It took George Miller nearly 30 years to make Mad Max: Fury Road. And it was totally worth the wait. A thumping, thrilling action movie masterpiece, it was the best reviewed movie of the year on RottenTomatoes for 2015 and as is shoe-in for several nods when the Oscar nominations get released tomorrow. But as with so many pieces of art, Miller and his cast and crew had to suffer for their craft. And it looks like he’s not ready to do it again.
Speaking to the NY Post’s Page Six after this weekend’s Golden Globes, the 70-year old Australian filmmaker revealed that despite the massive success of Fury Road, and his initial plan to shoot a sequel ASAP – he even wanted to do them back to back at one stage – he no longer wants to helm another movie.
“I won’t make more Mad Max movies. [Fury Road] was forever getting completed. If you finish one in a year, it’s considered a leap of faith. Start, stop, start again. I’ve shot in Australia in a field of wildflowers and flat red earth when it rained heavily forever. We had to wait 18 months and every return to the US was 27 hours. Those Mad Maxes take forever. I won’t do those any more.”
And really, despite how much I desperately want another movie as brilliant as Fury Road, I can’t really blame the man. Fury Road‘s path to the big screen last year, was about as hellish and unforgiving as the very road the character takes in the movie. But with the way Fury Road grabbed the world’s attention, almost sparking off this new wave of subversive feminism in Hollywood, there’s just no way the studio will let this franchise just fall away now. So if I had to hazard a guess, if this is really the end of the Mad Max road for the director, I expect that we could see Miller maybe just penning the script for the sequel – which he’s already busy with – and staying on as executive producer, while handing the directing reins over to some young upcoming talent with the same kind of crazy physical action sensibilities (pleasebeGarethEvanspleasebeGarethEvanspleasebeGarethEvans).
Now, if you were just here to read the quote above, then you can probably call it a day on this article. However, if you were a bit confused by the “field of wildflowers” part in Miller’s quote and want to know more about this hellish production, then let me explain with a film history lesson:
Miller started thinking about the story for a fourth Mad Max movie from practically the moment he released Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome in 1985, but a supposed 1995 sequel by Warner Bros got stuck in developmental hell. Miller reacquired the rights himself from WB in 1998, and with a new story idea started developing it for a planned 2001 shoot in Australia. Only to have the movie shelved again due to the plummeting US/Australian dollar exchange rate (due to the September 11 attacks of that year) balooning their budget to impossible figures. And all this time he was also wrestling with his star Mel Gibson, who was still in two minds about reprising his role.
With the production stuck, Miller went on to make other movies like the Happy Feet, but still he kept working on that elusive fourth Mad Max movie. Unfortunately, Gibson was now rapidly becoming a pariah in Hollywood due to his controversial public statements and outbursts. So Miller started quietly looking for another star, and in that time finished the script and started pre-production as the studio greenlit a $100 million budget for him to shoot in Namibia. Only for all of that to fall apart again due to a combination of security concerns in the African country and the outbreak of the Iraq War – Fury Road was considered too politically sensitive by the studios.
So Miller went back the drawing board again. Mel Gibson was now officially too too old to fit in with Miller’s ideas for the movie anyway, so the director officially started looking for a replacement. Heath Ledger was considered, only for him to pass away tragically. At one point, it looked like Mad Max: Fury Road was going to be an animated movie, but even that idea collapsed.
Eventually though, after many years, Miller had a finalized script, backing from the studios, a new star in Tom Hardy (with co-star Charlize Theron), and was good to start shooting at Broken Hill in Australia, the same place he had shot Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. And then it started raining. Not a light drizzle, no, a proper unending torrential downpour that when it was done, had transformed one of the driest, most arid places in Australia, into a flowery wonderland – the exact opposite of the post-apocalyptic wasteland that Miller wanted.
As they had already built most of the elaborate physical sets and constructed the hundreds of nightmarish vehicles to be used in the movie, it was decided to wait it out until this sudden fertility passed. Except it kept raining. 18 Months later and they were still waiting, forcing Miller and co to break down everything they had built and transport the entire production half way around the world to the Namibian desert where – after they had rebuilt everything – they finally started shooting this movie in June 2012.
Three grueling, desert-sun-baking months later – during which time stars Hardy and Theron, and even Miller and Hardy, reportedly completely lost it with each other on set on numerous occasions – principal photography finally wrapped. Only for the film to go into a vicious, nearly 3-year long post production cycle. And then after all of that, despite the tons of critical praise from nearly everybody that saw it, the movie was only a very mild box office success, bringing in $375 million on a $150 million budget (which gets doubled when advertising costs is factored in).
So yeah, I can totally see why Miller doesn’t want to do all of that again.
Last Updated: January 13, 2016