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Remembering the time Nicolas Cage channeled voodoo for 2011's 'Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance'
Long before he was filing his teeth down for Renfield, Cage was painting his face for Ghost Rider.
To say he's an actor committed to his craft would be an understatement. His penchant for employing a special brand of method acting techniques — something Cage has dubbed "nouveau shamanism" — is quite legendary. So legendary, in fact, that entire lists have been devoted to the man's craziest on-set practices. With Renfield now in theaters, let's take a look back at Cage's unhinged performance in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (now streaming on Peacock), the 2011 sequel to 2007's Ghost Rider.
Cage returned to play fearless stunt rider turned flaming skeleton Johnny Blaze, with Crank filmmaking duo Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor taking over the directorial reigns from Mark Steven Johnson. The screenplay, meanwhile, was credited to three different writers: David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight), Scott M. Gimple (The Walking Dead), and Seth Hoffman (Prison Break).
Aside from bringing Cage back into the fold, Spirit of Vengeance acts as a standalone adventure, essentially ignoring everything — both narratively and stylistically — about its predecessor, as Johnny teams up with a wine-swigging cleric named Moreau (played Idris Elba, who would enter the MCU as Heimdall in the first Thor just a few months later) to prevent the birth of an Antichrist.
"That was just somebody else getting their take on it. Completely different thing," Johnson told SYFY WIRE last fall. "Same with Daredevil when they did the spinoff of Elektra, it was just a completely different thing. They give you a credit because you did the first movie, but that's it. They want to do their own version and that's great. Everybody should."
A brand new direction meant Cage was free to get weird ... well, weirder than usual. And man oh man, did he get weird, upping the insanity factor by the power of a hundred and painting his face in the skull-like style of an "Afro-Caribbean icon called Baron Samedi, or an Afro-New Orleans icon who is also called Baron Saturday," the actor revealed during an interview with Empire (via GeekTyrant).
"He is a spirit of death but he loves children; he's very lustful, so he's a conflict in forces," Cage continued. "And I would put black contact lenses in my eyes so that you could see no white and no pupil, so I would look more like a skull or a white shark on attack."
While none of this made it onscreen, you can see what the makeup looked like in this breakdown video of the film's VFX. To further help his performance along, Cage also added a few bells and whistles to the trademark leather jacket worn by Johnny's demonic alter ego.
"I would sew in ancient, thousands-of-years-old Egyptian relics, and gather bits of tourmaline and onyx and would stuff them in my pockets to gather these energies together and shock my imagination into believing that I was augmented in some way by them, or in contact with ancient ghosts. I would walk on the set looking like this, loaded with all these magical trinkets, and I wouldn't say a word to my co-stars or crew or directors. I saw the fear in their eyes, and it was like oxygen to a forest fire. I believed I was the Ghost Rider."
Renfield is in theaters everywhere. You can pick up tickets right now on Fandango.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is now streaming on Peacock alongside the 2007 original and other Nic Cage offerings like The Croods, Season of the Witch, Bangkok Dangerous, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, and more!