WITH the incredible success of Mad Max: Fury Road (blowing past $115 million in just under a week in the box office), I feel that the story behind the 17 year long production for Mad Max 4 is worth sharing and it definitely pushed the film to be amazing – scoring an (almost unheard of) 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Director George Miller thought of the idea for Mad Max 4 in 1998 when he was in Los Angeles – as the story goes – he stopped on the street and thought: what if the movies theme wasn’t control over oil, bullets or water, but over possession of life & Max was caught in the middle of it, forced to help them to survive (paraphrasing). After talking with Mel Gibson about returning to the franchise, he started putting a plan together and had a production start date that got seriously delayed because of the attacks on 9/11 – which tightened security and shipping to all the locations Miller wanted. “The American dollar collapsed against the Australian dollar, and our budget ballooned,” Miller said that he “had to move on to Happy Feet, because there was a small window when that was ready.”
Once the fourth installment in the franchise was back into pre-production around 2002, the controversies surrounding Mel Gibson forced George Miller to recast the role if he wanted to sell the movie, so he went for a younger take on the character. Reboot instead of sequel.
In 2003, Mad Max 4 had been green-lit by a production company with a $100 million US budget to film in Australia, but it entered quickly hiatus due to security concerns about the filming location Namibia, which many countries (including the U.S.A.) had tightened travel and shipping restrictions. The film was pushed back for a second time.
With the outbreak of the Iraq War, the film was nearly dropped completely because it was considered to have potentially politically insensitive material. Conveniently at that point, Mel Gibson wanted to return.
By 2006, George Miller stated that he was pursuing Mad Max 4 again saying “There’s real hope. The last thing I wanted to do is another Mad Max, but this script came along, and I’m completed carried away with it.” (MovieHole.net) The script he referred to was a screenplay co-written with cult British comic creator Brendan McCarthy, who created most of the character & vehicle designs for the film.
As a year went by and production was finally coming together for the fourth Mad Max film, the rumour was, at the time, that Heath Ledger was going to be playing the Australian badass, but died just before any deal or filming could take place. Ledger had just finished filming for his role in The Dark Knight, but left The Imaginmarium Of Doctor Parnassus with scenes to fill (his role was split between Colin Farrell, Jude Law and Johnny Depp. There was no official claim that Ledger had filmed any scenes as Mad Max, but Miller spoke to The Daily Beast: “Every time Heath [Ledger] would come through Sydney, he’d call in and we’d chat about Max… He had that same thing that Mel and Tom Hardy have—that maleness, charisma, and restless energy, which you need to play a relatively still character.”
Unfortunately, Ledger’s death in 2008 meant Miller would never get his wish to have Heath Ledger as Max Rockatansky. “The world lost someone great when he went,” he added. But soon found a suitable replacement for the role: “Tom [Hardy] was the next to walk through the door that had that vibe.”
On May 18th 2009, it was reported that location scouting had begun for Mad Max 4, and was covered heavily in Australian press. By Oct. 2009, George Miller announced filming would take place at Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia in early 2011. Again, speculation as to whether or not Mel Gibson would return to the role began again, but Tom Hardy was already in negotiations to take the lead role, as well Charlize Theron was announced to have a large role.
In June 2010, Tom Hardy officially announced on Friday Night With Johnathon Ross (a BBC talk show), that he would be playing the iconic role in a new version of Mad Max – interestingly enough Hardy was only about 6 weeks old when the original film started filming decades earlier. Just a month later in July 2010, director George Miller announced that he planned to shoot two Mad Max films back-to-back: Mad Max: Fury Road and Mad Max: Furiosa.
In July 2010, production was supposed to begin but got delayed because an unexpected amount of rain left the proposed shooting locations too green for director George Miller’s apocalyptic vision of Mad Max’s world, releasing a statement with the Sydney Morning Herald: ”Unfortunately for Mad Max, what was wasteland is now this wonderful flower garden…We’ve looked at every single nook and cranny in Australia for these specific locations…That’s why Broken Hill has become such a base for outback films: you’ve got the infrastructure of the city itself and the treeless plains beyond…Obviously if we go to Namibia or Morocco or Chile it’s a different kettle of fish, but we want to shoot it here…Governments are working incredibly hard to bring these productions in…They’re so sought after around the world because they infuse a massive amount of foreign cash into the economy and create a lot of jobs…Everyone’s competing for that and right now it’s no more expensive to shoot in America than it is in Australia.”
Principle photography (filming with the main actors) began in July 2012 in Namibia, Potts Hill and Penrith Lakes in Western Sydney. The filming was completed in nearly 120 days, but not without more problems – an executive at Warner Bros. was sent to sent to keep production on track( in Oct. 2012), the Namibian Coast Conservation and Management accused the producers of damaging parts of the Namib Desert (endangering a number of plant & animal species), and in November 2013 there were apparently some major reshoots.
The post-production of the long awaited Mad Max: Fury Road wasn’t a simple process either as director George Miller reportedly slowed and sped up scenes that were all originally filmed at 24 frames per second. Cinematographer John Seale, who came out of retirement to make Fury Road, stated “Something like 50 or 60 percent of the film is not running at 24 frames a second, which is the traditional frame rate… It’ll be running below 24 frames because George, if he couldn’t understand what was happening in the shot, he slowed it down until you could. Or if it was too well understood, he’d shorten it or he’d speed it up back towards 24. His manipulation of every shot in that movie is intense.”
The Future Of The Mad Max Franchise:
As it stands, Mad Max: Fury Road is a hit, making back it’s budget in just under a week in the domestic and international box offices, so naturally, there will be more. Director George Miller has stated interest in continuing the story of Mad Max with some prequels about Immortan Joe and Furiosa’s story before Mad Max: Fury Road, but Tom Hardy has signed on for 3 more Mad Max productions.
We will see Mad Max again I am sure of that. With the amount of effort and time (over 17 YEARS) director George Miller put into making Mad Max: Fury Road a reality, I can’t imagine he will stop there, now that the franchise will more momentum.
Have you seen Mad Max: Fury Road yet? GO SEE IT.
Mad Max: Fury Road is an insanity-packed non-stop thrill ride with bullets, blood and incredible high-speed action scenes. It’s easily the best film of 2015 yet, and is a killer addition/reboot to the Mad Max franchise. Taking it in a new direction than the previous films with Tom Hardy playing a quieter, crazier Max Rockatansky. A solid 98% from Rotten Tomatoes, 8.8 from IMDB, and a 9.5/10 from TheSecondTake – because not even for a second of Mad Max: Fury Road did I take my eyes off the screen during the movie. Not to mention the lifetime this movie has had trying to get finished and it turns out this incredible – well done George Miller, can’t wait for MORE MAX.
Did you know that Mad Max 4 took over a decade and a half to finally get finished? Have you seen the ground-breaking fourth installment in the franchise? What did you think about the movie?
Let us know below!
5/20/2015 – 2:30 am