After over a decade of trying, director George Miller finally got to make another entry in the Mad Max series…almost two years ago. The film began shooting all the way back in the fall of 2012, but it wasn’t until this year’s Comic-Con that anyone saw a lick of footage from Mad Max: Fury Road. The action-packed trailer impressed those in Hall H, thanks to plenty of practical stunts, muscular action, and a promising glimpse of a return to one of the coolest worlds and character ever put to film.
Max is now played by Tom Hardy, who is of course a beast of a man that’s well-suited for the character once played by Mel Gibson. Will Hardy’s performance reflect Gibson’s iconic work as Max or is Hardy and Miller going in a different direction? That’s a question director George Miller answered in the press conference for Mad Max: Fury Road, a story that takes place “45 to 50 years after the opening of the movie.” Miller had plenty more to say, so we made sure to take notes. We also get our first look, which was released online today.
Here are 10 things we learned about Mad Max: Fury Road from George Miller:
1. “Of course [Tom Hardy’s performance] is based on the same character Mel [Gibson] played: the lone warrior in the wasteland, basically disengaged from the rest of the world. Naturally Tom brings his Tom Hardiness to it. The character is different, to some degree, because the story is different. Yes, it’s different, but no, he’s essentially grown out of the same material.”
2. “It’s a very compelling world to work with, because it’s allegorical. I think Westerns were basically what cinema grew up on, from the silent era on, because they were accessible elemental stories. That’s the attraction of working in this post-apocalyptic Mad Max world. Getting back into the world, it felt familiar in many ways, but also very, very strange. So much has changed. The technology has changed. We shot with digital cameras. You can do a lot more. You can now put cameras anywhere. I was able to get cameras where I never would’ve been able to with the first Mad Max.”
3. “We had a lot of the actors do their own stunts. When you see the movie, you’ll see them doing the actual stunts. We probably would’ve been criminal to do that in the old days, but now we can keep them safe with harnesses.”
4. “We are sort of doomed to repeat the whole history. We do change with information and so on, but…The Road Warrior was basically based on oil wars. Back in the early 1970s people essentially went to war over oil, and since then we’ve practically been fighting oil wars ever since. Now, in some places in the world, there are water wars, even in my own country. Well, there’s no war, but there’s a huge dispute over water and a financial crisis.”
5. “I didn’t want to tell the film with a lot of dialogue. It’s a world where people say very little. We basically have one extended chase where you discover the backstory of the characters along the way. A post-apocalyptic world allows you to make it very, very element. I like to call it a Western on wheels.”
6. “The movie is a chase. It’s very hard when people are chasing across the wasteland to write that in words; it’s much easier to do that in pictures. Because it’s almost a continued chase, you have to connect one shot to the other. The obvious way to do that was with storyboards [which is what they did first], then put words in later. I worked with three really fine storyboard artists and graphic novelists. We sat in a big room and instead of writing it down, we’d say, ‘So this guy throws a thunderstick at a car and there’s an explosion.’ You can write that, but exactly where the thunderstick is, where the car is, and the explosion, it’s very hard to get those dimensions, so we would draw it. We ended up with 3,500 panels, which almost becomes the equivelant to the number of shots in the movie.”
7. “Animation is much more thoughtful. Shooting movies is much like a sport. Making an animation is much more like writing about a sport. In the middle of a football game, I imagine you don’t have much time to think, so, like film, you’re just going out and shooting it. There’s also an exhilaration to it: it’s tough and, logistically, a bit of a military exercise. It’s tough, especially in the middle of a desert in the west coast of Africa. It’s pretty spare out there. We wanted to do this movie old school. It’s not a big CG movie. There’s CG in it, but, as I said, every stunt you see is real involving real people, often involving members of the real cast. That was a big logistical exercise, which brings with it a certain amount of anxiety.”
8. “It’s not super-reality, but it’s close to an imagined reality. They don’t have super powers. They can’t do anything against the laws of physics. Everything has to have a rigorous logic when you’re creating the world for people to believe it. When people get hurt, they get hurt. Charlize Theron’s character, Furiosa, has a mechanical arm. It’s more 19th century technology. She’s not a cyborg. Going back to WWI and pre-WWI photographs you see people with doozy mechanical arms and so on.”
9. “I didn’t want to do another Mad Max movie, because I had done three and I do have a lot of stories I want to tell. The story came to me over 12 years ago. I kept on pushing it away, but I find those stories that keep playing in your mind to be the ones you should pay attention to. I made a deal with myself if I could have the visuals come first and do it this way — with storyboards, not writing a screenplay — then I’d do it.”
10. “This is long history, but in the earlier part of the decade Mel Gibson was cast in the movie. We were about to shoot, but then 9/11 happened. That caused a whole lot of issues, not the least of which the decline of the American dollar. We lost a significant amount of our budget. At the same time, we had to move on Happy Feet, which took four years. By the time we came off that… it wasn’t the story of an old Mad Max, it’s a story about a younger Mad Max. I had to find a new Mad Max. Luckily, Tom Hardy came along.”
Watch the Mad Max: Fury Road Comic-Con preview for yourself below:
Mad Max: Fury Road opens in theaters May 15th, 2015.