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© (c) 2007 Sony Pictures Mark Steven Johnson on the set of GHOST RIDER

Interview :

Exclusive Interview: MARK STEVEN JOHNSON FINDS RELIGION WITH 'PREACHER' - PART 1

The GHOST RIDER director/writer talks about his upcoming HBO series, the possibility of a sequel to the Spirit of Vengeance and more.

By PETER BROWN, Associate Editor
Published 6/10/2007


Growing up reading just about any Marvel comic book he could get his hands on, Mark Steven Johnson has always been closely tied to the comic world. So it isn’t surprising that two of the films he has directed and wrote the screenplays for, DAREDEVIL and GHOST RIDER, happen to be based on classic comic book characters with long histories.
With GHOST RIDER wrapped up and now out on DVD with a very good two-disc extended cut edition, director and writer Johnson has turned his attention to another comic book-based project but this time a television series by the name of PREACHER that is scheduled to appear at some point in the near future on HBO. Johnson gave iF Magazine a little insight into PREACHER as well as the possibility of a GHOST RIDER sequel.
 
iF: I know you have been working on PREACHER for HBO and that you said before it is going to be faithful to comic. Can you give us an update on the status of the series?
 
MARK STEVEN JOHNSON: Things are moving ahead and great. I actually already wrote the pilot and [HBO] wanted to me write a bible on how the first season would go and I did that. There was a big shake-up at HBO recently and we weren’t sure if we were still on the bill, but things are still looking really good. It has been a dream of mine to bring this comic to television and make the series exactly faithful to the fans of the comics who loyally follow the book.
 
iF: So will be seeing the same stories from the comic book in the series?
MSJ: Well there would be nothing new to add if we did that so [PREACHER creator] Garth [Ennis] and I have been creating new stories for the series. I love the book so much and I was telling Garth that he has to make the stories we are coming up with as comics because I want to see them.
 

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iF: Obviously HBO has some openings with DEADWOOD, ROME and CARNIVALE off the schedule and it seems like a natural fit with those.
 
MSJ: Yes. They talked about making it into a movie originally and I didn’t want that to happen because it had to be a series. It wouldn’t work as a one-shot movie. Obviously with the violence and extreme imagery of the comic and what we will be bringing to the series it had to be HBO.
 
iF: Can you give me any idea into the casting for PREACHER? I know some fans think BATTLESTAR GALACTICA’s Katee Sackhoff would be a great Tulip.
 
MSJ: But she’s on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
 
iF: Ah but it is ending!
 
MSJ: Oh yeah, she’s really great and I love her character, but we have really talked about unknowns and not anyone that has baggage or any movies or whatnot and but with maybe some cameos of people who really love the series coming in and making an appearance. We want three real people that the audience can connect with that doesn’t have any prior baggage to get hooked to. One of the things that I love about the cast of LOST is that virtually all of them are unknowns and because no one had seen them before, there wasn’t a typecast baggage to go along with them. I am hoping to do the same thing with PREACHER.
 
iF: Can us give me an update on GHOST RIDER 2?
 
MSJ: They are talking about it and the first film did very well for them, but you know I have been doing my own stuff and not writing anything at the moment. Given how well it did, I would imagine down the line that Sony will want to revisit a sequel and I’ll be happy to look at it then.
 
iF: Are the stars signed up for a sequel?
 
MSJ: Too early and I think they are on board because we had such a great time doing the first film. But if we do another one I would want to do it bigger, larger, better than the original. It cost so much to do the GHOST RIDER and it looks great and it is cool, but you still have to pay for him every time you see him and at $50,000 a pop that took away from some of the fights we could do. If we did a sequel, from the very beginning we would want to hit it hard, hit it fast. Since we don’t have to research how we would build the character and spend money on it that will definitely help.
 
iF: What about possible villains in the sequel? Maybe Zodiac or Scarecrow?
 
MSJ: I love Scarecrow and in fact wanted to have him in the original as the main villain, but at the time he was also in BATMAN BEGINS and so we didn’t really want to use him. But the fact that the Marvel character is so much different than the DC character and so much more eerie and creepy, we might re-visit him as a possible villain.
 
iF: I read some where that you had the rights to the script for DAREDEVIL 2? Is that accurate and will we ever see a sequel?
 
MSJ: I don’t think so and unfortunately when that movie was made, it made a lot of money for Fox but they made the ELECTRA [spin-off] and they thought ELECTRA was DAREDEVIL 2 and then they would bring the two characters back for a third movie. Because ELECTRA tanked it cooled everything off for it. I am hoping Marvel gets the rights back to the franchise and maybe after that I can do something of a sequel, but we won’t see it until then.


Reader Comments

Jonny from PA sez....
OK, sounds pretty good to me. I'd love it if they got some "nobody" actors to play the roles, exactly as he said, no baggage. To those saying they're not expecting much, don't. I'm not either, but hell, it's a Preacher series!!!! I can't wait! I highly doubt Ennis would allow it to be crap, don't you people read his books? He hasn't changed, he's just as brutal and vulgar as he was on Preacher, he ain't gonna produce crap. I will admit though, I'd love to see Clint Eastwood play Saint of Killers!
1/30/2008 2:51:41 PM

Michael Hames from washington dc sez....
Hey, guys! In my last post, I meant that rad Pitt should play JODY, not TC. Hel, if this thing is done y TROULEMAKER STUDIOS, I'd play the chickensuffin'cousin TC. TERRENCE STAMP would make a great HERR STARR. I'd actually like to see ROSARIO DAWSON as TULIP (She's just a damn fine actress). I sincerely hope ttthe original material is not discardednor am I really interested in any new material. Stick to he CLASSIC CANNON. This could ver wellbe one of the greatest pieces of visual entertainment ever, if and only if ne orrectly with a love of the material. Ok, I am done. I just wanted to clear up that Brad Pitt fiasco. Later.
10/7/2007 5:31:27 PM

Michael Hames from washington dc sez....
I do not beleive that there is any reason to have any faith in Mark STeven Johnson pulling off THE PREACHER. Even with GOOD OL'GARTH ENNIS on deck; one can only hope for half way decent at best. Doug and others are right. Trainwreck. New material. Blah! I think that the only people that can pull this off is TROUBLEMAKER STUDIOS. QT and RR with some GARTH ENNIS guidance (maybe) would knock this out of the park. A one hour episode series covering the span of the series (all material); and not necessarialy told in the same order as the comic books. Film and comics are two different mediums of storytelling and I envision a diferent order myself that would be more effective in film and intriguing to a new audience while remaining faithful to the source material and the fans (myself included)love of that material. Garth wrote terrific material and I would love to see the themes of his beautiful series exposed to a whole new audience. I'd love to see it done intelligently. Unfortunately, MSJ ain't THE MAN; so throw in the towel, homeboy. ( As an aside, I kinda liked DAREDEVIL in a b-movie way.) As far as casting; no matter my sincere love for NATHAN FILLION; he is no SECRET JESUS. I beleive that JESSE CUSTER should be played by a relative unknown; or (I know everyone will think that I am crazy here) that kid from 3rd ROCK FROM THE SUN who killed it in BRICK and THE LOOKOUT. It would take camera tricks to pull it off (I beleive that height is an issue; I imagine JESSE as a "tall glass o' water") but that digital filmmaking and special effects is what Robert Rodriguez is all about. Shoot most of the scenes on greenscreen utilizing digital artists to create the settings based on the comic panels. Hell, I'd love to see QT and RR take on the challenge of a television series. The only good part about any of the news that has been leaked (or whatever) is that HBO is interested. It could not be done right any where else (except possibly FX more toned down but no too much). Sean Patrick Flannery as CASSIDY is interesting and a great choice if TIM ROTH is not available. I'd love to see SIMON PEGG read for thepart. Patricia Arquette as TULIP. I'd love to see SAMUEL L. ACKSON as HUGO ROOT. SAM ELLIOTT as THE SAINT of KILLERS. BRAD PITT as TC. I know that's crazy and would never happen but it sure as hell wouldbe one helluva performance. AYWAY, I could go and on about this but I have oher things to do. AS far as I can seethis looks like it will suck and I definitely do not want to see this guys version of what he thinks Ennis was trying to say. HE SAID IT ALREADY. THE WHOLE STORY IS THERE! PLEASE, DO NOT DESTROY THIS CLASSIC! OK, I am gone now.
10/6/2007 7:21:12 PM

Michael Lewis from Swansea City sez....
He's talking about making money for the studio's and such with GR and DD... But the fact he doesnt say they were good movies just goes to show. And him being so sketchy about sequals, and not knowing himself if DD 2 will be in order or another GR movies also shows that Marvel recognised that he done a terrible job on both!
10/5/2007 3:35:35 AM

Doug from Dayton, OH sez....
This is going to be a trainwreck... PLEASE give this project to someone who can actually make a decent film! And please cast a REAL Irishman as Cassidy. No American actors doing their best aproximation will sound anything close to natural.
10/4/2007 7:54:10 AM

Pete from Australia sez....
Sean Patrick Flanery for Cassidy, anyone who's seen the Boondock Saints knows he can pull off the accent. The only person who should legally be allowed to play the Saint of Killers is Sam Elliott. Perfect eyes, build, and most importantly, voice.
9/25/2007 8:55:46 PM

saintofkillers from salt lake city sez....
I'm kind of disappointed that the original stories won't be covered. Also, comic movies tend to suck unfortunately. Let's hope he gets his shit together and makes a kick ass series. (Ahem, Transmetro would be an interesting watch as well...)
9/3/2007 1:12:33 PM

Mike from Texas sez....
They better make it an issue by issue story. If they don't do that, they will screw it up. Please don't try and please anyone but the fans on this one.
8/8/2007 1:15:36 PM

Albia from GB sez....
Ghostrider and Daredevil were pretty lousy so I can't say I've got much hope for Preacher in this guy's hands. Would also love to see Nathan Fillion in the lead role, he'd be perfect.
8/2/2007 4:02:59 PM

The Patsy from FL sez....
I understand the draw to going for "no-names" for the on-screen talent. However, I'm disappointed at the notion that MSJ is now writing all-new material, rather than going with quite possibly one of the best stories ever told in the mature comic pantheon. Dare I call it mature? Might be overstating. :) I don't really understand the obsession MSJ has for making some random hodge-podge, grab bag version of comic characters that are already "hip" enough, developed enough, and plenty interesting without trying to take the best of a thousand stories and cramming them into one convoluted mess. What exactly was wrong with the initial idea of remaking the series issue per issue? That had me giddy to nigh convulsive extremes. Doing something else with established properties suggests to me that MSJ should perhaps write his own story citing Preacher as an inspiration and drop Preacher altogether. Someone will one day recognize it's UNALTERABLE charm and not desire to mess with what is a best kept secret for readers of the animated page. Garth Ennis is a fantastic writer. He and Warren Ellis are the only reasons I see to pick up a series as someone less than intrigued with spandex. I love the stuff I grew up on, because it was part of my childhood. But Projects like Preacher and Transmetropolitan were things discovered as a man, when I had long put comics away and thought it to be a thing of my past. Preacher's colorful, tongue-in-cheek commentary on society had all the wicked humor, religious satire and jaded sarcasm one could hope to brilliantly arrange in a storyline, yet keep it tied together cohesively and entirely endearing. Why mess with a PERFECT thing? Stick with canon, Mr. Johnson. Please? For all our sakes?
7/17/2007 11:25:40 AM

Wade from USA sez....
MSJ treated the inherently dark Ghost Rider like a Saturday Morning Cartoon and most likely he will f*ck up Preacher also. He said in another interview he wanted other people to guest direct the TV show. This is a great idea, MSJ needs to learn from other directors as much as he can for Preacher's sake.
7/6/2007 7:30:16 AM

Ayaz aka Auzi from Pakistan sez....
Mr.MSJ if u r listening, for DD-2 if u want to adapt BORNAGAIN storyline then please also hire FRANK MILLER as a co-director & please dont change the orignal cast because nobody wants to see any previous BATMAN movie with new actors all the time. & make it Darker/gritter & try to overcome the flaws of the firstone, By the way i love GHOST RIDER & wants its sequel but i am more interested in DAREDEVIL-2 & really look'in farward to see the Preacher!!!
6/25/2007 2:38:37 PM

Robert from Australia sez....
Ghost Rider was a pile of pooh, not the bear, the smelly dung pile. Effects were great, but story sucks. Daredevil followed the story better, and effects were excellent. Preacher has such a cult following that anyone watching it won't be a teenie weenie going to the movies to hang with their girlfriend to impress. They will be the diehard fans wanting to see their real life heroes brought to life on the TV screen. The storied must be Ennis, the direction must be followed, or else, the story will pan out like X-Men 3 or the Hulk. How can people screw movies so bad? Punisher was Marvel's equivalent of Preacher and they stuffed it. However a director is only as good as the script they are given. Do it right, and live on in comic history forever with Rami and Spiderman, do it wrong and be like the rest of the 'no-name-has-beens'. Good luck - you're gonna need it.
6/18/2007 3:19:56 PM

dc from Melbourne, Australia sez....
Oh, also, really wasn't a fan of the Ghost Rider movie. Just didn't work. Tried to tell too much too quick. But I really liked the Daredevil Directors Cut. SO MUCH better than the theatrical. So MSJ might have it in him to deliver with this project. (Especially with Ennis in the wings.)
6/15/2007 12:32:37 AM

dc from Melbourne, Australia sez....
I'm a huge fan of Nathan Fillion. Love Firefly, Serenity, everything he does he's perfect. Just don't see him as Jesse. I don't know... I think I agree that he's too bulky, too much of a man. Custer is a non-hero preacher man who just happens to have power. I'd love for him to prove me wrong though. That guy needs a break with Fox cancelling yet another of his shows. Tim Roth would nail Cassidy though. Damn right.
6/15/2007 12:30:31 AM

Symon from Rockhampton Australia sez....
MSJ the guy resonsible for Ghost Rider and Daredevil is doing the masterpeice Preacher.... Remember what T.C did to the chicken!
6/14/2007 6:18:32 AM

Kyle from The Internet sez....
Don'tcha think Fillion's a little bulky for Jesse? Great actor, but maybe not the *best* actor for the job. On the other hand, Tim Roth would be effing perfect as Cassidy.
6/11/2007 8:38:13 PM

greenthumb from croatia sez....
May God have mercy on their souls if they fuck up with Preacher.
6/11/2007 9:51:11 AM

Junior Brown from Alabama sez....
I hope MSJ is serious about Garth Enni's involvement with Preacher. It's his baby and he needs to be like Miller with Sin City.
6/11/2007 9:16:23 AM

Josh from Boston sez....
How can be talking about a Canadian to play Custer?
6/10/2007 9:44:33 PM

calnorso from Reno, NV sez....
Mark Steven Johnson is shite
6/10/2007 8:05:26 PM

Mr. X from NC sez....
Did any of you see Fillion in the last few Buffy episodes? Did you watch Firefly at all. He'd be the shit as Jesse.
6/9/2007 2:49:53 PM

Cassidy from Hu sez....
Daredevil was shit, Ghost Rider was Bullshit, if Msj f*ck my favorit comic up, I will kill him...
6/9/2007 10:35:44 AM

JJ from New York sez....
Nathan Fillion as Jesse Custer...you have to be kidding!! And Daredevil and Ghost Rider are crap. Thinking MSJ working on Preacher is a nightmare.
6/8/2007 7:30:55 PM

Drew from Pa sez....
Holy Crap I have said the same thing about Nathan Fillion
6/8/2007 5:20:11 PM

John from Orlando, FL sez....
Somebody should tell MSJ that the only person who can play Jesse is NATHAN FILLION. He was born to play that role, and it could be the thing that makes him a star.
6/8/2007 3:23:51 PM

Geoff from Nashville, TN sez....
Ghost Rider was absolutely amazing, and MSJ is an excellant director. He knows what he's doing, and I trust him with the Ghost Rider francise. Raimi has SpiderMan, Bale has Batman, MSJ has Ghost Rider.
6/8/2007 3:12:58 PM

a from fl sez....
i never saw ghosrider but i did see dartedevil and it could have been better. no offense but mark steven isnt made for direct comic movies. that job should go to directors that actually know wat their doing.
6/8/2007 1:02:30 PM

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