"Takers" star Idris Elba and "Empire Records" actor Johnny Whitworth are in talks to join Nicolas Cage in Columbia's "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance," an individual familiar with the project has confirmed to TheWrap.
After some initial doubt that he would return to the comic book franchise, Cage is set to reprise his role as demonic biker Johnny Blaze.
The wholly-unnecessary sequel finds the flame-faced anti-hero hiding out in a remote part of Eastern Europe, where he struggles to repress his curse and is recruited by a sect to battle the devil (Ciarin Hinds), who wants to take over his mortal son's body on the child's birthday.
How very "Ghostbusters 2!"
Elba will play an alcoholic warrior monk tasked with finding Ghost Rider, while Whitworth will play a criminal who is recruited by the devil to find the young boy. The latter actor is eventually turned into a demonic creature ... because you can never have enough of those suckers when you're dealing with a supernatural sequel!
The "Crank" duo of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor will direct the Marvel adaptation from their own script, which is based on a story by David Goyer ("The Dark Knight," the new "Superman").
The sequel is being produced, effectively, because Columbia has to be in production on another installment in the second-tier franchise by November, or else the studio risks losing the rights to the comic book character.
While Elba remains on the road to stardom, his casting here kind of baffles me. It's been three years since the first "Ghost Rider" and I still haven't found a single person who enjoyed that movie. I remember being at the Grove when a courtesy screening for press ended, and scores of critics came out laughing at how bad it was. But aside from the merits (or lack thereof) of the first film, look at the character Elba will be playing -- an alcoholic warrior monk. Really? I don't even know where to begin!
Elba is coming off two moderate big screen successes with "The Losers" and "Takers." He's enjoying a fantastic guest arc on Showtime's "The Big C," where he manages to have sizzling chemistry with Laura Linney despite their unlikely romantic pairing. He's getting solid reviews for his performance in the BBC series "Luther," and he previously played one of the most interesting characters on the greatest television show of all-time, HBO's "The Wire." Elba next stars in Marvel's "Thor," and was recently cast as Detective Alex Cross in what should become a major franchise based on James Patterson's best-selling series of crime novels.
Clearly, Elba's career is white-hot, so why risk derailing it by playing a ludicrous character in an even more ludicrous sequel? I understand how the movie could potentially help his career, especially if it makes money, but can't he just bide his time until "Thor" comes out and wait for better offers to come pouring in? The "Ghost Rider" sequel literally makes zero sense for him.
That said, it makes perfect sense for Whitworth, one of the ultimate Whatever Happened To That Guys? there ever was. In 1995, back when I as 11 years old, I thought Whitworth was about to become a major star. I remember first seeing him in "Bye Bye Love," followed by "Empire Records," where his sensitive artist romanced Liv Tyler in between gluing quarters to the floor. He had the right look for Hollywood but his career never really took off.
Whitworth had minor roles in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Rainmaker" and the wretched thriller "Valentine" before disappearing to television for several years. I recognized him as a member of Russell Crowe's gang in "3:10 to Yuma," and he has continued to book small parts in studio movies such as "Pathology" and Neveldine/Taylor's "Gamer."
The actor has a recurring role as an ATF agent on "CSI: Miami," and he just landed one of the lead roles in FX's "Outlaw Country." Whitworth will soon be seen alongside Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper in Neil Burger's upcoming thriller "The Dark Fields," and I, for one, couldn't be happier about his career resurgence.
Avi Arad, Ari Arad, Ashok Amritraj, Steven Paul and Michael De Luca are producing the "Ghost Rider" sequel, which Columbia will release in North America, as Hyde Park Entertainment has international distribution rights.
Production is scheduled to begin in Romania and Turkey in late November.
Elba is represented by ICM, Ken McReddie Associates and The Schiff Company, while Whitworth is repped by Greene & Associates and Luber Roklin Entertainment.
The duo's casting was first reported by the Hollywood Reporter.