After more than two years on the drawing board, Nicolas Cage may finally get to start his engine as the star of ''Ghost Rider.'' The Marvel superhero adaptation has a director: Mark Steven Johnson, who shepherded Marvel's ''Daredevil'' to a $100 million box office take earlier this year. The Columbia movie will shoot at the end of this year or early in 2004, Variety reports.
Cage will play Johnny Blaze, a motorcycle stuntman who sacrifices his soul to save the woman he loves. As a result, he turns into Ghost Rider, a demonically possessed biker with a flaming skull who avenges evil.
''Ghost Rider'' has endured its own hellish development process. It's been through two studios (Dimension passed it on to Columbia), four directors (Stephen Norrington, Guillermo del Toro, and Tarsem preceded Johnson), and three screenwriters: ''Blade'''s David Goyer; ''Armageddon'''s Shane Salerno; and now, Johnson. ''The studio wants me to write my own version of 'Ghost Rider,''' Johnson told Empire Online. ''I want to go back to the source material and use more of the comic. I'm just sitting down to write now. This project has been close to going before. Hopefully it's not cursed!''