Don’t let the critics fool you, “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” running at a brisk and often enervating 95 minutes, is a purely fun, visceral experience. A vast improvement over “Ghost Rider,” the sequel will appeal to fans who love the crazed energy of co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the duo behind the “Crank” films and “Gamer.” Released this week on DVD, Blu-ray 3D, and Blu-ray, special features on the disc include deleted scenes, the six-part documentary “The Path to Vengeance: The Making of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” and a Directors’ Video Commentary (the DVD only contains deleted scenes for its special feature).
Hollywood Outbreak interviewed actor Johnny Whitworth, who plays two roles in the feature. During the first act, he stars as Ray Carrigan, an overly confident criminal hired by the Devil (Ciaran Hinds) to kidnap his soon to be very evil son. When Ray is fatally injured after an encounter with the Ghost Rider (Nicolas Cage), he is transformed by the devil into Blackout, a creature able to decay anything he touches. Whitworth, who also starred in “Gamer,” talked to Outbreak about working with Taylor and Neveldine, and he also gave a bit of insight on working with director Francis Ford Coppola (Whitworth turned in an inspired performance in Coppola’s underrated 1997 feature “The Rainmaker”).
Outbreak: One of the surprising elements of the film is its sense of humor.
Whitworth: That’s Mark and Brian’s interpretation of life in general. They just have a 13-year-old’s sensibility, and I can appreciate that. (With all) the demons around, you’re going to have to add some levity.
Outbreak: Can you elaborate on the directing style of Mark and Brian? They possess a distinct tonal and visual style to their work. What makes them unique in your opinion?
Whitworth: The camera is constantly moving from take to take, it’s not just set-ups. From take to take, it’s different, because they’re each holding a camera and one of them is doing one thing, the other one is doing another thing. And then as an actor, you go ‘okay, so that’s what they’re going to do.’ You try to gear up using that knowledge, but then they change it again. They don’t follow any kind of rules. That’s challenging, but it’s also inspiring because it’s fun. You’re on your toes, for sure.
Outbreak: Your character has a huge journey in the film, so were you completely prepared to act and react within Mark and Brian’s world as soon as the cameras started rolling?
Whitworth: There’s no way you can prepare yourself entirely for working with Mark and Brian, along with playing a character like this. I didn’t know what I would do, I just knew what I was in for, and I was just ready, and you had to be. I’m used to drama, and developing a character, and letting it breathe. They’re just constantly moving, so I don’t have a lot of time to think, ‘What the f**k am I doing?’ Because I have no idea. There is nothing formulaic about them that I can draw from any other experience. Even in working with them before, I really couldn’t draw from any other experience. Working with them is just nuts, depending on what the scene is, it’s what they get inspired by. I tried to stay out of my own way and stay out of their own way and have fun.
Outbreak: Did you have to undergo a strict physical regimen for the role?
Whitworth: I did the fight scenes, so having to do them take after take, and angle and angle having to recreate everything and the fighting, I definitely had to be in shape and my stamina had to be up. Fortunately, I’m in pretty good shape, I take pretty good care of myself, but I did a lot of running up Runyon Canyon, building my strength training. As you get higher up the mountain, there’s less oxygen and the more polluted it is here in Los Angeles.
Outbreak: As Blackout, you also get to go toe to toe with Christopher Lambert (”The Highlander” star plays a warrior monk in the film).
Whitworth: Yeah, I fortunately got to take the Highlander out and now I’m the one. Because there can only be one! I had to choreograph for each one of those monks. We had something specific for each one of them, and I don’t know how many made it into the movie and then finally end on Christopher Lambert’s character. That was when I actually felt like I was a badass. I got to move from one monk to another and then of course they help you, they are stunt guys, so when I grab them by the head and I twist them, they go flying. Those guys are really capable of making you feel like a badass.
Outbreak: There’s really no in-depth analysis regarding Blackout. He just simply wants to destroy Ghost Rider, and it must be liberating acting in that kind of space.
Whitworth: Yeah, it’s cool that you picked up on that. It gives you a lot of freedom. There is not much time for getting cerebral on what you want to do. The way I played it was I had to get the kid but I also didn’t like Ghost Rider. I won’t get into semantics, but he was almost relieved that he was turned into a supernatural creature because now he had the capability of fighting Ghost Rider.
Outbreak: What was your memories of working on The Rainmaker, a film which features just excellent work from all the actors involved (the movie, headlined by Matt Damon, co-stars Virginia Madsen, Mickey Rourke, Danny DeVito, and Claire Danes)?
Whitworth: It’s Francis Ford Coppola, and the man’s an icon of film, as far as good storytelling and having amazing actors, so I was very privileged to work with him. I had lost 30 pounds on that movie to portray how sick Donny Ray was and I had to stay in that frame of mind and physicality for three months. So it was tough, but it was one of my goals to work with Coppola and I fortunately got to. Every one of those actors in that film are amazing, but I learned a lot and was able to watch how film should be made. I’m searching for (that experience) in everything that I do. That stood on its own way…well to simplify it, Francis has an acting department. Now what I mean by that, is there is a teacher there wherein if you have a problem getting somewhere as an actor, she’s there to help you. And Francis is also there to help you. I wanted to go through everything that leading up to having told Donny Ray had leukemia. Francis arranged for me to go to a hospital, deal with specialists in that field, and I went all the way up until they would do a spinal tap. I’m a committed actor but I wasn’t going to do a spinal tap. (laughs).
Outbreak: It’s such a sacrifice to go through that type of role.
Whitworth: It’s absolutely worth it when you’re in the hands of someone like Francis Ford Coppola. Because then you have good chances of making a good film. I go that far and have gone that far with roles and have pursued it in the same kind of manner, and it’s really heartbreaking to see what happens to a movie like an independent film. Or working with someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. It’s really hard to make a good movie, but when you’re working with Coppola or Neil Burger (Whitworth worked on “Limitless”), he’s another one that is actor oriented. Neil is a big brain who knows how to tell a story and you feel comfortable in his hands. You don’t get to have that opportunity as often. But I don’t really know any other way to work, and that’s what I meant of having the freedom in Ghost Rider. With Mark and Brian I couldn’t get my head wrapped around things being real or what the heck’s going on. I couldn’t do that. In that regard, that was freeing and liberating and I had no other choice. Trust me, I fought it! For most part, I’m pretty happy with what they did with the movie, and it’s fun.
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posted by Greg Srisavasdi