Mad Max roars into Cannes

Miller explains why it took him so long.

by Richard Mowe

Nicholas Hoult and Charlize Theron in Cannes for Mad Max: Fury Road
Nicholas Hoult and Charlize Theron in Cannes for Mad Max: Fury Road Photo: Richard Mowe
Thirty years after Mel Gibson revved and roared his way through Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome director George Miller has resurrected his saga with Mad Max: Fury Road, the fourth instalment in the post-apocalyptic series.

With its Festival premiere in Cannes today (May 14) as part of a worldwide rollout, the team came together to explain themselves to a global media frenzy, including Miller, Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy (the new Max), Nicholas Hoult and Margaret Ann Sixel, the editor who also happens to be the director’s wife.

Miller admitted that he never wanted to make another Mad Max movie, but it happened despite himself. “The Idea kept growing and growing but I did not realise it would take 12 years. We only finished two weeks ago. I wanted to do it as an extended chase. Basically it is one long graphic novel with more than 3,500 storyboards. We condensed all of that down to an illustrated screenplay. It was a bit like a mosaic art and you do not know exactly where all the bits are going to go. Then we out there with real people and real vehicles in the desert [it was shot in Namibia] and there was not a day when I did not think this was crazy.”

Charlize Theron: I liked the idea of a female character to stand alongside Max
Charlize Theron: I liked the idea of a female character to stand alongside Max Photo: Richard Mowe
Tom Hardy knew that it would be stretch to take over a role that had become synonymous with Mel Gibson. “There was a concern but I wanted to bring something new to the table. Mel and George had done the three movies together. Then I realised that Max was created by George and I took comfort from that and it was George who gave the lead.

"The hardest part for me was trying to know what George wanted me to do. He was orchestrating such a huge vehicle and because they are all moving and the whole movie is just motion I got frustrated. There was no way he could have explained what he could see from his side of the camera. I knew it would be brilliant but I did not know to what extent.”

As Furiosa, the battle queen, Charlize Theron spends the entire film with a shaven head and with a prosthetic arm attached. “The arm was a very expensive item, but I didn’t want my own cut off in the name art,” she joked. Her training as a ballet dancer came in useful for the physicality of the role. “I saw great potential right from the beginning. I heard loose talk about it but I liked the idea of a female character to stand alongside Max. Seeing it through, however, was something else. I had my cynical self peak out once in a while but George promised me something and delivered on it. I liked the fact that Furiosa is a woman who is not put on a pedestal. It was a great opportunity.”

George Miller and his new Max Tom Hardy in Cannes today
George Miller and his new Max Tom Hardy in Cannes today Photo: Richard Mowe
Miller wanted his wife Margaret Ann to do the editing partly because she had never cut an action film previously. She ended up with more than 450 hours of material. She said: “It took two years to cut a film, ten hours a day, six days a week and you can get it down to two hours. We had five or ten test screenings and took notes and made adjustments. it was a long-drawn out process.” Miller added: “She said that she felt her main job was to stop me embarrassing myself!”

Concerns over issues such as global warming informed Miller’s view of the world. “The Road Warrior was triggered by the old crisis in the early Seventies. Here the ground rules with which all of us worked was the notion that it all starts next Wednesday when all the bad things we see in the news come to pass. And then we go 45 to 50 years in the future. As the film evolved, you’re kind of riffing off the zeitgeist. Australia, where I come from, despite being an island continent is, for the most part, desert and growing up in a rural town I was very aware of the cycle of droughts and floods so it was a natural element to put in the story,” he explained.

The big question lurking is whether this reboot of the franchise with more on the horizon. Miller was suitably noncommittal but would not rule it out. He said: “Asking that question feels like a woman asking a woman who has given birth to a really big baby, when she is going to have thinnest one. We have a lot of back stories and the ideas are rolling around. But it feels like I have just come out of labour …”

Mad Max: Fury Road is released in cinemas in the UK and US on May 15, watch the trailer below.

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