Ghost Rider What IF

(pic from Deviantart-ist ~joker5063)

I have not seen GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE. But I had a blast at CRANK. I love LUTHER so Idris Elba’s presence pleases me and it’s no secret I adore Nic Cage and would happily punch heads on his behalf. BUT… for about twelve minutes, Patrick and I thought we might actually get the chance to make GHOST RIDER 2.

I’ve written similar entries in the past. You can find a screenplay that birthed both MESSENGERS and MESSENGERS 2: THE SCARECROW. There’s also a post explaining how Mark Haslett and I were attached to COWBOYS AND ALIENS for about three minutes. And then my and Patrick’s pitching the FRIGHT NIGHT remake at two different companies. Since they are the most recent three entries in the Essay section I won’t bother linking.

So let’s talk GHOST RIDER 2.

First off, I still have my Ghost Rider #1 and my Marvel spotlight #5. I always LOVED Ghost Rider because he wasn’t squeaky clean. Ghost Rider was supposed to torment the innocent but chose to use his powers to punish evil. And his head caught on fire.

Here’s the quick and dirty version to catch you up.

Patrick and I wrote DRIVE ANGRY. Our agents sent it to producers. We met with those who responded favorably. The moment we met with Mike De Luca, we never met with another. Patrick and I were in manlove.

Then we sent DRIVE ANGRY to studios. MOST everyone reacted with excitement. Even the passes were favorable. Except the company that brought you DIE HARD and LETHAL WEAPON said it was too violent. It should be noted that the economy was not good at the time. Studios weren’t making the movies they used to make. In fact, one Studio Head told us “When we were making 40 films a year this would be a no brainer but now that we’re making less than ten…” Although we had interest De Luca decided to send the screenplay to Nic, who responded the same day. He loved it. Once Nic was attached the falcon finally hit lightspeed. Deals were made, locations discussed… it was happening.

During one of our many meetings, De Luca, who had produced Ghost Rider, suggested we come up with a pitch for Ghost Rider 2. We said yes with much enthusiasm. So Mike set a meeting with Avi Arad that we might meet and discuss the franchise. And we had a blast. We met Avi and his son Ari (who sat with me and Tom Jane during the My Bloody Valentine premiere). We talked superheroes and what made Ghost Rider different. We talked through what Vilains we could legally draw from. It was a perfect meeting.

Patrick and I returned to the ghostcave and worked our magic. We decided to not only create a pitch but since there were so many entities involved (Avi, Marvel, Sony and De Luca) we would create a document we could leave behind. A doc that would represent our story, our characters and our tone. And that’s what we did.

When we returned we were pumped. We had nailed it. It may seem arrogant to say that but DUH. Isn’t that the point? Why would you ever go back if you didn’t think you nailed it? During the initial chit chat I said something along the lines of, “We know there are several entities involved here but we think we’ve found a story that fulfills everyone’s concerns.” Avi then informed me that there was only one entity that mattered. Everyone laughed. I gulped.

And the pitch was fun!

We knew De Luca dug it. Later we heard that Sony loved it.

But in the end Avi passed. He said it was too violent.

Hate not getting the job but I’ll take TOO VIOLENT as the reason any day of the week.

Just follow the link and you decide. :)



Peter Vincent

An email to our agents sent on January 30 of 2009:

“We’re nearly finished outlining FRIGHT NIGHT for Monday. Also DON’T DRIVE ANGRY, a pitch tailored for Paseornek if MBVII moves forward.”

As I mentioned in the last entry, a Hollywood filmmaker normally has to NOT get a dozen jobs to get one. FRIGHT NIGHT would be one of the dozen that Patrick Lussier and I would not get. I’m not saying what we would have done would have been be better than what will hit the theaters on Friday. I’m just saying this is what might have been.

In January of 09 Patrick and I were contacted by Roy Lee and Sonny Mallhi about a FRIGHT NIGHT remake. OR as a disgustingly high number of kids today will tell you… DISTURBIA with Vampires. Clint Culpepper at Screen Gems controlled the FRIGHT NIGHT rights.

To set the stage, MBV 3D had been released mid-January. We were getting some hype. Izzie was small. And cute. But not as cute as the Macbook Air and the rolled up pee pee diaper behind us.

So Patrick and I put together our take for FRIGHT NIGHT the remake. We’d do the same thing we did with MBV. Update it while keeping classic elements. Make it scary and make sure the characters were smart. Especially the villain. For instance, you don’t order a pizza then kill the deliver boy. Same as you don’t order a hot hooker then kill her in your upstairs bedroom. Be smarter, Jerry. Our remake rule simply followed what Carpenter did with THE THING and Cronenberg did with THE FLY. Update it while keeping classic elements.

Therefore in our version Roddy McDowell WAS Peter Vincent. But Vincent had died of old age after a long distinguished career as the star of over a hundred Hammer Films. Roddy’s face would be prevalent throughout the film. A handful of Peter Vincent’s movies had been remade by Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Atkins. Her seductress Vampire Hunter and his no-nonsense detective sidekick. But even they were flirting with the end of their careers as their last remake, Fright Night 4D: Smell the Blood, didn’t do so well at the box office. Like many horror icons, they end up working the convention circuit.

We pitched Roy and Sonny. They loved it.

Next we pitched Nick Phillips at Screen Gems. He loved it.

Finally we returned to pitch Clint Culpepper.

Not two minutes into the pitch he stopped us. He said he knew everyone in the room got it, but he didn’t get it and there was no reason to waste his or our time. Patrick and I sat quietly while some of the others attempted to make a case but ten minutes later we were out of there. There was talk that Roy might try to get the rights and go to LGF, but that was the last we heard of FRIGHT NIGHT. Until…


Three months later. MBV 3D had pulled in over 100 million world wide and this was on less than a 1000 domestic screens. A fraction of the screen available today. But Lions Gate had informed us that there would be no MBV 3D sequel. We heard a dozen reasons but in the end it likely came down to politics. Still, we’d made a successful movie. Yet we were finding that overall MBV’s success was considered a fluke. That 3D was considered a fluke. That’s what we were told. Of course, every studio and their grandmother with a digital RED were planning 3D flicks so whatevs.

Therefore we wrote DRIVE ANGRY. The agents loved it and we gave it a half day polish to tweak one of the characters then it was sent to producers. We met with several but the day we met with Michael De Luca we knew within 5 minutes that he was the guy. Once Mike was with us the train took off. Mike brought us Cage and that actually led to his suggesting we come up with a take for GHOST RIDER 2. We started brainstorming GHOST RIDER between DRIVE ANGRY meetings. Later while in the Millennium Films lobby awaiting a DRIVE ANGRY meeting we mentioned to Mike our FRIGHT NIGHT pitch to Clint. Mike laughed and said, you know, I just got the rights and set it up at Dreamworks.

Next thing we knew we were dusting off the old file and practicing our pitch again. A meeting was set for May 21st of ’09 with Mark Sourian & Kira Goldberg of Dreamworks. At the same time Mike scheduled a general meeting with Avi Arad for the following week to discuss GHOST RIDER 2 (but that continuing story will get its own entry).

So we pitched Sourian. I found it an interesting dynamic because Sourian held the position De Luca held when he worked for Dreamworks. It was an odd meeting to say the least. Sourian had many questions. There was much talk of PG-13. And “family friendly”. It wasn’t that he didn’t like our take but wasn’t sure they wanted to do a true horror at Dreamworks. We were also told that it would likely come down to us and Tim Kring (HEROES), that Kring and Spielberg had met at a screening recently and discussed FRIGHT NIGHT and they were waiting on Kring’s take.

To be honest we walked out with the feeling that our rated R take just wasn’t the direction they wanted to go. But, we waited. And waited. Our world got caught up with GHOST RIDER 2 and DRIVE ANGRY, as well as half a dozen other active developments. Eventually we heard that Kring never pitched. We heard more and more talk of “family friendly” then it just sort of went away. During the DA shoot we would hear bits about it from De Luca. They were back to rated R. That was good. We would hear about hirings. Who was directing. And so forth. And while it would have been a fun gig, this is how it happens in Hollywood.

Again, I’m not saying our version is better. For one reason, I have not seen Friday’s FRIGHT NIGHT. But that’s not the point. What’s better is subjective. I dug what we came up with but this is simply a what-might-have-been story. And even if we had have bagged the job there’s no guarantee our story would have ever made it to the screen. Most journeys go through dozens upon dozens of rewrites and some go through that many writers. No hard feelings. This is the career we signed up for. And come Friday, I’ll be at the theaters, where I’ll likely take in both FRIGHT NIGHT and CONAN.

So, without more banter, click on the link to read our take of FRIGHT NIGHT if you so desire. But do remember, this was never intended to be “read”. This was our pitch guide. We verbally pitched this half a dozen times and this document was how we learned the story and the pitch. It’s likely got type-os and fill-in-the-blank bits of logic. But we’re never gonna see a dime from it so I ain’t gonna be making no free polishes. :)

This isn’t a Science, it’s the movie biz. Enjoy. :)