either talk with spirits to give answers to the village. So, they would wear masks, or they would gather objects that had some magical relevance, and so I thought, well because I’m dealing with this supernatural character why don’t I try a little bit of that and see what happens?

I would paint my face and put black contact lenses in, and I would sew ancient Egyptian artefacts into my costume...
So, I would paint my face with black and white make-up, so it looked like a skull, like some sort of Afro-Caribbean voodoo icon, or a New Orleans voodoo icon by the name of Baron Samedi, who looks like a skeleton but he’s very finely dressed. He’s the spirit of death. He’s also a spirit that loves children and he’s a very lusty kind of voodoo icon. So, I would paint my face and I would put black contact lenses in my eyes to look more like a skull, so you couldn’t see any pupils or any white in the eyes, and I would sew some ancient Egyptian artefacts into my costume, get some rocks that had alleged frequencies - who knows if it works or not - but the point is it stimulated my imagination to think I really was this character.

And then I would walk on the set projecting this kind of aura of horror and I would see in the eyes of my co-stars [looks amazed] - they would go like this and light up. The fear was there and it was just like oxygen to a fire. And that led me to believe that maybe I really was this spirit of vengeance. The problem is if you have a Christmas party in Romania and you’re shooting until 2am and you’re invited to go to the Christmas party and some Schnapps is involved, and you’re still in character, all hell can break loose and it did. I’m lucky I’m not in a Romanian prison! [Laughs]
What about your body language?

Nicolas Cage

I remembered Cobra snakes because at one point in my neighbourhood I had a couple of them, but then the neighbours didn’t like it so I gave them to a zoo. But I would study these Cobras and what they would do is move back and forth in a rhythmic motion and on the back of the snake was the pattern of an eye, like an occult eye, and it would be trying to hypnotise me and then as soon as it felt it had hypnotised me it would strike.

And so I thought why doesn’t Ghost Rider move like that, with that sort of hypnotic rhythmic motion? And then there was another thing that I’d seen in a Trent Reznor video, where he's revolving and levitating in circles and I thought, ‘Let’s have Ghost Rider levitate and revolve in circles.’ We called it the compass and then he would find his next victim and then attack. So, a lot of thought went into it and then a bit of imagination and improvisation.

Sometimes I would start talking in what I thought was a Wodenic/Norse dialogue, or some sort of Enochian Angel speak, or something - who knows what was coming out of me, but it was a fun experiment. What you see is really in camera.
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Content updated: 26/06/2017 00:14

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