10 Surprising Facts About Mad Max: Fury Road
By Scott Beggs
In an age of decades-later sequels, one desert-baked car chase defied all logic by being utterly, fantastically good. Mad Max: Fury Road will be remembered for decades for its beauty, intensity, and a story that came together without a written script. The post-apocalyptic vision from director George Miller emerged from the ashes of the 1980s to continue the legacy of one iconic character and the wasteland he calls home. Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy this time around) reluctantly aids Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) as she tries to help a harem of "wives" (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, and Courtney Eaton) escape the violent dictator Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne).
From the simplest of plots comes one of the most emotional action films ever made. Just don't get addicted to the water.
1. Fury Road was supposed to be made in 2003 with Heath Ledger.
Fury Road was in development hell for decades. Director George Miller had been thinking of a feature-length chase scene for the fourth film since 1987, but the concept didn't fully coalesce until 1998, when he came up with the idea to make people—instead of oil—the object of the chase. Plans to shoot in 2001 were scrapped following the events of 9/11 and the subsequent collapse of the American dollar against the Australian dollar.
Had production commenced, the Max of 2003 would have been Heath Ledger—and it may still have been if Miller and company had been able to shoot before Ledger's death in 2008.
2. Production was scrapped two weeks before filming because of serious rain.
After being shut down following 9/11 and another stall in 2003 with the Iraq War making a Namibian shoot impossible from the insurer's perspective, the production was all set to go in 2010 in the Australian desert until a once-in-a-century rain turned that desert into a slightly lusher green space than the film required. They waited a year to see if it would dry back up, and when it didn't, Miller hauled hundreds of people and vehicles to Namibia. "It was kind of nuts to take all those people and all those vehicles to Namibia," editor Margaret Sixel (who is also Miller's wife) told The New York Times in 2020. "Who would do that?" Turns out her husband would.
3. Three FUry Road stunt performers—and one actor—found love on the set.
Speaking of spouses working together: Fury Road was the ignition switch for two sets of explosive marriage vows. Dayna Porter and Dane Grant met on set as Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy's stunt doubles and fell in love while fighting each other. "So the two of us were doing this—dare I say—very S&M-type fight, it's a love/hate mixture between these characters," Grant told Stuff. "They're very close, there's chains, they're holding each other in very intimate positions, and the longer we were doing it the more we're kind of eyeing each other up." Stuntman Ben Smith-Petersen and actress Riley Keough also met on set and married soon after the film's premiere in 2015.
4. Fury Road really confused the makers of a cake decorating spray.
Hardcore fans of Wilton's Color Mist silver food coloring spray were probably confused as to why thousands of reviews of the company's product popped up in 2015 shouting "What a spray! What a lovely spray!" and "Shiny and chrome! I rode to Valhalla!" However, those who love post-apocalyptic Ozploitation films and baking understood that these reviews were a nod to Fury Road, and the chrome mouth spray the War Boys are seen huffing throughout the movie.
5. It's only the second sequel to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination without its predecessors being nominated.
We usually think of something like The Godfather: Part II when considering Oscar-worthy sequels, but it's a genuine rarity that a sequel would get nominated without the first film paving the way. Before Fury Road, Toy Story 3 (2010) was the only movie to be nominated for Best Picture without previous films in the series earning nominations, and it's clear that the Pixar film was a special case because it's animated (and previous installments won Best Animated Film). Not only is Fury Road the first live-action sequel to be nominated without any franchise precedence, it's the first (and still the only) fourth installment in a series to do so.
6. The flaming guitar weighed 132 pounds.
Miller insisted on a ton of in-camera effects from the jump, wanting to heighten the intensity by limiting the CGI. Still, they went the extra mile when they made a real flame-throwing guitar for the Doof Warrior (Australian musician iOTA) to rock out with. The monstrosity weighed 132 pounds and used the whammy bar to control the flames. "George, unfortunately, doesn't like things that don't work," production designer Colin Gibson told Tech Times. "I have in the past built him props that I thought were just supposed to be props, and then he goes, 'OK, plug it in now.'"
7. They spent 138 days working on a single scene, more or less.
That single scene is the whole movie. According to Theron's way of thinking, the process of shooting with a storyboard instead of a traditional, written script for a movie comprised almost solely of a chase meant that they spent over four months filming a single scene, attempting to keep it all straight so they could find their bearings.
"Usually you have scenes and this was one big scene," Theron told Gizmodo. "So we shot one big scene for 138 days. That was tricky because everyday you show up and you don’t really know where you are in that scene ... And the movie was in [George's] head. After a while, we all understood that we just had to let him do his thing."
8. The author of The Vagina Monologues served as a consultant.
After Miller saw The Vagina Monologues writer Eve Ensler speak in Sydney, he asked her to join the cast and crew in Namibia for a week to share her insights and expertise. She gave the cast—particularly the Wives—some reality checks about violence targeted at women in war zones. "One out of three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime—it’s a central issue of our time, and that violence against women relates to racial and economic injustice," Ensler told TIME. "This movie takes those issues head-on. I think George Miller is a feminist, and he made a feminist action film."
9. Fear was an important motivating factor for the cast and crew.
It's no surprise that after so many false starts, a gigantic budget, Miller's singular vision, and the hefty pressure of fan expectations, everyone involved in Fury Road was abjectly terrified. Hardy and Theron infamously clashed on set (unlike their stunt doubles), but both publicly apologized to each other and to Miller after the premiere. Theron noted the pressure Hardy must have felt to step into the shoes of such an iconic character, and Hardy recognized that he should have been a better, more mature partner for Theron. "In a weird way, we were functioning like our characters: Everything was about survival," Theron told Vanity Fair.
10. The movie almost didn't have a beginning or end.
In the midst of shooting, Fury Road began going over budget. So then-Warner Bros. president Jeff Robinov flew to Namibia to deliver an ultimatum to Miller and his team: Cameras must stop shooting on December 8—no matter what. The big problem was that they hadn't even started to film the bookend moments in the Citadel. So once production stopped, they faced the prospect of trying to cut together a movie that had neither a beginning nor an end.
Sixel, who won a Best Editing Oscar for her work on Fury Road, spent a year assembling the movie from 480 hours of footage that was all one big middle. While this was happening, Robinov left the studio and was replaced by Kevin Tsujihara, who reversed his predecessor's decision and gave Miller the go-ahead for one more month of shooting in 2013 to get everything in the can.