11 Facts About George Miller

You may know him for the ‘Mad Max’ franchise, but some of the director’s biggest box office and awards successes have been children’s films about talking animals. Read on for more facts about George Miller.

George Miller at the premiere of "Three Thousand Years Of Longing"
George Miller at the premiere of "Three Thousand Years Of Longing" / Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/GettyImages

George Miller is more than the Australian director behind the Mad Max series. In between making dystopian action flicks, he directed The Witches of Eastwick, Lorenzo’s Oil, Babe: Pig in the City, and Happy Feet, adding up to one of the most diverse filmographies of any auteur. In anticipation of the release of Furiosa on May 24, 2024, here are some facts about the filmmaker, who celebrates his 79th birthday on March 3.

1. George Miller has a twin brother.

Miller grew up with three brothers, including a fraternal twin named John. They studied medicine at the same college and both became doctors—though John stuck with the profession for much longer. According to George, his twin was much better suited for a career in medicine. “He’s a really excellent doctor. I’m not saying that because he’s my brother,” he told The Guardian in 2022. “I would not have been anywhere near the doctor that he is. I would have been OK. But not compared to him.”

2. His time as a doctor inspired Mad Max.

Though Miller wasn’t a doctor for long, his time in the field influenced his movie career. While working in a Sydney hospital, he witnessed the deadly consequences of Australia’s car culture firsthand. The vehicular carnage he saw in the emergency room directly inspired Mad Max (1979), which is set in a dystopian future where gas is a scarce commodity worth killing over.

3. Mad Max broke the record for most profitable film.

Mel Gibson in 'Mad Max 2'
Mel Gibson in 'Mad Max 2' / Sunset Boulevard/GettyImages

Miller made his debut feature on a budget of $350,000. That’s nothing by Hollywood standards, even in 1979. To stretch that money as far as it would go, he edited Mad Max alone in his kitchen while his producing partner Byron Kennedy did the sound. Miller used his earnings from working weekends at the hospital to supplement the budget when they ran out of funds. All of that scrimping paid off; Mad Max grossed $100 million when it hit theaters, making it the most profitable movie ever released at the time. It held that title until The Blair Witch Project’s record-breaking run in 1999.

4. His sole Oscar win wasn’t for Fury Road.

Miller has taken home an Oscar statuette just once in his career, and it wasn’t for the first film most fans associate with the director. At the 2007 Academy Awards, his dancing penguin movie Happy Feet won Best Animated Feature. Though that’s his sole win, he has received five additional nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director nods for his 2016 blockbuster Fury Road.

5. Happy Feet is still his highest-grossing film.

George Miller holding his Oscar for 'Happy Feet'
George Miller holding his Oscar for 'Happy Feet' / Vince Bucci/GettyImages

In addition to winning Miller his only Academy Award, Happy Feet also won big at the box office.  It earned nearly $200 million domestically on a budget of $100 million. The animated musical remains his highest-grossing feature to date, but it’s not his only blockbuster. Fury Road became his second biggest earner when it raked in over $153 million at the U.S. box office in 2016.

6. He almost directed Contact.

Miller has worked in many genres, including children’s films, action flicks, tearjerking dramas, and comedies. He nearly added alien-focused science fiction to that list. The director was Warner Bros.’s first choice to adapt Carl Sagan and Annie Druyan’s novel Contact for the big screen. After spending a year in pre-production, Miller was ultimately booted off the project.

“At a certain point, they started to panic because the film was ‘too European’,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald. “As the budget grew bigger, they weren’t prepared to go for broke. They wanted to play it safe.” The job ended up going to Robert Zemeckis, director of Back to the Future (1985) and Forrest Gump (1994). 

7. Hollywood wasn’t for him. 

Following the success of Mad Max, Miller moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s. The city is the capital of the entertainment industry, which was one of the reasons the Queensland native didn’t feel comfortable there. He has since relocated to Australia, where he shoots his projects and conducts meetings over video calls when necessary. In 2022, he told The Sydney Morning Herald that “I haven’t been on a plane to Los Angeles for years.” Thanks to Miller’s impressive track record—plus Australia’s generous tax breaks for filmmakers—he’s had no problem convincing Hollywood executives to accommodate his lifestyle.

8. Miller co-wrote Babe.

Pig and dog from 'Babe'
The animal stars of 'Babe' / Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Miller didn’t direct the first Babe (1995) movie, but he is responsible for getting it made. He produced the film and co-wrote the script with director Chris Noonan. If you think the mind behind the Mad Max franchise sounds like an odd match for a movie about a talking pig, check out the sequel. Miller returned to direct Babe: Pig in the City (1998), which explains why it features many disturbing elements that were missing from the original.

9. He nearly directed The Justice League.

The superhero genre was another near-miss for the director. Before the dawn of the DC cinematic universe, Miller was tapped to direct a Justice League movie for Warner Bros. in 2007. Tentatively titled Justice League: Mortal, the film would have featured DC Comic’s biggest superheroes, with D.J. Cotrona in talks to play Superman and Armie Hammer wanted for Batman.

The project was doomed from the start, though. The 2007 Writer’s Guild of America strike stalled production, and Miller’s insistence on filming in Australia added further complications. After seeing the success of The Dark Knight in 2008, Warner Bros. decided to can the Justice League movie and take their DC properties in a different direction. It would take nearly a decade for the first Justice League filmhelmed by Zack Snyder instead of Miller—to reach theaters.

10. It took Miller decades to make Mad Max: Fury Road.

George Miller, Charlize Theron, and Tom Hardy at the 'Mad Max : Fury Road' premiere.
George Miller, Charlize Theron, and Tom Hardy at the 'Mad Max : Fury Road' premiere. / Samir Hussein/GettyImages

Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the most famous examples of a project that successfully escaped development hell. After making Mad Max 2 (1981) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), Miller began brainstorming ideas for the the fourth installment of the franchise. He finally cracked the concept in 1998 when he was inspired to center the story’s central chase around people instead of oil.

When he was finally ready to shoot in the early 2000s, numerous world events set him back, including 9/11, the collapse American dollar against the Australian dollar, and the Iraq War. Heath Ledger, the top pick to replace Mel Gibson in the lead role, died of a drug overdose in 2008 while the project floundered.

When production was finally ready to kick off in 2010, Miller hit another obstacle: A historic rainfall transformed the arid Australian desert where they were meant to film into a lush oasis. This pushed back filming by another year as they waited for the greenery to dry up. When it stuck around, Miller decided to move the entire production to Namibia to avoid any further delays. All that waiting paid off when Fury Road became one of the biggest critical and financial successes of Miller’s career. 

11. Miller cast Furiosa over Skype in March 2020.

Like its predecessor, Furiosa had world events working against it. Pre-production was already underway for the Fury Road prequel when the COVID-19 pandemic brought industries to a halt worldwide. But Miller had learned his lesson making the fourth Mad Max film. He kept the project moving forward and continued holding auditions in March of 2020—over Skype, of course. Filming commenced in 2022, with a release slated for June of 2023. That date was ultimately pushed back, and following a few hiccups, Furiosa is now set to hit theaters on May 24, 2024. All things considered, nine years between Mad Max movies isn’t half bad.

Read More Stories About Movies Here: