The Mad Max franchise was initially dreamed up by George Miller, who was inspired by problems caused by the 1970s energy and fuel crisis which caused Western economies to crash due to inflated oil prices and fuel shortages. During this decade, long lineups for gasoline sparked violent confrontations at the pump while a dismal economic outlook made the future appear bleak for millions.
Thirty-six years after the first film, oil, gas and energy issues still cause trouble worldwide, while climate change and chronic waste have large swaths of populated lands, such as California and New South Wales, experiencing severe droughts – a development mirrored in the newest movie in the franchise, Mad Max: Fury Road.
Released to near-universal critical acclaim, the journey to create the fourth film lasted more than 14 years, suffering numerous delays caused by terrorism, tragedy and even a miracle or two.
Despite events that would completely decimate most films, George Miller never gave up on his vision, assembling a vast array of talented performers, camera operators, artists, stunt specialists and other talented individuals who coalesced to create what may end up being the best summer blockbuster of 2015.
The size and scope of the frenetic action in Mad Max: Fury Road required an incredible amount of effort and collaboration to pull off one of the most spectacular visual epics to grace the silver screen.
15. Fleet of 150 Post-Apocalyptic Cars and Trucks
Production Designer Colin Gibson was tasked with the solemn duty of creating 88 vehicles that would look at home in a wasteland occupied by a violently insane gang that loves to wear too much sunscreen. Gibson mentioned that Miller ordered him to “make it cool or I’ll kill you”, which motivated Colin to create an inspired fleet of visually-unique, vehicular agents of chaos.
Each and every one of the designs, regardless of their craziness or impracticality, lead to functioning vehicles capable of blasting through Namibian deserts at high speeds.
After production finished, more than 150 of these post-apocalyptic transports were built, and more than 75 of them were torn in half, blown up or otherwise ripped into shreds.
14. Flipping the Interceptor
One of the signature vehicles of the Mad Max franchise is Max’s custom, 1973 XB GT Ford Falcon Coupe, known as the Interceptor. The Interceptor made its appearance in the first movie, when Max hunts down the killers of his child with the help of the V8 monstrosity.
In Fury Road, during a scene that required the spectacular crash of the Interceptor, the stunt crew had to figure out the best way of flipping the vehicle in the safest way possible.
The solution was an innovation called the Flipper, which is a flat blade of steel that slaps the ground and retracts, giving the stunt driver control over when the car flips.
This safe new way of flipping cars work incredibly well, with stunt driver Gary Norris claiming he achieved eight and a half flips during testing, “which would have been a world record on film”.
13. The War Rig
Imperator Furiosa’s getaway vehicle is a mashup of different trucks and cars, combining a Chevy Fleetmaster, Tatra and Volkswagen Beetle together with a fuel pod, tools, hidden weapons and a fuel tank. The steering wheel also has a skull attached, which is a nice touch.
This heavy-duty setup is powered by a pair of V8 engines distributing power through a six-wheel-drive mechanism. According to Colin Gibson, despite the fact that Charlize Theron didn’t have to drive the massive War Rig, she chose to do so anyway, hurtling through the desert at speeds above 50 MPH.
13. George Miller’s Visual Script
George Miller wanted to create a movie that relied heavily on visual storytelling, making it possible for the movie to be understood by Japanese audiences without subtitles. The point of this endeavor was not to minimize the role of dialogue within film, but to connect with audiences using culturally-common symbolism that filmgoers recognize, regardless of their native tongue and culture.
Instead of a traditional script, Miller worked with an artist to come up with 1,465 storyboards consisting of 3,454 panels, all of which translated into a rough screenplay. Performers and the film crew needed to consult with George constantly because the entire movie was in his head.
This method of moviemaking resulted in tension among some of the crew, including Tom Hardy, who admitted, “I have to apologize to you because I got frustrated and there is no way that George could have explained what he conceived in the sand while we were out there… I knew he was brilliant, but I didn’t know how brilliant until I saw it.”
11. Gigantic Editing Process
The new Mad Max film spent more than three months in continuous filming, utilizing a variety of digital cameras to capture incredible physical stunts and driving action from all sorts of different angles.
The result of the shoot was around 480 hours of raw footage, which is nearly three whole weeks of non-stop visuals that had to be edited into the final product.
Miller had the incredible good fortune of being able to recruit his wife, Margaret Sixel, to edit the footage with an expert eye. According to an interview with Vanity Fair, George turned to Margaret to help forge the final cut because she had never previously worked on an action movie: “You have to edit this movie,” George said to Margaret. “Because it won’t look like every other action movie.”
10. Massive Film Crew
Mad Max: Fury Road was a massive undertaking, requiring up to 1,700 workers on set to film the action, including over 150 stunt performers, stunt drivers, camera crews and even a team of snake wranglers to clear the path of deadly, desert serpents that impeded production.
The stunt crew alone worked more than 15,000 person-days during the shoot, which translates into well over 40 years worth of effort, much of which was spent in high-risk scenarios that would terrify the majority of humans.
These numbers don’t include behind-the-scenes work that took place off-site, such as special effects, design and marketing. Even though Miller estimates that 90% of the stunts were live-action, several additional teams were also required to create around 1,500 effects for the film.
9. Fury Road Was Nearly an Animated Film
Computer graphics currently dominate as a blockbuster movie-making trend, but Fury Road instead relies on old-school, live-action stunts to create a unique, visceral experience for the audience. Incredibly, this movie almost ended up as a 3D anime in the style of Akira or Ghost in the Shell.
“I’ve always loved anime, in particular the Japanese sensibility. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” George said in a 2009 interview with MTV. He continued by adding that he wanted to create a movie that blended Western and Japanese influences, similar to cinema legend Akira Kurosawa.
Mercifully, Miller changed his mind, giving audiences around the world a one-of-a-kind, live-action film rather than another movie that relies on CGI.
8. The Dark Side of Casting Max
Some fans, especially the purists, feel frustrated that the latest Mad Max film doesn’t feature Mel Gibson. Initially, he was to reprise his role as Max Rockatansky in Fury Road before delays and a series of run-ins with alcohol addiction and the law publicly revealed an anti-semitic and misogynist side of his personality.
Before tragically passing away due to an accidental overdose involving prescription medication, Heath Ledger was considered the front-runner for the role of Max – intriguing, considering his universally-lauded turn as the Joker.
After the first two Maxes didn’t work out, George Miller chose Tom Hardy, who played Bain in the follow-up to The Dark Knight. All three actors considered for the role of Max have dealt with darker aspects of their own personality, including Hardy, who overcame serious addiction problems before transforming into an acclaimed actor.
7. Toecutter and Immortan Joe: Long Lost Relatives?
When Tom Hardy was only two years old, Hugh Keays-Byrne played Toecutter in the original film, setting the tone for unorthodox, psychopathic characters that litter the Mad Max wasteland. Keays-Byrne returns in Fury Road, once again playing the alpha badass antagonist.
Whenever this Mad Max legend arrived on set as Immortan Joe, the morale of the entire crew would lift as they erupted into chants of “Immorter! Immorter!” Hugh Keays-Byrne also demanded that everyone call him “Daddy” while in costume. Excepting on-screen enemies such as Charlize Theron, the wives and Tom Hardy, everyone complied, especially his War Boy minions, including actors and stuntpeople who worshipped Immortan Joe.
Toecutter was obliterated by a truck in the original, eliminating the possibility that Immortan Joe is Toecutter. There’s still a chance that Toecutter fathered Immortan Joe, which would mean that Hugh Keays-Byrne acted as both father and his own offspring.
6. Insane 25-Foot Pole Stunts (at 50 MPH)
Similar to the pole-vaulting stunt towards the end of the original Mad Max, one of the signature stunts of Mad Max: Fury Road involves the use of tall poles that whip attackers from one moving vehicle to the next while traveling at significant velocities.
Sebastian Dickins, a stuntman with three decades of experience as an acrobat and gymnast, described these pole stunts like “swinging on a trapeze but with the axis on the bottom, not the top.”
The poles themselves were made of a special type of strong, flexible steel. Some of them were connected to hydraulics while others used counterweights swung by members of the film crew to approximate a more natural motion.
5. Upside Down Inches From the Ground (at 50 MPH)
During an interview with Yahoo!, Charlize Theron explained the stunt that induced the greatest amount of anxiety during her time on set. After Furiosa and Max team up, Max almost falls off the War Rig but is caught by Furiosa and a couple of escapees.
Theron, Riley Keough and Abbey Lee hold on to Hardy for dear life as he screams across the desert at 50 MPH with his head inches from the searing sand and thin safety wires acting as the only backup should the actresses’ grip loosen.
When Tom Hardy’s son displayed concern about the stunt, asking George Miller “what if they (the wires) snap?”, Miller responded: “Well, Louie, I suppose he’d go under the wheels.”
4. Delays Due to 9/11
When the tragedy of 9/11 struck the World Trade Center buildings in New York, the resulting chaos in the financial markets had a severe effect on many economic indicators, including the value of the American dollar against the Australian dollar.
Funded in American currency and paid for in Australian money, the destabilization of the US dollar meant that the scope of the movie would have to scaled down to stay within a reasonable budget.
Making matters more difficult, after the terrorist attack, vehicles, film gear and other equipment took three months longer to ship and insurance costs increased. Miller ended up putting Mad Max on hiatus, focusing on completing Happy Feet while waiting for the next opportunity to do Fury Road.
9/11 was the first delay in what turned out to be a fourteen year process to get Mad Max: Fury Road in movie theaters.
3. Delays Due to Blossoming Wastelands
The role of an arid, post-apocalyptic desert was to be played by Broken Hill in New South Wales, Australia, known for drought conditions that have lasted for more than a decade. Just as the movie was slated to start filming, sudden heavy rains broke the long drought, causing wild flowers to bloom, ruining the location as a wasteland.
Much to the chagrin of government officials, who fought to have the film made in Broken Hill, the production picked up and moved to Namibia, another drought-ridden desert appropriate for the film.
When the crews arrived, they were greeted by unprecedented rain – the most the area had seen in well over a century.
2. The Doof Warrior & Electric Guitar Flamethrower
The Mad Max franchise derives much of its charm from a rogue’s gallery of incredible characters designed to fulfill George Miller’s vision of a post-apocalyptic world gone mad. Creators were given free rein to come up with whatever they wanted, as long as the character or prop had a backstory related to the fictional world.
One of the craziest characters, the Doof Warrior, rides atop a massive truck covered in giant speakers and amplifiers with a few traditional Japanese Taiko drummers tagging along. The Doof Warrior plays power riffs from an electric guitar that doubles as a flame thrower.
According to Miller, the Doof Warrior is a blind survivor of the apocalypse who lived in a cave and spent his considerable free time noodling on his guitar. When he was found by Immortan Joe, the Doof Warrior was “recruited” to entertain the troops while rallying them to war.
And yes, George Miller did have a fully-working, flame-throwing electric guitar constructed for the film. Despite an impending explosion of worldwide demand for this flaming axe, plans for mass production have yet to be announced.
1. Fury Road Angers Misogynists, Resulting in Violent Threats Against Women
The plot of the latest Mad Max film features a simple yet powerful premise that links the narrative with feminist issues around the world, in particular the right for women to choose what she does with her own body, especially pertaining to fertility. This and the fact that Charlize Theron dominates the film as Furiosa elicited pathetic, insecure responses from insecure misogynists:
“Not only REFUSE to see the movie, but spread the word to as many men as possible… Because if they sheepishly attend and Fury Road is a blockbuster, then you, me, and all the other men (and real women) in the world will never be able to see a real action movie ever again that doesn’t contain some damn political lecture or moray about feminism, SJW-ing, and socialism.”
Misogynists likely didn’t appreciate that Miller hired Eve Ensler of The Vagina Monologues to conduct seminars for actresses and crew members. She provided “perspective on violence against women around the world, particularly in war zones,” in an effort to prepare everyone for a more accurate portrayal of these issues on film.
During an interview with Vanity Fair, George Miller said, “I’ve gone from being very male dominant to being surrounded by magnificent women. I can’t help but be a feminist.”
Sadly, as is often the case with deeply insecure, hate-filled misogynists with internet connections, the verbal war over this film has resulted in threats of violence towards women, which is the single most insane fact about this amazing film.
The Daily Telegraph Vanity Fair Bloomberg HitFix
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