In the end, it all worked out. George Miller not only delivered a new Mad Max movie over 30 years after the series’ last installment. He also delivered one of the year’s most inventive, most fiery, and most buck-wild blockbusters in the Oscar-nominated action movie Mad Max: Fury Road.
But getting there was an epic journey in its own right. It took Miller a grand total of 15 years to make Fury Road. The writer-director’s original intention was to film it with Mel Gibson, who starred in 1979’s Mad Max, 1981’s The Road Warrior, and 1983’s Beyond Thunderdome. That plan was foiled not once, but twice. (Watch our interview above.)
As Miller, 70, explained to Yahoo Movies during a recent visit to our studios, he had a story — and Gibson — in place for a sequel in 2001. “And then 9/11 happened,” Miller. “The American dollar collapsed against the Australian dollar, so we lost close to 25 percent of our budget within days, and we just couldn’t recover that. We just couldn’t cut the film down.”
Instead, Miller went into pre-production on a film that couldn’t be any more different than Mad Max: the 2006 dancing penguins movie Happy Feet, which ultimately won Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards.
After Happy Feet’s happy ending, the filmmaker once again tried to make moves with a new Mad Max film starring Gibson in the role that had made him famous. “Then Mel hit all that turbulence in his life,” Miller said, referring to the actor’s highly publicized 2006 arrest for drunk driving and subsequent anti-Semitic tirade.
By 2010, Miller had moved on and cast Fury Road leads Tom Hardy (taking over the mantle as Max Rockatansky) and Charlize Theron, among other cast members. And once again, the director’s designs on filming Fury were derailed, this time by Mother Nature.
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“We were to go out to Broken Hill again [where Miller filmed The Road Warrior] in the center of Australia,” he said. “And then it rained in an unprecedented way… and these beautiful flowers just covered the landscape.” Since wildflowers weren’t in keeping with the Mad Max aesthetic, Miller and team would ultimately have to ditch their plans to shoot the film in his homeland and instead set off for the desert landscapes of Namibia in western Africa.
“That’s how it is in the film industry — you set to do things, you almost get there, and then something happens,” he said. “But eventually we got the film made.”