Nicolas Cage, who played motorcyclist daredevil Johnny Blaze across two PG-13 Ghost Rider movies, believes the franchise would be “enormously successful” if it were resurrected with an R-rating.
“Had Ghost Rider been made in R-rated format, the way they had the guts to do with Deadpool, and they did it again today, I’m fairly certain it would be enormously successful,” Cage told Yahoo.
The first, released through Sony Pictures in 2007, earned $228 million. Its sequel, 2012’s Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, pulled in just $132 million worldwide — nearly tripling its reported $57 million budget, half the $110 million budget doled out for its predecessor.
“I still think the movies were a hit. People don’t look at the subsidiary outlets, like DVD and streaming and whatnot,” Cage said. “When you look at what [Spirit of Vengeance directors] Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor did for $50 million, and they got a $250 million return, you begin to see the genius of the sequel.”
Cage’s flaming skeleton not-quite-superhero succeeded New Line’s R-rated Blade trilogy, the first-out-the-door big screen Marvel blockbuster franchise that helped pave the way for Fox’s X-Men in 2000 and Sony’s mega-hit Spider-Man in 2002.
Big studios would dip their toes into the water with not-as-big comic book adaptations boasting harsher ratings: 2003’s Ben Affleck-led PG-13 Daredevil flirted with an R-rating, relegating its R-rated director’s cut to DVD-only, while other adult comic book movies — 2004’s The Punisher, 2005’s Sin City, 2009’s R-rated Watchmen — remained rarities in the PG-13-dominated landscape of the comic book movie.
After Punisher: War Zone flopped with just $10 million worldwide in 2008 — making it the lowest-grossing Marvel-inspired production ever — another R-rated project wouldn’t follow until 2016, when Fox launched X-verse spinoff Deadpool. That film, steered by star Ryan Reynolds and first-time director Tim Miller, emerged as the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time.
Fox followed with R-rated Hugh Jackman Wolverine swan song Logan, a $619 million-grosser that again proved the viability of R-rated comic book movies.
Cage said the said the “philosophical” concept of Ghost Rider and its “monster” superhero made the character inherently not-PG-13, because “it’s very hard to take a family of children to a movie — and they made it a PG-13 movie — about a superhero who, oh, by the way, also happens to have sold his soul to Satan.”
“So it’s not going to be the most commercial concept or vehicle,” Cage said. “But it certainly is the most interesting, and the most thought-provoking. I think if you look back on the movies today, they age well.”
A lifelong comic book fan, Cage — who was once set to headline the Tim Burton-directed and never-made Superman Lives — finally debuted as an animated version of the Man of Steel in the animated Teen Titans Go! To the Movies this past summer. He next voices the dark and gritty Spider-Man Noir in the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, where he plays just one of many spider-powered superheroes.5comments
The Walking Dead star Norman Reedus has since expressed interest in joining the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe as Ghost Rider, who was most recently brought to screen in TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. by way of a different iteration of Rider, Robbie Reyes, who sported a fire-spewing hot rod instead of a motorcycle.
Cage’s next project, Mandy, reaches theaters and on demand starting Friday.