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Neveldine’s Ghost Rider Opens Friday

When “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” opens this Friday, alum Mark Neveldine ’95 won’t have to catch it in one of the 3,000 theatres in which it will play. He and creative partner Brian Taylor directed the new Nicolas Cage film. According to the Watertown Daily Times, the duo brought their usual creative flair to the project, teaming Cage with the largest prop they have used in a movie to date.

“For the big action scene, our production designer, Kevin Phipps, found this thing called a strip miner,” says Neveldine. “It’s like a giant tool that can literally cut mountains in half. We thought, ‘What if Ghost Rider got on this and transformed the thing into a hell machine? How cool would that be?”

The article continues, “Apparently, not cool enough for Mr. Neveldine, who directed the film with his creative partner, Brian Taylor,” noting they lit the machine on fire.

While at HWS, Neveldine, a drama and psychology major originally from Watertown, N.Y., was named to the dean’s list and member of the Statesmen football team. After graduating from Hobart, Neveldine moved to L.A., landed roles in several movies and then worked as a camera operator and director of photography. He has been an actor and director of many plays in New York City and was cinematographer for 2002’s “This Beautiful Life,” starring Ned Beatty.

Neveldine and Taylor made their film debut with “Crank” in 2006, directing a number of films since. Their latest is “Johan Hex,” released in 2010.

He returned to campus last semester to join Professor Grant Holly’s class on film making.

The full article about Ghost Rider follows.

Watertown Daily Times
Mark Neveldine’s wild ‘Ghost Rider’ ride

Chris Brock • February 12, 2012

Somewhere in northern Romania, a particular bit of inspiration hit Mark B. Neveldine and the rest of the “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” film crew.
Appropriately, for the biggest movie in Mr. Neveldine’s career, it involved the largest of his props thus far.

“For the big action scene, our production designer, Kevin Phipps, found this thing called a strip miner,” Mr. Neveldine, a Watertown native and 1991 graduate of Immaculate Heart Central High School said in a phone interview. “It’s like a giant tool that can literally cut mountains in half.”

So they teamed it up with the star of “Ghost Rider,” Nicolas Cage.

“We thought, ‘What if Ghost Rider got on this and transformed the thing into a hell machine?'” Mr. Neveldine said. “How cool would that be?”

Apparently, not cool enough for Mr. Neveldine, who directed the film with his creative partner, Brian Taylor.

“We lit it on fire,” he said.

The result, with just a touch of computer-generated imagery, created quite the scene.

“What a beast that thing was,” Mr. Neveldine said. “There were a lot of treacherous days, but that whole action scene was just a lot of fun. He obliterates hundreds of bad guys with this hell machine. It was pretty awesome.”

Sony Pictures’ “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” opens in approximately 3,000 theaters nationwide on Friday.

Mr. Neveldine, 38, is the son and stepson of Jefferson County Legislature Chairwoman Carolyn D. Fitzpatrick and James Fitzpatrick, Watertown, and son of Thomas B. Neveldine, Manlius.

He graduated in 1995 from Hobart College, Geneva, with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and moved to New York City, where he acted before deciding to take up writing and filming movies. He said he did more than 25 stage shows in New York and acted in a few movies. He said as much as he enjoyed acting, “it’s not as important as directing is to me.”

The New York Times reported that Mr. Taylor first worked with Mr. Neveldine when Mr. Taylor hired him as a cameraman in 2001 while shooting an independent film. The following year the two were in the Dominican Republic filming a documentary about the Fuentes cigar family.

Mr. Neveldine made a name for himself in Hollywood with his 2006 feature-film directorial debut, “Crank” in which he teamed up with Mr. Taylor. Its sequel was 2009’s “Crank: High Voltage.” Mr. Neveldine and Mr. Taylor also co-wrote the films, and co-wrote and co-produced “Pathology” (2007), “Gamer” (2009) and “Jonah Hex” (2010). In 2008, Mr. Neveldine married actress Alison M. Lohman, who played Trace in “Gamer.” They own a farm “in the middle of” New York state — Mr. Neveldine declined to identify exaxtly where.

Mr. Neveldine and Mr. Taylor became involved in “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance” by accident.

“We were working with a Sony executive pitching a completely different project,” Mr. Neveldine said.

The executive asked the pair if they wanted to direct “Spirit of Vengeance,” which had entered preproduction.

“We all just kind of agreed on it quickly,” Mr. Neveldine said. “We had to move fast.”

Mr. Neveldine and Mr. Taylor were soon in Los Angeles to continue preproduction work.

“Before you knew it, we were in Romania and Turkey,” Mr. Neveldine said.
The “Ghost Rider” films are based on the Marvel comic books. Mr. Cage returns to his Johnny Blaze role following 2007’s “Ghost Rider,”directed by Mark Steven Johnson.

Mr. Neveldine, who said he didn’t know anything about the first film, noted the new “Ghost Rider” is not a true sequel.

“Brian knows comic books and video games like the back of his hand,” Mr. Neveldine said. “He said this would be a really cool comic to sort of reinvent and we didn’t have to follow the first movie.”

Mr. Neveldine called the new film “edgier and grittier.” The film was post-converted to 3-D.

Sony Pictures’ synopsis of the new film says: “Johnny (Mr. Cage) is still struggling with his curse as the devil’s bounty hunter — but he may risk everything as he teams up with the leader of a group of rebel monks (Idris Elba) to save a young boy from the devil … and possibly rid himself of his curse forever.”

The first “Ghost Rider,” Mr. Neveldine said, was shot largely on a soundstage with generous use of a green screen, on which background images are superimposed.
“Brian and I don’t like to shoot on a green screen and don’t like soundstages,” Mr. Neveldine said. “We like to be out in real locations and putting our characters in that environment.”

The environment for “Spirit of Vengeance” included Romania and Turkey. In Turkey, film sites included the lunar-like Cappadocia region. In Romania, they went to the Transylvania region. All the “crashes, castles, caverns and catacombs” in the film are real, without much computer-generated imagery, Mr. Neveldine said.

But some CGI was needed for a film in which the main character’s head turns into a flaming skull. And the Neveldine/Taylor team added some signature touches, such as when Johnny Blaze urinates fire.

Mr. Neveldine said the locals in the countries the film crew visited were incredibly friendly.

“They were really excited,” he said. “Of course, when you come with a big star like Nic Cage, who is kind of loved all over the world, it really helps. They wanted to be part of Hollywood and American cinema.”

Mr. Neveldine called Mr. Cage “an amazing motorcycle rider” who demanded to do his own stunts.

“The first day, we put him on the Yamaha VMax, which is the new ‘Ghost Rider’ bike,” he said. “We were on a road in Turkey, a closed-off highway. He hops on the bike, took off and got the thing up to about 120 in about seven seconds.”

Mr. Neveldine is also no stranger to danger. Promotional shots for the new film show him holding onto a moving motorcycle with one hand and carrying a camera in the other.

“For a lot of my movies, I film on Rollerblades and go up to 50 miles per hour,” he said. “I get a lot of interesting, fun shots and angles.”

He admits it’s dangerous, but he enters such situations well-prepared.

“I grew up in the north country playing hockey my whole life, so I had the skill set going into Hollywood,” he said.

He said he and Mr. Taylor are continually writing scripts and recently have turned their attention to a new “Crank” film. He said Lakeshore Entertainment and Lions Gate Films, which produced and distributed the first two films, have asked about a third “Crank” movie, as has Jason Statham, the films’ star.

“We’ve been talking a lot about ‘Crank 3,'” Mr. Neveldine said. “We narrowed it down to about 10 different ideas. We’re trying to carve out some time to see if we can’t pull it off in the next 18 months and just settle on an idea, write this thing and then go have some fun before we do another giant feature.”

Those “giant features” won’t get in the way of the Neveldine/Taylor creative spirit.
“We have a pretty neat fan base,” Mr. Neveldine said. “We’re sort of these cult film guys who are now moving into mainstream films. But we don’t want to forget about our fans and how we got here.”

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