HOLLYWOOD, CALIF. — Filmmaker George Miller admitted he felt a strange sense of deja vu when he first met with Tom Hardy to talk to the actor about tackling the title role in his “Mad Max: Fury Road” reboot of the dystopian, post-apocalyptic action series Miller had created more than three decades earlier.
“Tom was six weeks old when we started to shoot the first ‘Mad Max,’ but he had that same almost-undefinable special thing. Also, both Tom and Mel are both very skilled theater actors, both are very athletic. They also have this combination that is intriguing.
“They both have this kind of lovability to them — yet exude a sense of danger. They can give off that tension that they can add to a character, which they can get across without saying very much. That’s key in these ‘Mad Max’ movies, because there’s not a lot of dialogue. They both can tap into a volcanic energy that you need in these characters.”
When I sat down with Hardy a few moments later, I asked if he had touched base with Gibson — given he was picking up the mantle of the “Mad Max” franchise.
“I did sit down with Mel. We had lunch, actually. It was right before I went to Namibia to make ‘Fury Road,’ so the timing was excellent. We had a good chat. Actually, we didn’t really talk about ‘Mad Max,’ said Hardy with a sly smile. “We talked about many other things — personal things. Life, actually. But it was good. Just being around him and getting a sense of him as a man and observing his quiet strength was a good thing for me.”
As for his female lead. Charlize Theron, who is cast as the elite Imperator, Furiosa — the first female action character in a “Mad Max” film — Miller used one word to describe her: “Fearless.”
“First of all you have to remember, she was a ballet dancer,” Miller said. “This film, being an action movie, requires that sort of discipline and skill. … Dancers are very spacially aware, so Charlize was perfect in that sense. [And] though she’s unmistakably a beautiful woman, she’s not afraid of shaving her head and downplaying her femininity to capture the essence of the role. As for shaving her head? That was her idea. She was the one to decide to do that.”
Miller stressed that though “Fury Road” is set some half-century in the future, or “perhaps even further out,” he was trying to capture a world that takes audiences “back to sort of neo-medieval, Dark Ages. … The story is very much like the American Western. A lot of people call these ‘Mad Max’ movies ‘Westerns on wheels.’ The great attraction of those stories is that they are allegories. You have a solitary man wandering in the wasteland, looking for something — endlessly searching for redemption or revenge or justice. He comes across various events that test him. The world is very, very spare. The early ‘Mad Max’ films were basically about everybody fighting over oil.
“In this case, it’s about fighting over water. Today the reality of water wars does not seem so far-fetched, does it?”