MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

Direc­tor Ge­orge Miller talks ex­clu­sively to SFX.

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No one makes ac­tion movies like Ge­orge Miller. Not any more.

In the big­gest year for mega- bud­get cin­e­matic spec­ta­cle since, well, ever, Mad Max: Fury Road has some­thing even the Age Of Ul­trons and Force Awak­ens of the world with their gar­gan­tuan CGI bud­gets can’t of­fer – tan­gi­ble auto- me­chan­i­cal car­nage.

“The film is dif­fer­ent than any­thing else out there,” Miller tells SFX down the line from his Syd­ney home. “We did ev­ery­thing old school be­cause we didn’t have to deal with fly­ing hu­mans or space ve­hi­cles; the sub­ject mat­ter al­lowed us to make it much more real. We could go and get a big truck and a cou­ple of cars and smash them against each other, with ac­tual peo­ple on them. So most of what you see is ab­so­lutely real, in­clud­ing Tom Hardy as Max dan­gling be­tween the wheels of a mon­ster truck – it’s ac­tu­ally Tom, not his stunt dou­ble.”

Ap­pro­pri­ately enough for a se­ries that deals in in­jec­tion- fu­elled chaos, the road back to the big screen has been re­mark­ably bumpy. From two failed film­ing at­tempts to the public fall from grace of its orig­i­nal lead­ing man, Fury Road has hit more brick walls than a crash test dummy. But for Miller, the film that will race across the big screen has ex­isted, fully formed, in his mind for al­most 20 years. All the more re­mark­able

for the fact he never planned to make a se­quel to the orig­i­nal Oz­ploita­tion clas­sic.

“I never in­tended to make any more Mad Max movies af­ter the first one, so by the end of the third one I re­ally thought I’d never do an­other,” Miller re­mem­bers. “And then one day I was walk­ing across an in­ter­sec­tion and as I got half­way across an idea flashed in my mind, but by the time I got to the other side of the road I’d put it aside again. And then two or three years later I was on a long haul flight and un­bid­den the movie played out in my head. The ba­sis of that story – a chase across the waste­land into which Max is re­luc­tantly caught up – was played out at that point.”

Art Attack

With the en­gine of the story in place, Miller en­listed 2000 AD comic artist Bren­dan McCarthy to help him con­struct Fury Road’s chas­sis. To­gether the pair sto­ry­boarded al­most ev­ery shot in the film – a process spurred by Miller’s de­ci­sion to em­pha­sise vi­su­als over dia­logue.

“We de­cided to plot out the story by build­ing pic­tures with sto­ry­boards,” Miller ex­plains. “We brought in Mark Sex­ton and Peter Pound, two other artists, and we laid out the film on pan­els around the room, all drawn, many of which came to life on film di­rectly off those draw­ings. We ended up hav­ing about 3,500 pan­els in a room around us where each mo­ment played out with the vi­su­als hav­ing pri­macy rather than the words. I al­ways re­mem­ber Hitch­cock say­ing, ‘ I want to make films where they don’t have to read the sub­ti­tles in Ja­pan.’ And that was one of the things that guided this. Plus the fact I re­ally, re­ally am into ac­tion and chase films!”

With the sto­ry­boards com­plete, Mel Gibson on board and fund­ing in place the film al­most went in front of cam­eras in 2003, only for the shoot to fall apart af­ter the col­lapse of the Aus­tralian dollar in the wake of 9/ 11 and the Iraq War. Film­ing was set to re­sume again with new lead­ing man Tom Hardy in 2011, only for Mother Na­ture to turn against them. “When we were about to go in 2011 we had over 150 ve­hi­cles built, roads built in the cen­tre of Australia, all of our stunts re­hearsed,

"When we were about to go in 2011 we had over 150 ve­hi­cles built and roads built in the cen­tre of Australia"

cast in place, ev­ery­thing ready and then the rains came and what was meant to be flat desert roads be­came a grass­lands of shrubs and flow­ers. The salt lakes where we wanted to shoot had pel­i­cans and frogs in them. That was hardly Mad Max!”

Given the film’s seem­ingly cursed jour­ney back to the big screen, no one would be­grudge Miller throw­ing in the towel, but even through the mak­ing of other films Fury Road was never far from his thoughts. “Some­how it was a film that would never go away,” Miller says. “I’ve made two Happy Feets since the last Mad Max, writ­ten sev­eral other screen­plays, but in the room where I work, which we call the Mad Max room, all those 3,500 draw­ings stayed up on the walls. So even if I was work­ing on some­thing else the film was al­ways there, in plain sight.”

The Hardy Boy

By all rights find­ing some­one to re­place Mel Gibson as the leather- clad road war­rior should have been a Sisyphean task equal to get­ting the film made, but Miller knew Tom Hardy was the man for the job the mo­ment the Bane- to- be walked into the cast­ing room in 2009. “He was the only guy who evoked that same an­i­mal mag­netism that I first saw in Mel,” Miller as­serts. “He’s made the role his own. He can’t help but do that be­cause he’s a very dis­tinct per­son­al­ity. They’re both very mas­cu­line men and what makes them charis­matic is you have a sense of their vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and the con­flicts in­side them, so even when they’re still you feel an in­tense life.”

The Max of Fury Road still bears the scars of the first three films ( no- one’s say­ing “re­boot” here) but Miller’s taken the op­por­tu­nity to get to know him bet­ter. “Max is still that fig­ure out of most folk­lore and mythol­ogy – the lone wan­derer. Whether it’s the Ronin Samu­rai in Ja­pan or the clas­sic Amer­i­can gun­slinger, he is that char­ac­ter again. In this film we get a lit­tle more in­side his head.”

The first film’s Toe­cut­ter, Hugh Keays-Byrne, plays the Big Bad once again in Fury

Road – here the Im­mor­tan Joe. It’s his hunt for The Five Wives ( in­clud­ing Rosie Hunt­ing­ton- White­ley and Zoë Kravitz) af­ter they’re ab­ducted by Char­l­ize Theron’s Fu­riosa and Ni­cholas Hoult’s Nux that ig­nites the film’s breath­less chase across the postapoc­a­lyp­tic waste­land. “This time Hugh’s a tyran­ni­cal war­lord who sits on top of a dom­i­nant hi­er­ar­chy that rules the waste­land, so he’s a gang leader who’s be­come much more pow­er­ful. But he’s not the Toe­cut­ter, he’s got his own mythol­ogy now. He’s the Im­mor­tan Joe – he’s al­most im­ply­ing that he’s im­mor­tal.

“Fu­riosa’s one of the Im­mor­tan Joe’s boss driv­ers,” Miller con­tin­ues. “She drives a great war rig and she’s ba­si­cally one of his Im­per­a­tors, his elite driv­ers. So she’s like a road war­rior in her own right, but in the ser­vice of Im­mor­tan Joe un­til she goes on the run. Then, in the vor­tex of events, Max and Fu­riosa get thrown to­gether.”

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