Idris Elba as "Moreau"
Idris Elba seems to be going for some sort of record with how many comic book movies he appears in, having already starred in The Losers and last year's Thor, playing Heimdall, gatekeeper of Asgard. In Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Elba plays Moreau, a tough gun-wielding monk who Johnny Blaze meets on his journey. We interviewed him in on the soundstages of Castel Studios during a break from shooting a scene with Cage, which you can read about in the main set visit.
Idris Elba: Nationality. We haven't really established that, but I'm thinking he's from a Francophone country, perhaps. He's traveled a lot, so I'm sort of placing his accent based on a French thing, and he's a traveler. Been around the world.
Elba: The bike was a reason. One of the reasons. I love bikes. I used to own one, but I fell off it when I was younger and that was the end of my bike riding days until now. So it's good to get back on a bike, and there's lots of sequences with the bike, so that's pretty cool.
Elba: Yeah, Moreau is supposed to be a very religious man. A monk, in fact. But he's got his vices. He's traveled the world. I'm not sure if his faith is as strong as it should be, but in any case he's a righteous man. His journey in this film is to seek out Danny, and to protect Danny for the day of prophecy. And basically he goes about that by any means necessary. He meets up with Johnny Blaze and Johnny Blaze thinks, "Who is this guy? This crazy guy?" ‘Cuz you know I like a drink and I'm on the bikes and I'm prepared to go for it. It's actually one of my favorite characters to play; I get to be a little bit more comical than usual and that's fun.
Elba: Not at all, really. Both characters are sort of incidental from the main characters, you know, sidelines. I mean, this is a big part, but it's not the central character, so it's not easily forgotten, but you know what I mean.
Elba: Yeah, this is my first experience working with two directors, a duo, team. It's quite an interesting one. What one director focuses on, the other one steps back a little bit and vice versa. They're great guys, very courageous. First thing I noticed is that they operate the camera themselves, so that's quite interesting. One of the first sequences I had to do, I had to get on this bike, and I'm nervous on this bike, but Mark gets behind me on rollerblades and is holding on with the camera. I'm nervous driving this thing on my own, but there's this director, and we're doing like 30 miles an hour down some Romanian strip, and he's "whirrrrr" filming me the whole time, which is pretty amazing. But they're really good guys, good directors, fun to work with.
Elba: At some stage they start to have a meeting of the minds, a common goal. At first Johnny's not too into Moreau, but eventually they pull it together. Between Moreau and Nadia and my character, we have this sort of trio.
Elba: Yeah, there is.
Elba: Actually no, there's not much adlibing. Nic does a little bit, but his character is at liberty to do that. My character has a lot of stuff to say, a lot of stuff that's pertinent to the story line, so I'm not adlibing that much. But what's comical about my character, he doesn't care about much, he's a little bit brash.
Elba: This character isn't actually in the comic book, so I just say, "Hey let's just create him." I tend to stay away from the comics. (Ari Arad steps in to say that the name of the character in the comics was taken more as an inspiration.)
Elba: That's a good question. The meeting that Brian and Mark and I had, they wanted a man that had a lot of experience. Have you seen those beer commercials—the most experienced man in the world? (laughs) We laughed about that, like, "Yeah, that's him! Let's do him!" Except for I'm a religious man, you see. The drinking is okay, but I really couldn't draw too much. The script—Moreau is pretty well developed on paper, so I sort of dug into that. The directors were always finding stuff with Moreau. We even started to coin the phrase, "Let's do a Moreau moment here," which means, "Rock it. Let's fire it away a little bit more."
Elba: Yeah, a free agent character, and the actors that play those characters are allowed to carve something quite unique if they want to. So for me, yeah, it was just great. I'm sure if I was to play a character that everyone knows, the detail, the attention to what the comic readers want would be on the forefront of my mind, but here on the forefront of my mind is creating a dynamic character and having a little fun with it. I like to make him realistic, because obviously with the dialogue and the plots, it's like, so I try and steep my character in some sort of realism. So even if it's over the top, I like to keep ‘em grounded and real, so you believe every moment, you know? You believe it.
Elba: Yeah, yeah, brilliant action sequences of course with the bike. My opening sequence in this film is pretty badass, you know what I mean? I got to do some of the stunts myself. One of the big stunts is jumping over some steps—p-pow!—and I wore the harness and did the whole thing myself. I won't tell you too much, but the sequence that ends that whole chase thing is pretty freaking bad. We're going to do that tomorrow.
Q: Do you get to play with some of these guns as well?
Elba: Yeah. I get the Uzi. Yeah baby, my Uzi weighs a ton. (laughs)
Ciarán Hinds as "Roarke"
Irish actor Ciaran Hinds is no stranger to the supernatural with roles in The Rite and in the Irish indie The Eclipse as a man haunted by ghosts. In Ghost Rider: Spirit of the Vengeance he plays the Devil himself, and it's a role that allows him to get heavily into the FX make-up because the Devil is wearing out his human body so he has a transformation that takes place over the course of the movie. Hinds was actually one of the first people we spoke to on our set visit, as he came to the hotel for an interview before we headed to the studios to check out the sets.
Q: Do you automatically sign onto a project when you're going to be playing the Devil? Ciarán
Hinds: It would seem to be the case, having only been offered twice to play the Devil and I said "yes" both times. It's funny. This came out of the blue for me really, ‘cause I didn't know Brian and Mark, didn't know them at all, and I didn't know the genre of work Obviously, I have an agent who's on the ball and said, "There's this project that's going and it might be fun and it might be very interesting. Do you want to play the Devil?" At the time it wasn't called "The Devil," it was called "Roarke" when I read it, and if you read the script you'd understand. When I was asked to do it, I was actually playing a Vatican priest who was giving classes in exorcism, so I thought I had to go there as well, find out what I was talking about.
Hinds: Yeah, I was filming something in London and a couple guys came in to do some EPK, and they'd seen something that was on the ‘net and said, "I believe you're going to work for Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor," and I said, "Yeah, they're directing the Ghost Rider," and they said, "They're crazy guys!" and I said, "What do you mean?" and they said, "Oh, they're just kind of wild and bold and brave" and then they started telling the story about how Mark—‘cause they're both directors of photographer as well, which I didn't know—he just sometimes takes a camera and goes on ‘blades and hangs on the back of lorries, so I'm just thinking, "I can't be doing this at my age." ‘Cause I really didn't know what it entailed, but what I have found out having met them is that they're fantastic. They're both sharp, they're so energetic, they know what they're doing, they know what they want to play, and they're so vital, so full of life. How they stitch all this together I don't know, that's their business, but it's been very energetic. I must say. When you're supposed to be representing some form of Mephistopheles, whatever that entails, and they've been fantastic at the level of which you should come in. They're actually really good. I would trust them to direct me in almost anything, nevermind just the genre, because they just have a mind for what is required in the fabric of the whole thing.
Hinds: Funnily enough, I'm just walking the planet. There's a scene where I go into a rent-a-car and that doesn't work out. (laughter) Well, it was the other guy's fault, you know? But there you go. So basically, he just ends up in these places. The first time you see him, he's coming off a train, public transport. Goes to rent a car, it doesn't work out, but then the next time you find him, he's on a scene of utter devastation. I suppose that's the way it works.
Q: When you're playing a character like the Devil or somebody that's pure evil, how do you approach that from an acting standpoint? Do you have the motivation to just play pure evil or do you just have fun with it?
Hinds: I suppose you have fun with it, but then, as Brian rightly pointed out--‘cause he does that thing about what's inside people – "There's the Devil in all of us, or the light side in all of us." What side comes out at different times? I suppose that's what the Devil is. But he's been very careful, especially when you see a very spare script, not to try and lay it on too thick, because it's there. At the same time you have to give this essence of bile or something, of frustration and kind of "don't f*ck with me. I will be kind to you, but don't f*ck with me." At the same time, you can over-embellish stuff and it can become a bit parodic or pantomimic. There was a couple of times where I suddenly felt myself going over that way, and Brian said, he just said, "Pull it back a little. Just get pissed off." Rather than go "I want to eat you all up," just get pissed off. I think the way the character is placed in it, he's there and he's gone, he's there and he's gone, and it's the race against time to see if he can transport his dark soul into the child that he himself has created as almost his perfect time capsule to be continually on Earth. That's the race for him.
Hinds: I think he's about three and a half. (laughter) He's not a very good Devil, ‘cause if he were, everybody would be in tatters, but at the same time, you only actually see him use his powers twice. Most of the time it's a race against time for him. He's a devil on his way out. That's what it is. His body is giving up and that's why he's trying to retain a sense of ease and control and having everything happen. Meanwhile, his face is starting to fall off. It's sort of the human weakness that he's placed himself into the vessel of a human being and it's given up on him, which also pisses him off. For him, with the whole shell disintegrating, the idea is that he has to find a new receptacle in which he can regenerate and push him onto further adventures. That's the journey, so for him, he wants to remain calm in the situation, but bit by bit, he comes to the moment where there's a prophecy and it's a race against time.
Hinds: Yeah, but it changes. There's about four different stages.
Hinds: I've only done prosthetics once before, which was last year for "Harry Potter," and so I suppose the idea of sitting in the chair for two hours is kind of strange initially. You get used to it over time, but what is fantastic is watching great artists. Your own face disappears and you just watch them not only apply and then blend in and then map the canvas and then paint over it -- the finesse and the detail of watching other people work, it sort of keeps you calm inside the two hours it takes.
Hinds: I don't think there's any connection at all, because they've also got two different names, but then the Devil has many different names anyway, you know?
Hinds: The boys haven't alluded to it at all, and I think Brian and Mark have decided that we were going to take this and put our stamp on it. We're not following a track that's been laid down. We're taking the story and we're beginning with what we want to do, therefore they don't feel, I don't think, obliged to follow what's been set down before. They have their own energy, their own creative juices, wouldn't dictate to them, I imagine. Except there is a connection that the producers were on the first one as well, so maybe they have an overall rider on how it should be done.
Hinds: I suppose it is, but then again it depends on what the gig is. If I have to ask "How will they continue that? If Mr. Peter Fonda's not available, then are they going to make me prosthetically into Peter Fonda? Am I going to mimic Peter Fonda's voice?" because that doesn't seem to make sense. Just get Peter Fonda. (laughter) Then you just bring in whatever you have to offer, and it does free you up, not to have to follow steps, so you're much freer, that's for sure.
Hinds: No, no, because the Devil's in the human form, which is slowly collapsing. He's a natty dresser, or he thinks he is. (laughter)
Hinds: It's very funny, because the scenes with Nic, basically, I just see something coming and have the lights punched out of me. That's Scene 1. Then I come to, I have a couple of words with him and then I go on the run. Then the next time I meet him, he just picks me up and throws me way up into the sky, and then lashes me back down into the inferno that's called Hell. That's my work with Nic. I don't think he tolerates devils. (laughter) I don't think he likes to objectify them, talk to them, rationalize them, I think he's on a mission to get the hell out of here, but he is one of the most unique actors in the world, absolutely unique. His style, his rage, his commitment, his passion, his imagination, But then there's films that I've adored like "Adaptation," which has just an extraordinary performance, truly extraordinary. And then "Matchstick Men"? His stuff is brilliant in that. So immediate and vital.
Hinds: No, I haven't. I'm not a comics person at all. It never reached me in the north of Ireland, in the '60s and '70s growing up. We used to get stupid comics like "The Topper" and "The Beezer," things like that, but this whole big American imagery of darkness and superheroes, I never really got into. Everybody said, "You've never heard of Ghost Rider?" "No, sorry." But it's fun because it's something where you go, "What is this stuff?" and yet you understand it's allusions to myth and the light in the darkness and it's around us all of the time.
Hinds: Stuntwork. I've only really done one thing. I had to throw myself into the air onto a mat and apart from a few bruised ribs, I'm fine, but tomorrow I'm being suspended on wires, which is not something I've done. They take you up and then I think they flying you as if you're leaving the Earth and you're flying out of the zone. So I have yet to find out. I'll find out in 24 hours.
Hinds: I'm not nervous, but I'm not particularly looking forward to it. (laughter) 'Cause it's gonna hurt, you know? There's no way out. People are gonna pull you up on wires and when you reach a certain age, you're like "Oh, don't do that! Agghhhhhhh!" And then they do it again, and again. And then you go, "Oh, stop, please," and they don't. They have to get the shot.
Hinds: There is, because there's green screen and they've got inserts, and of course you can't have, "Nic, show us your flaming skull there, you know, pull that one out." So there will be that, and there's other stuff that they also need to enhance the world. But they've done a lot of stuff location-wise, trying to pick up the reality of where they are before the other supernatural stuff kicks in. So there will be obviously some CGI, but I suppose the game now is to mix it so that you're not quite sure which is and which isn't, and to shoot it for real, and see if you get away with that with effects on the ground.
Hinds: No, but the visual effects Alex showed me last night, "This is what we've made up to show you what we're going to try and do with you." But the whole arc and storyline and how it's gonna look and stuff like that...no idea really.
Hinds: No, certainly not, because we act in 3D anyway. The camera makes it 2D, because of the flat screen, but we are acting in 3D, really. Then they project whatever, 3D, they're gonna have.
Hinds: More pronounced? I suppose...I don't know how it works, really. I have seen a couple of things in 3D, and some of the things come out at you, but I suppose -- does anybody know? (laughter) But I know what you mean -- if you're gonna move forward, do you move an extra pace forward so that you come up further out of the screen?
Hinds: Sometimes you don't know when they're gonna cut. You say, "Well, that's the scene we've gone through," but they're still moving the camera around. "Well, just keep going." "But I'm running out of stuff." "Invent something." But it's quite funny, sometimes they just say, "Cut," and you'll say, "Well, that was mad," and they'll say, "Yeah, but was it any good? Probably not, so we'll do it again." But it's kind of fun to work that way. It's a bit playing, but while you're playing, you're very committed to what you're doing. I mean, there are some emotional contexts that are going on in the storyline, but also it's about enjoying the emotions of it, I think. The style is kind of full-on. The last time I met you, we were talking about "The Eclipse," which is a much more personal thing, where it kind of comes in to observe you a bit, but this is going out to meet it in a different way.
Hinds: Yeah, I've only just got to see it because I only joined the team after the new year, and they've been here since early November. Mind you, I wasn't scheduled to start this until the new year, so I got here on a Wednesday, worked five days, and then I went to Turkey, which was extraordinary. The locations that they chose in Turkey were fantastic, and then we just got back here and started working again, so I've really just seen it in the last two days.