The Long Road To Fury Road

How And Why Did It Take 30 Years To Get Another Mad Max Movie?!

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“Every time Heath [Ledger] would come through Sydney, we’d chat about Max. The world lost someone great when he went. Tom [Hardy] was the next to walk through the door…” – George Miller. 

As mad as it may seem, there are other, more alarming and frustrating, ways to spoil a promising franchise than giving a starring role to Tina Turner. In those dark Maxless years that followed Beyond Thunderdome (1985), another instalment of everyone’s fave Interceptor-driving, dogfood-guzzling cop seemed highly unlikely. After Mel Gibson’s impressive directorial debut with Braveheart (1996), Australian master of the post-apocalyptic roadkillfest: George Miller felt that the time was right to return to his beloved dystopian franchise.

During the late 1990s, impressive conceptual art for a fourth movie about the Road Warrior started doing the rounds. It is very pleasing to learn that renowned British comics artist (and Mad Max fan): Brendan McCarthy was involved in these preparatory stages (and even gets a co-writer credit on Fury Road!) but then, the film industry – as well as everyone else – could never have foreseen 9/11. That infamous day not only deflated the American dollar but also drastically inflated Max’s proposed budget.

Unfortunately, not long after, Gibson went, well, mad. His much-publicised troubles with the law forced a “heartbroken” Miller to seek another Max. It is said that in 2006, Miller had intended to offer the lead role to Heath Ledger, and there were serious discussions before said actor met his untimely fate. So, by not getting the Joker, Miller opted instead for… Bane?! 

Honestly, how mad does that sound?! But hold on, ‘cos it gets madder…

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“As the world fell, each of us in our own way was broken. It was hard to know who was more crazy… me… or everyone else” – Max Rockatansky.  

Amid all this kerfuffle, Miller was able – also in 2006 – to direct Happy Feet, an animated sure-fire sprog-pleaser featuring the voice of Frodo Baggins as a dancing penguin… for pity’s sake! Obviously not the form of madness that Rockatansky-fans the world over had in mind…

One of the more intriguing diversions on the way to realising a fourth Mad Max movie came as recently as 2007 in the amazing – and quite unbelievable – form of an ensemble DC superhero movie(!) which Miller was all-too-ready-and-willing to direct.

However, by all accounts, the provisional script for Justice League:Mortal was poor; with a writers’ strike in full swing, it could never hope to get developed. Moreover, the all-too-familiar blight of an uncontrollable budget, and unfavourable Australian tax incentives doomed it further.

If all had gone to plan, Justice League:Mortal would have featured Megan Gale (who makes an appearance in Mad Max: Fury Road) as Wonder Woman, Armie Hammer as Batman, and…!

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Get this – Hugh Keays-Byrne (who plays both Immortan Joe in Fury Road and the Toecutter in the 1979 original) was tipped to play Martian Manhunter! 

Mad? Why, that’s positively insane!!

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“When I came in, there was no script, just… storyboards. So I spent the time just writing a ‘bible of tribal’… The stunt guy and I used to say we were making the last real, live stunt-action film” – Colin “Not Mel” Gibson. 

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Possibly the only sane news to gain from this delirious state of affairs is that – yes! – there will be more pedal-to-the-metal Mad Max mayhem to come!  

“We’ve got one screenplay and a novella,” Miller reveals about our chances of seeing at least two more movies of Mr. Rockatansky(!) “It happened because with the delays [on Fury Road] and writing all the backstories, they just expanded.” Despite all the troubles that beset Fury Road, Mad Max: The Wasteland is definitely a go.

“Fast and Furious 7 is all CG,” dismissed Colin Gibson, Mad Max: Fury Road’s Production Designer. “The cars are shiny and pretty, but there’s not much physics in there.” Hell no, make cars do things that cars can’t do and suspend all belief in one gear-shift? No thanks. Quite rightly, Gibson realised that live stunts, evoking the movie-making of the original Max movies, was in order: “to make it completely real.”

The Australian Outback served as the perfect setting to evoke that grungy post-apocalyptic look for the original movies, but this time, even that could not be guaranteed; Namibia had to step in.

…Namibia?! 

“Part of the problem was we built for the firm, hard ground of Australia,” Gibson explained. “And then it pissed down with rain for two years running, and you couldn’t shoot the desert for blooming flowers and camels fucking each other and pelicans dancing.” 

Yep, as mad as a doof wagon… 

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