ASK MSJ (The Complete History)


Nov 27, 2002
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G’day from Australia. Sorry I haven’t checked in for a while, but needless to say I’ve been busy! Read some of your questions you were hoping to have answered the other night and wanted to respond personally.

Here we go...

There has been a great deal of concern over the rating of PG 13 for the film. As a result there have been many fans who feel that Ghost Rider will end up being a watered down kiddie film. It has been expressed that the only way to do the character justice is to go for an R rating where the film can be allowed to be as violent and gory as necessary.

Can you assure the fans that you will stay true to the character and keep the film as dark and violent as the comic book was? Are you planning on pushing the limits of a PG 13 rating as far as the violence and subject matter goes?

Yes. Ghost Rider is inherently a darker character and that will be reflected in the movie. However, if you look, there was actually very little R-rated violence in the original Ghost Rider, just darker themes. I think that gore too often replaces suspense in horror movies and takes you out of a movie. “Jaws” is one of my favorite films of all time, and it’s rated PG. Likewise, “Lord of the Rings” had plenty of kick ass action and violence for a PG-13 movie. It’s really about being clever and pushing the boundaries. But as with all of these movies, it's really about love, isn't it? Whether you're talking about Terminator 2 or Lord of The Rings or Spider-man it's about love of a girl or love of a friend, etc. and if that doesn't work then all of the bad ass action and awesome effects mean nothing.

You have mentioned that you were a long time fan of the character. When did you first read Ghost Rider and are there any stories/plotlines that are your favorites?

I’ve been reading since I was about 11 years old. It’s interesting, because I love the original Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider, yet the most memorable story lines for me were later with Danny Ketch. I would probably have to say the J.B. origin story would be at the top, followed by the Blackheart and Scarecrow story lines of the D.K. years. Remember the one where Scarecrow had abducted people and chained them up along the walls of his hideout to feed off of their fear? That was pretty fantastic.

My first question is in regards to the design of the title character. Will we see ol' Flamehead (the real one) as we all know and love or is there a new rendition that we'll have to get used too? This includes the question of whether or not you'll be using ideas from both versions of Ghost Rider.

I’m thinking red leather with horns would be interesting. Just kidding. This will be Ghost Rider from the comic -- dead on. As we all know, the comic doesn’t exist at the moment (that will change...) so the reason this character has survived is because it’s the coolest looking character in the Marvel Universe.

Secondly; What about his bike? Any comments on what that will look like and be able to do?

Now that IS something to be improved upon. I never completely was sold on Johnny or Danny’s Hellcycle designs. And I DO believe that the one we’ve come up with is the coolest looking thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m looking at a four foot long illuminated model of it right now as I write this. Go ahead. Hate me.

Last; Will Dan Ketch make an appearance in this film?

No. One of the problems with the history of the comic is that there was too much mythology, too damn confusing trying to tie everyone up (all the way back to Noble Kale!). I wanted to get rid of that and tell the best J.B. story possible.

Will you be making a sequel to Daredevil even if Ben Affleck decides not to return to the part?

Daredevil is an amazing character and bigger than any one actor. I would love to do another one. If the Elektra spin-off does well, I could certainly see that happening.

Will you be using prosthetics or all CGI for Ghost Rider and Mephisto?

It will be a combination of things to bring these characters to life. What’s most important is that we give G.R. weight, even when he’s riding up a skyscraper or along a wall. He can’t feel light, or like CGI, he’s heavy metal. Like the Terminator. And he leaves total devastation and destruction in his path.

Will the scene of Gost Rider riding his bike up the side of a skyscraper and then jumping through a helicopter mentioned by Avi Arad in Empire Magazine be in the movie.

It’s actually gotten way cooler than that! I’m dying to share everything with you, but I can’t. Sorry. But safe to say there are things in the film you’ve never seen before.

Hoew much of the action will Nic Cage need to be in costume for

Most of it. Nic wants it and so do I.

What powers will GR use, Pennance Stare, or Hellfire blasts? Will he utilize his chain at all?

All of that!

In the comics johnny blaze made a deal with satan himself to save roxanne simpsons life. later it was retconned to mephisto which will it be in the movie? also in another gr thread the question was brought up about the name johnny BLAZE being merely a stage name and not his real name will that be the case in the movie?

Actually, Johnny made the deal to save Crash Simpson in the comic. In our movie Johnny will make a deal with Mephistopheles (or Mephisto) who is originally from “Faust” and is considered to be either The Devil or A Devil depending on which mythology you subscribe to.

Johnny is only known as Johnny Blaze -- my belief is that it was probably a stage name created by his father, no different than Doug Danger or Maxx Air (both real life cycle jumpers) but we will never know him as anything other than Johnny Blaze in the movie.

I've heard Australia has some beautiful scenery and can make for some really elegant shots, especially at night when the sun has just gone down... so will there be any shots / scenes utilizing the background such as an old wrecked bar on the outskirts of town like the ones in old western movies... a run down cemetary passing by in the distance to give sort of an eerie feeling... So.. how will the background and surroundings be utilized in the effect / feeling of the film?

You’re dead on. It’s gorgeous here, both in the city and in the outback. The feel of the movie is that of a supernatural western and it should be amazing. We’re shooting where they shot Mad Max and I love the spare feel of that, the saloon in the outskirts of town...the run down cemetery -- wait, are you reading my script?

Ghost Rider is a demonic type character who inflicts vengeance on those who have done wrong to others.. how will you demonstrate this in the film, and what kind of effects will you use for the penance stare (I hope it makes an appearance in the film), and GR inflicting mental torture on his victims?

Working on that right now. Very cool and amazing stuff. It works best to show it as an abstract rather than as a literal recreation of someone’s sins. How have your sins made others feel? And how can that visually be revisited on you -- tenfold?

There have been a few polls on this message board about Ghost Rider's motorcycle, whether it is a Harley Davidson chopper look or a more modern sports bike, or the Ghost Rider bike that is often seen included with many of the action figures, with the front piece?

Johnny’s bike is an old school, bad ass CHOPPER which transforms into the Hellcycle. I love toys and actions figures and this is honestly the coolest thing that I’ve ever seen.

Jon Voight was, in my opinion, a great choice for the role of a puppet master satan type character who has pawns doing his dirty work (such was his role in "Enemy of the State"). What made you give Voight "the boot" and decide on another actor, whoever that may be?

I also think that Jon Voight is an amazing actor. But anything you’ve heard either way about his involvement in the movie is false. Jon’s a producer on the movie and I think people assumed he was in it as well. We’d be lucky to have him in the film, but I don’t know if there is a part big enough for him right now.

I personally am I huge fan of Nic Cage and think he is perfect for the role, but what attributes do you think he has over a younger actor to portray Johnny Blaze. Many people on message boards I've visited have said "Nic Cage is too old" and "Johnny Depp" or "Keifer Sutherland" should've got the role... but what made Nic different.. and Blaze-like?

Nic is the man for this. He eats, breathes, and sleeps it. He even has a huge Ghost Rider flaming skull tatoo on his shoulder! I love the idea of playing Johnny as a kind of cowboy -- he’s like the Man with No Name. Nic can be super badass and at the same time he has a great sense of humor and heart. And, of course, he’s the master of doing the unexpected. All great qualities for both Johnny Blaze and the Ghost Rider.

I was a fan of DareDevil (of the comics, and the movie) and love the mystery feeling of the movie and how he was in the dark and the reflection of pain and misery throughout his life which made him the man he was seeking justice for the wrong doers. Do you think Ghost Rider is, in effect, a similar type character in the fact he is quite the mystery to many of his enemies and how he seeks the right in people, and punishes those who don't.

It’s interesting, because although Ghost Rider seems like a darker character than Matt Murdock, is some ways, he’s more hopeful because he has someone who loves him, someone to fight for. What made Matt such a tragic character is that he wasn’t sure that he was doing the right thing, if he was in fact becoming no better than the Kingpin himself (and in the comics this year he literally became the “Kingpin”). Johnny has a clear battle in that he’s fighting true evil -- right from the source. So in that way he has a clearer purpose and sense of self than Matt did.

And Biggun, are you reading my screenplay? It’s eerie how close your ideas are to what I wrote in the script!!

Hope that’s helpful!

G'day all,

I was lucky enough to be at the ACMI "In Conversation with Ghost Rider", and although I'm not a longtime GR fan like most here, I have been a fan of the art form for over 15 years (a big Frank Miller fan, and loved Tex's art which is what drew mne to GR many years ago), and am a movie buff and I'd just like to say that Mark came across as a passionate fan and movie maker, and a really switched on guy - what we would call 'a top bloke' in Australia - and that this movie is in very good hands.

Mark, did you get a chance to check out the outer North Western suburb of Sunbury, or more importantly the Calder Freeway? This is also where some of Mad Max was filmed although the area has been built up quite a bit since then. The two lane highway you saw in Mad Max is now a four lane freeway, though still surrounded by that dry, desert look for much of it and would make for some great open highway chase scenes. I'm also surprised you didn't go with Calder Park for the stadium scenes which could easily be made to have the-big-stadium-on-the-fringes-of-the-desert-town look.

Either way welcome to Melbourne. I'm sure you'll find the whole city more than willing to help you bring this film to life and I know I'll be looking out for the call for extras so that I can hopefully have a little part in comic book to film history.


I'm completely blown away. This was the last thing I expected to read when logging on this morning. I feel giddy, like a little schoolgirl... even though I'm a grown man. I'll check in on that.

First off, thanks for responding to our questions. We never expected them to get answered and was mearly posting them in hopes that someone would see it and ask the questions at the conference. It's crazy that we get them answered directly.

If everything turns out the way you've described it here, I think we're all going to be blown away. I'm very excited to see this character come to life and am now convinced the team you've put together will succeed admirably. You've also reversed my thoughts on Nic for the role. I'm not sure what was blinding me but he truly is perfect. He's a fan and a you gotta trust a fan. Plus, now that I'm over the fact that it's not Dan Ketch I realize Nic is Blaze.

I can't wait until the others come on. I'll be back. Thanks again.
Wow...just wow.
thanks for answering our questions Mark....guess that thread was a good idea after all! heh
soooo happy its gonna be a least for some in the movie. sounds like you dig the action figure thing like many of us. very very cool
and again thanks for responding to my PG13 proved my point about it not having to go for an R rating. it would have been nice and probably easier....but i think you can do it :)

reading your script? moi?....ok ok....i have to admit finally that after many many years ive develped the power of ESP. you caught me...heh
regardless if any of our ideas/scenes make it into the movie...THANK YOU!!!
maybe you could call the bar instead of "Tex's Bar and Grill" it "BIGGUN's Topless Bar and Grill", :)
I was in a state of total shock when i saw this thread

I had to check i wasn't halucinating.
I thought you did a great job with DD (a movie for fans) but after this my respect for you has just went through the roof.

I can't think of any other director ever doing this,you treat the fans with respect because your a fan yourself and thats the same reason come 2006 you will prove any doubters wrong when you produce the ultimate GR movie.
You answered all my Q's that i thought would remain unanswered till 2006.
Like the fact you have something even bigger than the Sky scraper scene Avi arad described.Also pleased that Nic cage is up for the stunts and is going to be in the costume.

THANKS again roll on 2006
This was completely unexpected. I think it shows true dedication and respect to the fans when you pop in here answer our questions. I wasn't really worried about Nic Cage as Blaze, but the PG-13 thing did worry me. Your explanation seems to clear things up, for me at least, and I now actually have full confidence in you. The scene w/ the helicopter sounds amazing and the fact that it's a CHOPPER and not a *****-ass little crotch-rocket makes me even more comfortable.
I'm still skeptical. I hated what happened to Daredevil and I'll save my judgement on this film till it's out.
No one else in Hollywood today would do something like this. Thank you Mark, it is clear that you truely care about the fans opinions.

I always challenge comic/comic-movie fans to ask their girlfriends/wives (who know nothing about the comics) what comic movie they liked the best. Sometimes, as fans of the comic books, we understand the mythology so well that certain scenes (ie: Professor X controlling Sabertooth/Toad in X-Men) make perfect sense to us and little sense to the general movie going public.

My fiancee still likes DAREDEVIL the best w/ X-Men 2 coming in a close second. She said it was more real life, explaned his powers and limitations clearly, has a style the other movies did not have. She also really liked THE PUNISHER...which she said was better than SPIDER-MAN II. As a long-time Spider-man collector, I loved the movie because it centered on Peter and his inner-conflicts. She thought that aspect went on too long, MJ was a whinner, and the movie dragged at times. DAREDEVIL, on the other hand (in her own words), moved quickly, had good action, a good female counterpart, good humor, and good, over the top villains.

Mark seems to get this and tells a story that is faithful to the comics to the fullest extent you can. He adds a Hollywood visual style and music that normal movie lovers can enjoy.

Mark: thanks for taking the time to speak to the fans. Daredevil still remains my third favorite comic book movie (Spider-man II, X-Men II). Make the sequel.

Thats awsome! Much Respect MSJ for posting ,Can't wait to see Flame head on screen.
I love DD....The hell with all the nagging fanboys that nitpick every single frame. Can't wait for the Directors Cut.
Lord Blackbolt said:
I love DD....The hell with all the nagging fanboys that nitpick every single frame. Can't wait for the Directors Cut.

Ditto and now I'm really lloking forward to :ghost:
It´s cool that MSJ took the time to answer some questions, but i don´t understand why you guys are so hyped about?

He didn´t gave any answer to the most important question of all, what is his vision for the character.
Does he want to make a dark and serious movie, does he want to make nothing more than an action piece, does he want to make a popcorn movie, does he want to make it an epic summer blockbuster.......
To say that it will not be a R-rated movie, but rather a PG-13 doesn´t cut it.

I´m not the biggest fan of the daredevil movie, mainly because he made the worst mistake one can make in a comic book movie, MSJ wanted to tell 20 years of the character in less than 120 minutes, and he ended with a flat movie because of that.
Matt, Daredevil, Bullseye, Kingpin, was too much to tell in 102 minutes.
It ended being a movie made by a fan for fans, which is a really bad deal, because you can´t make a movie and expect the fans to fill in the blanks.
For exemple, you have two scenes with Elektra, and the second one is where they kiss and you have that sex all too soon, you don´t care for the characters or their relationship at that point.
But, MSJ expected the fans to fill in the blanks, because we know that they took a long time to develop that relationship, so, we, the fans, understand that.
The same goes to when Nikolas Natchios dies....
Between his death and Elektra´s death you have 20 minutes of movie time, in the middle of that, you have Elektra´s grief and decision to avenge her father and showing the the audience that she is somekind of ninja.
Once again, is all to quick, too much information in too little time....and the fans need to fill in the blanks once more.
But enough of DD....

This kind of problems will not happen in GR, i´m sure, basically because Ghost Rider doesn´t have that kind of rich world that Daredevil has.
It´s a much more contained universe than Matt Murdoch´s one.
But still, i´m very apprehensive for this movie....

PS - I still don´t get why Nicholas Cage was cast as Blaze :confused:
He is a wonderful actor, one of my favorites, but he is just wrong for the much as he was for Superman.
I agree Blackbolt, in some ways DD was the "perfect" comicbook movie. I mean that as in the example of a movie playing out just like a comicbook. The more I see it the more I like it, and I too am desperately awaiting the Directors Cut to see the "whole" deal!
With all do respect Strider, you should stick to middle earth ;)
hunter rider said:
I thought you did a great job with DD (a movie for fans) but after this my respect for you has just went through the roof.
YES! I really enjoyed DD and (after reading this) I can't wait for Ghost Rider. I've never really read Ghost Rider but enjoyed him in the Champions and some cross over stuff. So, I can guarantee that I'll have friends and family lined up to see this one on opening day. This project went from off my radar to something I'll have to follow closely now.
According to David Goyer at his message board he said (quote)

8) Someone asked about Ghost Rider. Mark Steven Johnson, of the Daredevil film is writing and directing. I wrote an R-rated draft that Stephen Norrington was going to direct. It might have been too dark. It was pretty dark. Darker than Blade. I think the studio decided to tone it down and we ultimately parted ways. I believe some elements of my original script are still in the draft they are using. We'll have to see. The Marvel guys seem very happy with the current direction, so that's cool...



Without spilling too much, did you incorporate any of the ideas David had for the film?

Did you reduce the violence, whilst not diminishing its dark characterization?
I'm starting to love MSJ.
Thanks for answering all the questions and giving all the info, dude---can't wait to see this movie.
Whatever you thought of Daredevil, no writer and director has been more in touch and friendly with the fandom than MSJ. I´m looking forward to seeing the DD director´s cut, I been hearing it´s quite an improvement and this really looks like one of these cases where the director made a much better movie that the studio went and chopped off to give it a fast music video pacing.
Too be honest I didn't like Daredevil..but I am looking forward to the Director's Cut to see if it has gotten any better...I think you (MSJ) did the right things but with the wrong characters. I am looking forward to seeing what you do with Ghost Rider because this seems like more of the character to go along with your style. Keep us updated man I am getting more and more excited with every bit of news I am hearing for this film. One small question I have is about Mysterio...what are the chances of seeing him if Daredevil 2 gets the greenlight?
I declare myself hopeful for Ghost Rider.

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