You'd never expect a gloriously deranged movie like Mad Max: Fury Road to come from a sweet, soft-spoken 70-year-old Aussie, but that's what you get with George Miller. He's a nice guy with some crazy ideas, and we couldn't wait to pick his post-apocalyptic brain for more details on one of the year's best action movies.
We sat down with the brilliant mind behind all four Mad Max movies and talked about everything from the way he constructs his fierce, unrelenting world to that crazy blind guy who plays a fire-breathing electric guitar. What's the deal with that guy, anyway?
Find out below.
5 Questions That Help Set Up Mad Max: Fury Road
1. What would you call this film? A sequel? A reboot?
George Miller: I like to call it a revisit.
2. When looking at the four films as a whole, where does Fury Road take place in the timeline?
Miller: If you put a gun to my head, I’d say after Thunderdome, but it’s very loose. I can’t even work out the chronology of the first, second and third, let alone the fourth thirty years later.
3. So they're all like one-off movies?
Miller: They’re kind of like standalones exploring the whole world – like Westerns. The loner, you know? I think it predates cinema, actually. There was always the wanderer, who wandered the wasteland looking for some kind of meaning or purpose. From samurais to Vikings, and especially Westerns.
4. The Mad Max series is set after society crumbles, but what exactly happened to the world?
Miller: For me it all starts next Wednesday – when all the bad things we read in the news come to pass; stuff we never saw coming. The apocalypse of some form happens, and you wind up 45-50 years in the future. That's where we pick up.
5. Is this your idea of what the world would look like after the apocalypse?
Miller: For me, it’s forward to the past – the idea is that you go back into some medieval disposition [when something like this happens]. What’s really attractive with the storytelling – and I’m sure it’s why Westerns have been around so long – is that you can go into allegory. You can have fun with allegory and it all comes out of the architecture of the story.
An Immortan Villain with the Coolest Mad Max Connection
Immortan Joe, Fury Road's beastly, unforgettable villain, has the strongest connection to the Mad Max franchise, apart from Miller. That's because the actor who plays him, Hugh Keays-Byrne, also played the villain Toecutter in the first Mad Max movie.
Here he is in the 1979 action film.
Miller: Hugh is an amazing guy – he was from the Royal Shakespeare Company. They landed in Australia and started a commune of actors. I knew nothing about acting when I started Mad Max one – it was virtually the first time I’d ever been on a set and the first time I ever met actors.
Mad Max's real-life biker gang
Miller: [In the first Mad Max], Hugh created this biker gang with the other actors, and they rode around the city for the 12 weeks of shooting as a biker gang. And we killed him off in the first movie! So when we had to create Immortan Joe and the cult of all the War Boys, we went to him -- and to work with him again was such a fantastic experience.
The on-set Immortan Joe chant
Miller: When Hugh would walk onto set in his costume, the whole crew – not even just the stuntmen – the whole crew would chant, “Immorter! Immorter!" It was such fun – it just lifted everyone’s spirits... cause it was tough out there.
Everything You Need To Know About Those Crazy Mad Max Character Names
From Immortan Joe to The Dag to Slit, the character names in a Mad Max movie are fascinating, inventive and way out-there. We asked Miller to take us through the process of crafting a name.
Where they come from: "Fever dreams… if they stick. But they always have to be appropriate for the world."
How he crafts them: "One of the things is that everything in the story has to have some sort of underlying backstory. Not just every character, but every vehicle, every weapon, every costume – and the same with the language. So [the concept] was always found objects, repurposed. Immortan Joe is a slight adjustment to the word 'immortal.' The character Nux says 'mcfeasting' instead of using the word 'feasting.'"
His favorite character name from Fury Road: "The Dag... because in Australia, the dag is sort of a goofball-type. I also like Nux, but I don’t know where that came from. And Slit… well..." [makes a slit-the-throat gesture].
The Dag is played by Abbey Lee, and you can see a glimmer of that goofball-type personality in this moment below.
The Backstory for Three of Fury Road's Most Memorable Characters
Immortan Joe's story will be more fleshed out in the Mad Max: Fury Road prequel comics, but Miller teased it for us, revealing that Joe was a member of the military who used his leadership skills to build a cult. "He was a colonel named Joe Moore," Miller said. "He was military, and he organized everybody, eventually being able to exploit a cult as he took over this dominance hierarchy."
Nux's story will also be told in those prequel comics, and Miller told us why he likes it so much.
"When we decided to put out some comics, we had to go back to everyone to see who they were," he said "And Nux [played by Nicholas Hoult] is a great one because it follows him as a little baby, showing how he became a war pup and then a war boy. That was one of the first comics we did."
The Coma-Doof Warrior
With his explosive movements and fire-breathing electric guitar, there's no doubt The Coma-Doof Warrior is one of the more fascinating characters in Mad Max: Fury Road. Miller told us his was one comic they never got to tackle, and teased the story he'd like to tell.
"One character who didn’t get his own comic was the Doof Warrior," he revealed. "I want to tell a story about him in a comic if there’s an opportunity. For me, it was all about how someone who is blind survives in this place. How does someone weak survive the apocalypse? He survived because he was blind – because he lived deep in an unlit mine, where it was an advantage to be blind."
So how did he wind up playing the electric guitar during battle?
Miller explained: "So, deep in the mine, he would sit there and eat rodents and get the water from the sea bed -- and he would also play his guitar where no one could hear it. One day Immortan Joe came past, and someone heard the music. Then he was called upon when [Joe] needed a bugler or the bagpipe -- someone who helps call everyone to war."
Answering Your Mad Max Sequel Questions
Do more Mad Max sequels exist?
Yes, two sequels exist. There's one that has a finished screenplay and is centered more on Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa. There's also another sequel that has an outline.
Are they being turned into movies?
Not yet, but if Mad Max: Fury Road is successful, anything is possible.
If they don't become movies, will we see them in some other form?
Because he released three prequel comics to compliment Mad Max: Fury Road, chances are we could see future Mad Max stories in that format as well. There's also early talks of a Mad Max live show in the works, too.
When we asked Miller about it, he was sure we'd see more, but didn't know in what form just yet. "I’ve never thought about it – honestly if I get the appetite again, I’d love to see those movies made," he says. "But yeah, we can always see them in some way."
Mad Max: Fury Road hits theaters on May 15. Find out more on tickets and theater information right here.