Nicolas Cage may not be returning for Ghost Rider 2.

Vulture reports that, due to a time limit on the rights to the Ghost Rider character, Sony may move forward without Cage – though the actor continues to express a lot of interest in the sequel. Recently, he shared ideas for where the next film should take the title character.

Inside sources are reporting a November 14, 2010 deadline on the rights. Which means that if production hasn’t started on Ghost Rider 2 by that time – then the rights revert back to Marvel (and subsequentally their new owner, Disney).

Columbia Pictures has asked Marvel for an extension on the deadline – but isn’t likely to get one. Apparently the main delay is pinning Cage down. Meaning Columbia is struggling to get the actor to commit to the sequel over another project that might offer a bigger paycheck – namely National Treasure 3 (coincidentally a Disney franchise).

Perhaps Disney is interested in recouping the Ghost Rider rights – maybe they’ll dangle a hefty paycheck in front of Cage for National Treasure 3 in order to make sure he doesn’t do Ghost Rider 2 whilst the rights are still at Columbia.

Wouldn’t that be a sneaky move?

Who should play Ghost Rider – if not Nicolas Cage?

It’s also worth mentioning that we could still see Cage as Ghost Rider even if Columbia loses the rights and they revert back to Mavel/Disney. Since Disney has worked with Cage on both National Treasure movies (and likely the third) then it’s certainly not a stretch to imagine they’d ask him to star in the Ghost Rider sequel – if they get their hands on the rights.

Having said that, Sony (Columbia) desperately needs a tentpole blockbuster for 2011 since the Spider-Man reboot is now set for 2012. Although the first Ghost Rider didn’t break any box office records or garner much critical success, it still made $230 million (double its production budget) – so it’s still possible they could offer Cage a hefty paycheck of their own.

Neither Eva Mendes (much to the dismay of many teenage boys) or Mark Steven Johnson, the director of the first movie, will be returning, which calls into question – exactly what direction will the Ghost Rider franchise be headed?

Decisions, decisions…

Fans of the Ghost Rider character weren’t totally sold on Cage in the first place – and presented numerous actors who might have been a better fit. But, to the general movie going audience, isn’t the character automatically associated with Cage?

If they bring out a direct sequel, with another actor, a lot of people will have confused faces. It’s not the same as the Hulk franchise reboot – which was a clear reboot with a new actor, new director, new everything (just about) so that uninformed movie-goers could more easily accept losing Eric Bana.

Although producer Mike De Luca has said that Ghost Rider 2 will be like “pushing the reset button”, the film is still expected to be a direct successor – and not an all out reboot of the franchise.

Or would it? Maybe Nicolas Cage isn’t the only factor holding up production of Ghost Rider 2. There are certainly conflicting messages about the direction of the project as a whole.

I’m probably not the only one who thought Ghost Rider was a huge disappointment (to put it mildly) and how much or how little Cage contributed to that is up for debate.

Would I be upset if Cage didn’t return? To be honest, no. I would rather they flat out reboot it (in the same vein as the Hulk franchise) and cast another actor in the role. But that’s just me.

Would you be upset if Cage didn’t return for Ghost Rider 2? Who else would you want to see star in the leading role?

Stay tuned to Screen Rant for updates on Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance (yes, that’s the proposed title). If Columbia goes ahead with the movie (with or without Cage) before their deadline runs out, then you could see the sequel in theaters sometime in 2011 – mostly likely the summer.

Source: Vulture