In the always changing and shifting climate of Hollywood, the buzz of a film can have a short shelf life before it’s thrown aside for the newest, most current trend in cinemas. Just a few weeks ago, Furious 7 was all audiences seemed to want to talk about, until the superhero spectacle Avengers: Age of Ultron hit screens. Fast forward a few weeks later, and another franchise film seems to have dominated the water-cooler talk for the moment. We’re speaking, of course, of George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, which has enjoyed a nice amount of critical fervor before its theatrical premiere this week, along with an emphatically enthusiastic response at its Cannes premiere on Thursday.
But whereas the buzz for films like Furious 7 and Age of Ultron seems to be pre-ordained, what with their massive, passionate fanbase and historically massive box office past, Mad Max hardly had the same type of assurances. The film is being released thirty years after the most recent installment (1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome). It was also hampered with an array of production problems including postponements, re-shoots, and rumors of on set squabbles between the two leads. All of that makes the current promotion and press junkets for the film even more interesting, with the chance to hear stars Tom Hardy (Locke), Charlize Theron (Prometheus) and Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: Days of Future Past) along with director George Miller (Happy Feet) expound upon some of the potential production challenges and issues that arose on set, as well as their take on Miller’s vision and execution of his world, so many years after he last immersed audiences in the post-apocalyptic nightmare of Max Rockatansky.
In a recent interview in Cannes through France’s Canal+, Miller, Hardy, Theron, and Hoult were able to touch on the challenges of executing George’s vision, as well as their personal input and ideas about their respective characters. It all made for an enlightening talk with the people most central to bringing the deranged world of Max Rockatansky back to life.
Miller, upon being asked about returning to the universe he originally created with 1979’s Mad Max, and whether or not this idea had been brewing in his head for all these years, had some revealing things to say not only about his vision, but about the change and growth of cinema in general:
In the back of my head – it might mean I’m crazy – they seed the story. They keep growing and then one day you find yourself wanting to tell the story.
Miller went on to make a noted point about the current climate of film:
It (Mad Max) was thirty years on. Everything has changed. The world has changed, cinema has changed, cinema language has changed. And the way we read movies now, we speed read movies now.
But despite many changes in film since he started, Miller maintained that he was adamant in keeping a level of authenticity in Fury Road by going for more classic, practical-driven special effects, and in doing so, the director hinted at some of the challenges and difficulties it put on the cast and crew:
We don’t defy the laws of physics. There’s no flying men, so everything had to be real. And it made it very tough for all of us. We were real people, real vehicles, crashing in real deserts. There was a long time putting pieces together, but hey, we got there. We finished. We survived. Kind of.
Charlize Theron – who plays Imperator Furiosa – echoed Miller’s sentiment of production being difficult and grueling, but also reinforced how necessary those challenges were for the betterment of the film:
It was tough, but it was also tangible and real and you could smell it, feel it, and be it. And it was relentless. We were just in an environment that was relentless, and there was no escaping it and I think secretly he (Miller) planned it that way, but it was really helpful. I can’t imagine if you did all of this in a green screen.
Star Tom Hardy also had nothing put praise for Millers’s vision for the film, but did hint the benefits of having a sort of clarity to the character of Mad Max now that he perhaps didn’t have during production:
Wherever George wants me to go, I’ll go. He’s very clear about what he wants to do with him (Max), so in that way it’s incredibly freeing to just allow me as an artist to articulate – fully transmute – in whatever George wants me to do. Now I have a much clearer idea what it is than I did at the time, so I’m ready to move forward now.
Nicholas Hoult who plays Nux, one of villain Immortan Joe’s “war boys”, also made it a point to praise the great work of the stunt crew who had a hand in making all of the practical effects in the film so wonderful and thrilling to watch on-screen, as well as so easy on him as an actor:
The physical aspects, yeah we got involved and did as much as possible but at the same time we had wonderful stunt doubles, all of us, and an amazing stunt team around us who were doing remarkable things that I was in awe of every single day. And the choreography in terms of the vehicles and the stunts and everything. I never witnessed anything quite like it and that was what got my adrenaline pumping and made acting in amongst it all very easy.
The discussion also focused on Theron’s Furiosa, and how Miller was able to effectively make such a feminist character in a film and world with such overbearing masculinity:
You know what I think is even more powerful about it is that I think George didn’t have a feminist agenda up his sleeve, and I think that’s what makes this story more powerful, especially how the women are represented in it. It’s just very truthful and I really applaud him for that because I think when we use the word “feminism” people get a little freaked out. It’s like we’re somehow being put on a pedestal or something like that but George has this innate understanding that women are just as complex and interesting as men, and he was really interested in discovering all of that. And I think through just his need and want for the truth he actually made an incredible feminist movie.
Hardy also gave some insight on the portrayal of his character, made famous by Mel Gibson (The Beaver), who starred in Miller’s first three films as Max Rockatansky. The actor made it a point to respect the foundation Miller and Gibson laid down:
I think you have to pay respect to the legacy of Mel Gibson obviously. And Mel’s synonymous with Mad Max, even for me, so you have to pay total respect to that so I wanted to touch base with him as well. And I know they’re very familial, George and Mel go back a long time so it’s a little bit like inheriting the children in a way. Being the stepmom. I’m “Stepmom Max” in many ways. But ultimately the story lies within George and obviously the answers and the solutions to how he wants Max to be played and all its characters lies within George. So he was my guiding light on that.
Check out our review of film here, and the interview in its entirety below. Mad Max: Fury Road is currently playing nationwide.