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Mad Max: Fury Road Exclusive

Mad Max: Fury Road Exclusive

Interview with Hugh Keays-Byrne & George Miller.

Mad Max is an iconic name in Australian film history. The last of the V8 interceptors roar across the sand once more but we are way beyond thunderdome in Fury Road.

Like the setting it partakes, spending years in development hell surrounded in controversy from switching from Broken Hill shooting locations to Africa then casting a British actor in the lead, fans were understandably worried for their beloved trilogy. Concern will ease from the opening moments; this new Max will not disappoint and even includes references for the keen eye. On the eve of the world premiere at the famous Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, I spoke with Central Coast resident Hugh Keays-Byrne (who has the distinction of returning to the series since being killed off as Toecutter in the 1979 original) and the creator, former Sydney hospital emergency room practitioner, Director Dr. George Miller.

SAB – How has George Miller changed as a director, in your eyes, since working with him on the original?
HKB – Well he has 37 years more experience in terms of the process, but his gentleness, intelligence and attention to detail has not changed. It was like sitting down with the same person making it much easier to relax, he knew what was happening.

SAB – Do you see Immortan Joe as a descendent of Toecutter?
HKB – (big laugh) There are similarities I guess, but difference in scale.

SAB – Did you do any of the driving or leave that to the stunt personnel?
HKB – No those rigs are too expensive, I’m just a mere actor. But I did have fun sitting inside and mucking about in character but was well away from movement. It was my voice you can hear but it’s been played with for effect, sweetening (laughs).

SAB – That costume must have been heavy or difficult to wear.
HKB – It certainly was difficult, but a beautiful piece of work worth the trouble. It supported me, helped with the performance in many aspects. The effort from several departments to construct was a good bit of synchronised team work.

SAB – Did you keep a memento from the set?
HKB – No, but what I did do was make my own war club that is in the film. Studios keep the costumes now and often move them around in exhibitions.

SAB – in the film you had a favourite wife of the five (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) on set. Did you have a favourite model actress out of the group?
HKB – Actually had great times with all of them but didn’t spend too much time on film, we often worked on separate days or on opposite ends of the desert. We sat having cups together behind the scenes. If I must, Riley Keough, Elvis Presley’s granddaughter and Zoe Kravitz, daughter of Lisa Bonet were like little princesses, fascinated by them and Megan Gale.

SAB – Your main henchman is ex-wrestler Nathan Jones. How was he to be around?
HKB – Loved him, very good, very sweet, gentle and quick to pick up on nuances because we had a fair bit to do together establishing a relationship playing his dad. On one of the first days, he had a bigger gun than me so I took it off him and gave him mine.

SAB – You were involved in quite a bit of energetic moments, did you hurt yourself at all?
HKB – No, I did fall over once but was well looked after. Came out without a scratch.

SAB – What’s your opinion of Tom Hardy as Max…will the old school fans be convinced?
HKB – I hope so, I believe he has done a really good job. He’s an interesting, honest good actor. Whether or not the die-hard say I like Mel better is unknown. I hear Mel himself is appearing at the premiere (Mel did appear to the surprise of many clad in the Max leather jacket).

SAB – Why do these films stand the test of time?
HKB – Yes, why do they. Put it down to George Miller to some degree, no question. Something he has managed to spread through them. Darkness, comical and visionary grandeur. Ethereal like poetry, it just has a vibe that works.

SAB – Are you signed on for any more Max films at this point?
HKB – Yes, I’ve signed a contract to do two prequels, it’s just there as part of what Warner Bros do.

On standby for legendary Director Dr. George Miller for three hours, I hear his recognisable voice down the line.

GM – Shane, it’s been a long day.

SAB – Great pleasure to talk with you again. After a troubled delayed production, I assume you’re happy to finally unleash Fury Road?

GM – Pretty happy, we put a massive amount of work into it with a magnificent crew who were like a military unit in size. Dramas when we were rained out of Broken Hill didn’t phase them waiting a year for it to dry, so we decided to movie from the East of Australia to the West of Africa. All of our crew, many who worked on the Olympic Games in Sydney and Beijing, were such hard workers, deciding to do the film old school with practical effects with real cars, real people in an arid desert, it was the highest degree of difficulty. 130 days and every day was a major stunt day, but no broken bones no major injuries, it was great to watch. I’m really happy we have people seeing it. I actually sat with one of the first audiences and the cheers, clapping throughout was like music to my soul to see the engagement. Did you see it in 3D or 2D Shane?

SAB – 2D but want to watch again in 3D, it is converted right?

GM – We were going to shoot direct 3D, we made six cameras but realised when we went to Namibia that if we lost even one camera, it would hamper us a lot having had to build ourselves so we decided to go 2D but post conversion is getting so good now. In the meantime, if I had the choice on  whatever my next film may be, I would probably do post-conversion.

SAB – Could this be your very own Star Wars, your own unique universe of heroes and villains?

GM – You could argue that, good question, it’s a more down and dirty version of that except we don’t defy the laws of physics with flying humans or spacecraft.

SAB – Was there ever consideration to have Mel Gibson appear in a cameo?

GM – There was much talk about that but to me it would be like having Sean Connery appear in a Daniel Craig 007 film, it would throw you out of the movie for a gimmick. We do have Hugh Keays-Byrne even though he died as Toecutter in the original. He slipped in as Immortan Joe, that worked because he is not as well known as Mel.

SAB – Was Tom Hardy your first choice as Max or a process of elimination evolving into the character?

GM – He was first choice, although the first person I ever spoke to about a new Mad Max was Heath Ledger who I talked with on numerous occasions in Sydney, until then obviously, it was never to be. Time went by continuing to work on Happy Feet films but met Tom Hardy having seen his work in Bronson, his range is incredibly impressive. When walking into the room, he reminded me of 30 years before when Mel walked into a room with that same sort of immediate charisma. Also a quiet quality of danger which gave unpredictability. With both those actors, there is a lot going on inside them and those two things together make for interesting swagger.

SAB – Is he signed up for the prequels?

GM – Yes, but I am not sure when that will happen having finished this one just 12 days ago. I just want to let the dust settle, I’m not sure if I want to do it. You need a big appetite to go back into the wasteland and I’ve got other stories I want to tell.

SAB – This is the most gruesome, also the most beautiful, of the four films. How operatic did you want Fury Road to be?

GM – Very much. Having done the first three over three decades ago, I’ve seen so many other movies rift or rip off mine, particularly video games in the modern era and manga comics or music videos. It’s a world in many ways which has been done to death, the aspect is always to make it de-saturated and bleak so it’s almost become a bit of a cliché. I deliberately wanted to avoid that, kind of making towns look like junk yards but with beautiful constructions. No matter where you go in the world, in poverty you will see the most beautiful things made with just wire or a coke can, even Paleolithic man was capable to make lovely cave drawings and our own Aboriginal art. We had a rule just because it’s a movie wasteland, it doesn’t mean there can be beautiful things or a loss of sense of humour. Even in the most extreme circumstances, people resort to a lighter side as a defence mechanism.

SAB – How much of this film made the final cut…were there many deleted scenes or changed sequences?

GM – Not many, we lost no scenes because the movie is so integrated, you could drop anything the links of the chain wouldn’t connect. We shot a massive amount of footage but it was all about the same scenes as we had cameras everywhere.

SAB – Is Charlize Theron as tough in real life as she portrays in the film?

GM – In a way because being a ballet dancer, she brings that strength or discipline, I think she was always looking for a heavy duty action movie like this to put that skill into practice. She is strong and incredibly committed. She was the one who shaved her head.

SAB – Are stunt men and women as adventurous now as when you first started making films?

GM – Yes great question, then we didn’t have the technology but now they are so technically minded. Guy Norris and his stunt team have much more rehearsal with less leaving things for chance. Lots of rigging, engineering, mathematics and computers but then someone has to perform it so safety was considered on a big scale.

MAD MAX (1979)

Mel Gibson, Steve Bisley, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Sheila Florence, Roger Ward

Made on a shoestring budget on a whim and risk from all involved, in and around Broken Hill NSW. Became a global smash and drive-in classic. Was the biggest profit-making film until Blair Witch Project 1999. US version was dubbed with American voiceover. Mel auditioned for the role with a bruised face from fighting the night before.

MAD MAX 2 (1981)

Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Michael Preston, Vernon Wells

Even bigger world-wide box-office smash, renamed the Road Warrior for US release. Made Mel Gibson a Hollywood commodity. Simple story becomes remarkably exciting and essentially a 90 minute chase film. Airports had to be alerted because certain explosions reached sky high. Constant top ten VHS rental ongoing four years.


Mel Gibson, Tina Turner, Angry Anderson, Bruce Spence

Powered from pig-waste, Bartertown is introduced with the gladiatorial fight to the death arena known as Thunderdome. Sporting an unexplained grey streak through his hair, Max is helped by a feral child tribe in a softer version of the apocalyptic anti-hero that upset hardcore fans and critics alike. Second half is a carnage rehash of Mad Max 2. Tina Turner sings ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’.

Shane A. Bassett

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