CON: Eva Mendes & Mark Steven Johnson
Interview with Eva Mendes and director Mark Steven Johnson
Here we are at Day Two of Comic-Con Interview Week here at JoBlo. Yesterday was Bryan Singer and today we have Eva Mendes and Mark Steven Johnson talking GHOST RIDER. Keep in mind that the interview below took place before the GHOST RIDER panel that Sony put on at the Con We didn't have the benefit of seeing the clip that Johnson put together (and leaked online later) before having this interview. Since Johnson did most of the talking (and rightly so since most of the questions were very fanboy oriented), I'll devote a generous amount of space in this article to pictures of Eva. Just to even things out, you know. That's the only reason. The insane cleavage has absolutely nothing to do with it...Eva, can you tell us a little about your character of Roxanne? EM: I play Johnny Blazes love of his life and a reporter. And when you see me in the movie, its been years since Ive seen him, and I havent gotten over him. I mean, how can you get over, you know, Johnny Blaze? Or Nic Cage, I should say? Then (to Mark) help me out here, what happens (laughs). Im sorry guys, Ive got to get warmed up. MSJ: Actually, all that stuff got cut out (laughs). EM: Ouch. MSJ: We set it up that the deal with the devil is made with Johnnys a young boy and [Johnny and Roxy] split up. He has to leave her behind because he cant risk getting her in danger. They meet up again years later in life.
There was the 70s, sort-of horror version of GHOST RIDER, and the 90s teen action thing. What was your favorite phase and which one will the movie reflect more? MSJ: You bet. The cool thing is that you get the best of both worlds, you know what I mean? Like I really love the original, but I also loved some of the Danny Ketch 90s version. Especially I like Caretaker. They had better villains than we did. Some of the stories, I think, were actually really excellent, too. Especially the stories with Scarecrow. Marvels Scarecrow. They were great. It was nice that you get to cherry pick and get the best from both. It kind of actually gives you less pressure. I know theyre going to bring [the comic] back, but theres no, you know, Frank Miller version that youre beholden to. It freed me up a little bit. What about yourself? What new material did you generate? MSJ: The biggest thing was cracking I think the reason it took a while to get the movie to get made well, there were two reasons. One was because of the FX. You literally couldnt have made the movie a couple of years ago. Were doing new stuff now, Fluid Sim, everything for the fire thats going to look amazing. So thats a new thing. The second thing was always the actual story, the deal with the devil, that was problematic for people. They kept trying to change it. I think thats why, eventually, the 70s Ghost Rider run went away. They tried to bring it back and simplify it too much I think. Because it went from that really convoluted deal with the devil story in the first one to the magic motorcycle in the graveyard, you know? Touch it and you turn into Ghost Rider! It went the other way. So, it was kind of a challenge keeping what we loved about the comic, but also finding a way to hopefully strengthen it. The hard part of the comic was always that the devil gave Johnny all these amazing powers, and he goes out and fights bad guys. It was like, Whatd he do that for? It never really quite added up. And they tried to explain it, but it never really worked, and it got more and more convoluted. So, we just made it real simple: theres heaven, theres hell, and theres our world. Every once in a while, something gets out of hell thats not supposed to be here and thats when you call upon Ghost Rider. He works for the devil as a bounty hunter. So, theres always been a Ghost Rider is the idea. He used to be on horseback back in the day and now hes a motorcycle rider. The concept was just that youd find the best rider, and you make him go and track down these demons for you. What kind of devil will there be in the film? MSJ: Its pretty tough to pull off Mephisto like the comic, because he has a big cape and big horns, and all that. Though thats actually what [Peter] Fonda looks like (laughs). EM: (Laughs) He doesnt even need makeup; thats just what he looks like naturally. MSJ: So, were doing our demons and also our devil both have a certain look that they wear when theyre here, but theres something underneath, and thats something we reveal later in the movie. You get ripples of it when they get angry. Its like remember that Black Hole Sun video by Soundgarden, how creepy that was? The slight distortion of a smile that goes too far, things like that? You get hints of it, and, then, later in the movie were gonna reveal what they really look like. It probably wont be that close to specifically Mephisto, because, like I said, thats a tough one to pull off on film. But it will be really, really horrific.
Eva, speaking of Peter Fonda, how was it acting with him? EM: Oh, God, I have the best Fonda story for you guys. Hes so awesome. Hes just Peter Fonda. So one day, were hanging out on set, and believe it or not - dont hold this against me - Ive never seen EASY RIDER. Were hanging out talking, and Im like, Im so sorry, I never saw EASY RIDER. I thought he was going to hit me or something. But hes like, Youve never seen it? And I said, No. Hes like, Well, why dont we have an EASY RIDER party at Marks place, and Ill narrate the film for you guys? So, we sat there, and he narrated. MSJ: It was great. It was like a DVD commentary. It was bizarre. A roomful of people, and we just had an Easy Rider party. It cost me like $5000 in my security deposit, if you know what I mean. It was fun. Fondas great, hes awesome. EM: Fondas amazing as an actor. I dont know what you have to say as a director about Fonda. MSJ: The devil is tough. I went through and looked at all the movies where someones played the devil, and its a tough one. No one has done it great, you know? Most people go really big with it. They go campy, like THE DEVILS ADVOCATE. Which was really well done, but it just always seems like the devil is a showman. Like Jack Nicholson in THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, theyre always very comedic and I didnt want to do that. I wanted to play it very subtle. I think what we really had to do to differentiate your devil, and ours is Mephistopheles, which means hes the deal maker, right? Thats where he comes from in literature. So, rather than just be like a fire and brimstone devil, his thing is hes a salesman. Hes trying to get you to sell your soul, so hes got to be the ultimate salesman, really smooth. And a great salesman just fits in. He just comes in and just kind of blends in. Hes not the guy calling attention to himself. Before you know it, youre thinking, Hes not that bad. And then you realize what youre in for. And thats how horrible it is. How close will the outfits in the movie match the costumes from the comic? MSJ: Its great. This time I actually have a hero whos supposed to be in leather, so Ive got that going for me (laughs). He changes throughout the movie. I know some fans have seen some shots and are like, Why the spikes are so small? Its because he changes his look throughout the movie. Obviously, he doesnt know whats going to happen the first time. Hes just wearing his Johnny Blaze outfit. He has no gloves on, so hes got skeleton hands. Hes got black jeans, a black leather coat and motorcycle boots. The second time, when he breaks out of the jail and I dont want to give too much away here - his coat gets ripped, and he upgrades basically to an inmates coat that has little studs. The idea is that hellfire affects metal in a certain way. So when hellfire hits a motorcycle, it turns into the Hellcycle; when it hits a shotgun, it turns into a hellfire shotgun; and when it hits the studs in your coat, they pop into these spikes. Its really cool, and actually worked really well within the outfit. So, he does have the three-inch spikes, the big chain, and all that shit.
Will the penance stare figure into the movie? MSJ: The penance stare were still working on. Thats the toughest one in the whole movie, because I dont want to do the little vignettes. Weve seen that before; the quick little cut pieces of peoples sins. The penance stare, for anyone who doesnt know, is when Ghost Rider says, Look into my eyes, and you can look at all the sins theyve done to other people, and make them relive those sins tenfold. He doesnt kill anybody, Ghost Rider, but it is supposed to be a fate worse then death, because youre trapped looking at all the shit youve done to everyone else. So how to do that without it becoming a little mini-movie is the challenge. What about the hellfire? MSJ: You mean shooting it? No, but I have him throwing hellfire in one scene, which is pretty cool. If theres any fire on him, he can manipulate it. What I didnt want to do is get into the Human Torch territory. Thats whats really hard about Marvel characters; theres so many. Human Torch, Pyro... You have to be careful about what makes this different from them. Eva, was it tough to shoot with Nic as Ghost Rider with the green hood on his head? EM: I did have once scene where I see him change into Ghost Rider and that freaks my character out, as it would anybody. Thats a pretty intense scene. And at the end, theres a really sweet thing. [To Mark] Are we still going to do that? MSJ: I dont know. We cant give that away. Youre giving away everything (laughing)! Youre giving away the end of the movie! EM: Oh, right (laughs)!
Does this film have a Western feel to it? MSJ: Oh, its a straight-up Western. There are so many comic book movies, and youve got to find a way to make yours different and thats why I want to take it out of New York City, Gotham, whatever you want to call it, and take it into Texas. Its an unnamed town, and it feels very much like ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST meets a Hammer film. Its cool. It doesnt look like anything else. Is there humor to the film as well? MSJ: Yeah. But I didnt want it to get too jokey. But Nics real funny, so automatically theres a lot of humor in the movie. EM: Thats whats really nice about it. Its like nothing Ive ever been a part of. MSJ: Well, you need it, because its really horrific, you know? Because theres stuff like when he changes, youre used to seeing it in a comic book panel. But when you see someone really with the flesh, you know, blown off his face and coming off his skull, its really intense. And even just the Ghost Rider walking around Its not done, we just wrapped a few weeks ago, so Ive only seen test footage, but even the test footage, you just look at it and its just intense. Its a really intense image. So, you have to balance that with some humor. EM: And anytime you sell your soul to the devil, theres some darkness there (laughs). So, youre dealing with this dark stuff, its nice that Nic, just acting opposite him, made so many funny choices that are real. Because, when the stakes are high in life, oftentimes we make jokes to just survive and get through it. Is there anything you learned from your experience DAREDEVIL that youve applied to this film? MSJ: Sure. Lots of things. DAREDEVIL I really like the movie. Its flawed, obviously. I think there are problems with it. You lose battles and you win battles, and, luckily, you can do a Directors Cut and add in twenty-five minutes of story, which is always good for the movie (laughs). Things like that. Eva, what did you think of the Roxanne from the comic and how did you change her for this movie? EM: You know what? I actually thought she was this very hot, voluptuous blonde that was a little victimy for my taste. You know what I mean? She cried a lot. I want to thank Mark for taking a chance, just thinking outside the box, because, obviously, Im not blonde and I dont look like the original comic book Roxanne. So now shes darker (laughs), a little more exotic. And just stronger, you know what I mean? Just really, really crazy in love with this man and willing to stand behind him and beside him through thick and thin, but still having a life of her own, being an independent woman being a career woman. And just this inner strength, not being a victim.
Is Roxanne still the one keeping Ghost Rider out of hell? MSJ: No, no, that didnt work for me personally. I thought that was always bizarre, the fact that Johnny makes this deal with the devil, and suddenly Roxie breaks the spell. Shes like Ive been studying the Occult. This sweet little girl and shes got the candles and the pentagram and the blood, and youre like, Jesus, where did that come from? That seemed a little odd. Are you contractually obligated to deliver a PG-13? MSJ: I am. How do you get flesh burning to work under the constraints of a PG-13 movie? MSJ: Im not sure, but I think itll all be in the movie this time. I think PG-13 is getting further and further you can get more in a PG-13. WAR OF THE WORLDS was PG-13, and there was some pretty intense stuff in there I mean, really intense, graphic stuff. But, yeah, obviously we have to have our transformation. We have to have that. Were dealing with hell, which puts you in a darker place, and thats why, again, we had to balance it with humor and whatnot. But its not like I shot a bunch of stuff and thought, Oh, this will only be in an R-rated directors cut. Not at all. What is Ghost Riders voice going to sound like? MSJ: Were working on that right now. Nic did all the dialogue for the Ghost Rider, and then what we do is, obviously, lower it and add were just adding a lot of stuff to it. Were trying it out. Its fun. You can say all your words and then add like a lions roar. We keep saying its like a mechanical lions roar, you know what I mean? Something heavy metal and really deep that will shake the theater when he talks.
It was rumored you were interested in directing a CAPTAIN AMERICA movie. MSJ: No, no. I love Captain America, though. What other comics do you like? MSJ: Oh, god, yeah. There are so many great ones. I love Preacher. I dont know how you do Preacher, though, unfortunately I think youd have to do a series. I think it would be a great HBO series; I think that would be the best way to tell that story. But yeah, I love that. I love Silver Surfer The Hulk. I love all of them. And I think a lot of them are going to come back too, you know, and get re-imagined.
And now, even though the interview is over, more Eva Mendes (and trust me, this is just about 1/4 of the shots I took - the rest stay in my personal collection...):
Stay tuned this week as I wrap up my Comic-Con coverage (finally, I know...) with interviews, pics, interviews, pics and oh yeah, the drunken events at two industry parties...
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