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SYFY WIRE Ghost Rider

Nic Cage's Ghost Rider Movie Could've Been R-Rated - and Almost Starred Johnny Depp & Eric Bana

As with so many superhero movies, Ghost Rider could have turned a lot different.

By Matthew Jackson
Ghost Rider (2007)

Like a lot of comic book movies, 2007's Ghost Rider (airing this weekend on SYFY) spent years in development before film ever rolled on the project. That means the version we got, directed and written by Mark Steven Johnson and starring Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze, was far from the only version the studio discussed.

So, what might have been?

How 2007's Ghost Rider Could Have Been a Lot Different

First, let's take a look at the other potential Johnny Blazes. Nearly a decade before the film actually came to fruition, back in 2000, none other than Johnny Depp was interested in the title ride of Ghost Rider. Producer Avi Arad was interested in having Depp on board, but the actor eventually backed away from the project, leaving the role open once again.

The next year, Australian actor Eric Bana was considered for the Ghost Rider, but because Arad had several different superhero movie irons in the fire, he was looking at Bana for more than one lead character. In the end, Arad chose to cast Bana as the lead in Ang Lee's film Hulk, which hit theaters back in 2003.

Finally, Cage signed on to play Johnny Blaze, and the version of Ghost Rider that we know got a little closer to really happening.

For More on Ghost Rider:
The Ghost Rider Films Are a Standalone Thrill From Beyond the MCU

Remembering the Time Nicolas Cage Channeled Voodoo for Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Ghost Rider Director Recalls 'Wild West' Era of Marvel Movies

Nicolas Cage in Ghost Rider (2007)

Of course, it would be several more years before the film actually hit theaters, and along the way, more changes arrived for the Ghost Rider project. One of the early writers on the project was none other than David S. Goyer, who'd already had an R-rated hit for Marvel with Blade in 1998. Reflecting on the project years later, Cage explained that one of the reasons he'd been drawn to Ghost Rider in the first place was Goyer's original script, which would have produced an R-rated movie rather than the PG-13 version we eventually got. 

"I think that when the Ghost Rider movies were happening, Marvel hadn't gotten the entire process worked out yet and now they have and they know exactly where to go and what to do and it's working beautifully for them," Cage told JoBlo in 2018. "Y'know, Ghost Rider was a movie that always should've been an R-rated movie. David Goyer had a brilliant script, which I wanted to do with David and for whatever reason they just didn't let us make the movie. But that movie is a still a movie that should be made, not with me obviously, but it should be an R-rated movie. Heck, Deadpool was R-rated and that did great. Ghost Rider was designed to be a scary superhero with an R-rating and edge and they just didn't have it worked out back then."

Maybe one day we'll see an R-rated Ghost Rider hot on the heels of a project like Deadpool and Wolverine. For now, we've got Cage in the leather jacket riding the Hell Cycle, and that's good enough for us, even if it is fun to imagine what might have been.

Ghost Rider airs this weekend on SYFY. Check the schedule for more details, or stream the film via the SYFY Movies hub.