Studio in talks with Nicolas Cage

Columbia Pictures is revving up a “Ghost Rider” sequel and is in talks with Nicolas Cage to star and helming team Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor to direct.

Former commercial directors Neveldine and Taylor have worked steadily since directing their first feature together, “Crank,” in 2006. They have subsequently helmed a “Crank” sequel as well as “Gamer.” The pair also wrote the screenplay for Warner Bros.’ upcoming pic “Jonah Hex.”

Cage is handled by CAA.

Neveldine and Taylor are repped by UTA.

Studio was poised to lose the Marvel property if it couldn’t put a sequel into production by November. Columbia will have a small window of availability with Cage, who just signed on to star in the Nu Image/Millennium thriller “Trespass,” which will begin shooting in August.

Scott Gimple and Seth Hoffman penned the sequel screenplay, which is based on a story by David Goyer. Col is keeping the logline under wraps.

“Ghost Rider” might seem like an unlikely pic to receive sequel treatment, having earned $229 million worldwide during its 2007 theatrical run. But Sony, which has few franchises in its library, was eager to take a crack at a second outing and keep the property in its fold so long as it could keep the budget less than the $110 million spent on the original.

Eva Mendes, who co-starred in the original “Ghost Rider” pic is not expected to return.

Avi Arad, Ari Arad, Michael De Luca and Stephen Paul are producing the sequel, which will begin lensing in the fall. Goyer and Mark Stephen Johnson are exec producing.

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