These days, action movies have become action franchises, as studios bank on the incredible success of films featuring established characters that audiences love. One look at the top-grossing movies of the last two decades makes it clear that fans can only expect more and more Avengers, Star Wars, Fast and Furious, and Avatar releases in the coming years.
But very rarely does an action film trilogy receive the fourth installment almost 30 years later. Luckily for fans of Australian director George Miller's breakthrough hit, Mad Max, a fourth movie hit theaters in 2015—and it hit with a bang! Mad Max: Fury Road returns to the post-apocalyptic, desert wasteland of the first three movies, doubling down on the rampant mania that made the originals so, well, original.
The first Mad Max catapulted both its writer-director, Miller, and its star, Mel Gibson, to international stardom. Both have enjoyed stellar Hollywood careers ever since (even if Gibson is in a bit of a slump these days). But Mad Max: Fury Road took a different approach. Despite being hampered by an interminable development process, extensive on-set drama, and the potential that audiences wouldn't remember the classics, Fury Road brought a star-studded ensemble cast and delivered one of the most exciting action movies ever made.
While the finished result is perfectly polished (some might say to a shiny chrome), not everything was hunky-dory for Mad Max: Fury Road throughout the process. Keep scrolling for 20 behind the scenes details that reveal a little more about what it took to bring the wasteland back to life.
20 Desert Filming Took 120 Days (Then 18 More)
Given that Mad Max: Fury Road came out almost thirty years after the original movie hit theaters in 1979, it makes sense that director George Miller had taken plenty of time to get all the details just right so he could create one of the most awesome movies ever made. But the development process wasn't always smooth—for years, Fury Road was widely panned as another movie that would end up never being released.
One detail that didn't help the Hollywood rumor mill's pessimistic attitude was that desert filming required a massive 120 days in the desert. And after a year of editing, Miller pulled the cast and crew together for three more weeks, adding up to a total of 138 days of filming.
19 Real Stunts
Part of the magic quality that Mad Max: Fury Road brought to theaters stemmed from the realistic way in which the fantastical, post-apocalyptic world was filmed. Sure, it's ridiculous to consider that a radical car chase through a hot desert would ever go so long, but all the action just seemed so real and fluid.
One way that George Miller was able to keep audiences glued in their seats was by actually doing the stunts in real life, rather than resorting to computer-aided renderings. He said, “Initially I thought they’d be done in CG, but one day I looked up, and they’d figured out the pendulum of the guys, using car engines as a weight at the bottom.”
18 Script vs Storyboard
Mad Max: Fury Road may have ended up exactly how George Miller envisioned it during the long years of the project's development, but that image wasn't always crystal clear to everyone else who worked on the movie. Rumors have even swirled that there wasn't a script made available during filming.
In fact, Charlize Theron explained to Gizmodo: "Well, I feel like us actors kind of set out this rumor that there was no script. I wonder, I haven’t talked to George about, but I wonder if he’s upset about it. Because there was a script; it just wasn’t a conventional script, in the sense that we kind of know scripts with scene numbers. Initially, it was just a storyboard, and we worked off that storyboard for almost three years."
17 Charlize Theron's Arm
Part of what made Mad Max: Fury Road so revolutionary, from a storytelling perspective, is that the titular character isn't actually the movie's main character. Instead, the action revolves mainly around a group of women led by Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa.
Furiosa and her crew are making a mad dash out of the reach of Immortan Joe, an evil warlord, and Tom Hardy's Max Rockatansky is mostly along for the ride. Furiosa's backstory helps guide the film's destination, but viewers are never given a real reason why the character is missing most of her left arm. For filming, Theron wore a green glove to allow the limb to be removed in post-production.
16 Cake Spray
One of the most famous quotes from Mad Max: Fury Road, and one that any fan will undoubtedly have yelled to a couple of friends at some point, is yelled many times throughout the films: "Witness Me!"
The War Boys use the rallying cry to help them get pumped up for some radical stunt they're about to pull to help capture hostages or destroy vehicles. Oftentimes, they'll even spray some chrome all over their mouths as a sure sign that they're willing to give their lives and can't wait to "Ride eternal on the plains of Valhalla." But chrome spray would have been poisonous to the actors, so the filmmakers used chrome-colored spray used to decorate cakes, instead.
15 CGI Was Used
The stark reality of the wasteland comes to life in a big way throughout Mad Max: Fury Road, from the bleak Namib Desert to the awesome vehicles and stunning stunts throughout the movie.
But while most of the action was actually accomplished in real life to get that realistic image translated onto film, some of the stunts and details were just a little too complex to complete without a bit of help from computer-generated imagery. Seen above is Tom Hardy with a CGI artist's mock-up of exactly how the details of the War Rig and the desert would eventually turn out in the finished product.
14 Stuntman Guy Norris Retires After Fury Road
The many years between the original Mad Max movie's breakthrough and the eventual release of Fury Road have brought about huge changes in the world, including the film industry. But one thing that's remained the same has been the danger of stunt driving in Hollywood films. Sure, CGI has replaced most actual stunt driving, but for most action movies, a certain amount of actual human prowess is required.
In a strange bit of synchronicity, the stunt man who helped George Miller make the first Mad Max so great was actually a newcomer to the industry, and that was his first real film job. And Fury Road would end up being his last, as Guy Norris would serve as stunt coordinator and hang up his helmet at the end of filming.
13 1,000 People On Set (On An Average Day)
Much of Mad Max: Fury Road features only a handful of characters as they pilot radical custom hot-rods across the desert at high speeds. The action is interspersed with close-ups revealing the humanity behind the film's insanity—but to establish the scale of the Wasteland and the Citadel, some scenes required larger casts.
In fact, including actors and the many crew members who had to be on hand to support all the complex machinery in the movie, an average day required about 1,000 people to be on set. And for the wide angle shots? Up to 1,800 members of the cast and crew would have to be present.
12 Canon 5D Mark II Cameras
So much of Mad Max: Fury Road takes place in little snippets, catching the perfect angle for a crash or a stunt, it's clear there must have been enormous quantities of cameras employed to capture the whole movie. In fact, as reported on EOS HD, the vast numbers even included some not-so-new Canon 5D Mark II cameras, which were employed as 'crash cams' to possibly pick up a perfect shot.
And while plenty of the movie is in wide angle (like an old Western also set in the bright desert), it's the little, quick shots caught by the outdated 5D Mark IIs that might make the movie so great.
11 Tom Hardy Replaced Heath Ledger
Tom Hardy has quietly risen to international stardom thanks to stellar performances in movies like Bronson, Inception, Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises, and Dunkirk. But the decision to cast him as Max Rockatansky may seem perplexing to some fans of the original movies and the character's iconic portrayal by Mel Gibson. And, in fact, Hardy wasn't George Miller's first choice.
Instead, the role was supposed to go to another Christopher Nolan favorite (and Batman villain-portraying star), Heath Ledger. Ledger makes a lot of sense for the role given his own acting chops and his Australian background, but his tragic demise precluded his appearance in Fury Road (much less the entirety of The Dark Knight).
10 Immortan Joe's Original Role
Mad Max: Fury Road benefits from an awesome villain, the staggering presence known as Immortan Joe. As the warlord who oversees an entire civilization living through the apocalypse in The Citadel, Immortan Joe maintains a stranglehold on precious resources like "Aqua Cola" (water), "Produce" (vegetables), "Mother's Milk", and of course, his brides.
His War Boys run out to The Bullet Farm to pick up ammo, and head to gas town for "Guzzolene" (fuel). Immortan Joe is played by Hugh Keays-Byrne, the same man who also played Toecutter, the leader of a merciless band of marauding motorcyclists, in the original movie!
9 George Miller's Hybrid
George Miller seems to have two sides to his personality. On one end, he's the legendary director of some groundbreaking action films, and his Mad Max series of movies made huge waves in the industry back in the 1970s and 80s, and once again in 2015. But Miller also directed more family-friendly flicks like Babe and Happy Feet.
So which Miller is the real-life person. Well, perhaps not the Mad Max gearhead some fans might expect. In fact, Miller told Top Gear, “So I shouldn’t really say this, but I drive a hybrid Lexus. I’m not a huge petrolhead, but I make sure I surround myself with total freaks who are.”
8 Camera Work
The vast camera crew that caught all the spectacular action in Mad Max: Fury Road and transposed it onto film deserves a ton of credit for their efforts throughout nearly half a year of filming in the harsh desert. But cameramen just standing still using tripods couldn't have come even close to capturing the frenetic energy that makes the movie so great.
To keep up with the raging car chases, Miller and company employed a team of vehicle-mounted cameras created by Edge, a company that invented the Edge Arm, a camera mounted on a supercharged Ford pickup truck. In addition, a duo of Edge Buggies was employed on set, as well.
7 The Most Complex Stunt
Of all the stunts that take place throughout Fury Road, Miller told Top Gear, "The most difficult stunt – in terms of pulling it off – was when the War Rig rolls at the end [of the film].
Initially, we started off that stunt, and I said, ‘There’s no way we’re putting a human in that vehicle’. But CG didn’t make sense in a movie in which everything is real. We looked at models, but that would look hokey. Then we looked at a remote-control War Rig, but we couldn’t get it…[he makes a precise steering-wheel-gesture] on the spot. So we did it for real. That involved flipping a giant truck between two massive rocks, to land in front of a high-speed camera shooting 1000 frames per second… in one take. “
6 That Guitar Guy
No movie can truly be great without the perfect musical score to go along with it (excepting perhaps No Country For Old Men, another desert-centric thriller). But Fury Road certainly took things to the next level by bringing a thumping soundtrack to the desert in the form of an actual member of the character list.
The memorable "Guitar Guy" was actually named Coma-Doof Warrior and is portrayed as a blind musician shredding a flame-shooting, dual-necked guitar. The role was played by Australian musician iOTA, and that guitar was a real instrument that was actually supported by cords because it weighed over 100 pounds (due to the fact that it could actually shoot fire).
5 Charlize Theron's Stunt Double
Charlize Theron has, by now, established herself as a serious action superstar after appearing in blockbuster movies like The Italian Job, Atomic Blonde, and in the Fast and Furious franchise in addition to Mad Max: Fury Road. And while she famously performs plenty of stunts herself—including being an epic Mini Cooper driver on the streets of Los Angeles or seemingly punching her way through half of Berlin—she did have a stunt double for Fury Road.
Dayna Porter was her stunt double's name, and she is seen here in a full Imperator Furiosa getup, complete with prosthetic arm and green sleeve for CGI enhancements in post-production.
4 Tom Hardy's Stunt Double
Tom Hardy has also become a bankable action star after roles in movies like Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises, and Inception, but he was also replaced by a stunt double for some of the more dangerous scenes in Mad Max: Fury Road.
Of course, stunt doubles do have to look a little bit like the actors they're subbing in for—but Jacob Tomuri, in this case, is almost indistinguishable from Hardy himself. Tomuri hails from New Zealand and given his physical resemblance, he's also worked as Hardy's stunt double on others of the actor's subsequent action films, including Legend, The Revenant, and Venom.
3 On Set Romance
While it was generally reported throughout Hollywood tabloids that Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron didn't quite have an ideal working relationship, the same wasn't true for the entire rest of the cast and crew. In fact, a bit of romance blossomed between Charlize Theron's stunt double, Dayna Porter, and one of the stuntmen in the running for a Mad Max double, Dane Grant.
Though Grant was eventually passed over in favor of Jacob Tomuri (not surprising, given the looks), Grant and Porter had already worked together enough. The couple ended up getting married after meeting during the early days of working on Mad Max: Fury Road.
2 Building The War Rig
Colin Gibson, who has worked with Miller many times, including on Happy Feet and Babe, spent over nine years building the 150 cars that feature in Mad Max: Fury Road. He's not related to Mel Gibson, the iconic actor who first portrayed Mad Max, but Gibson's serious commitment to the series left an indelible mark on the latest film.
Perhaps the most important vehicle was the War Rig, which was a hot-rodded combination of a Tatra (from Czechoslovakia) and a Chevy Fleetmaster, all powered by two massive V8 engines together sending power to six of the beastly truck's 18 wheels.
1 Mel Gibson Snubbed
One mystery that remains after viewing Mad Max: Fury Road is where Mel Gibson fits into the mix. After all, it hardly seems right that the legendary Australian actor—whose career was launched into the stratosphere thanks to the original Mad Max films—wasn't given, at the very least, a cameo in the newest release.
And yet, given Gibson's recent spate of negative publicity surrounding some highly questionable events in Malibu, California, perhaps the film's producers decided that keeping him entirely away from the newest film was a better way to safeguard their enormous financial investment (not to mention the time and efforts of the cast and crew this time around).
Sources: Wired, IMDb, Top Gear, and EOS HD.