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What really happened behind the scenes during the making of this gonzo action spectacle?
It's time to start your engines, because we're taking a look at what you don't know about
1979's Mad Max.
George Miller was the man in the director's chair on the original Mad Max movie, but any
and all success that the Mad Max series has enjoyed over the years must be shared by his
co-producer Byron Kennedy. The late, great co-producer of both Mad Max and Mad Max 2,
Kennedy served as the second set of brains behind this series of action-packed masterpieces.
After meeting at a film workshop at Melbourne University, Miller and Kennedy first collaborated
on a short film called "Violence in the Cinema, Part 1", which was both a parody and dissection
of the world of movie violence. The short garnered acclaim across the country, and gave
Kennedy and Miller the confidence they needed to start their own production company, which
they aptly named Kennedy Miller.
Although Kennedy tragically passed away in a helicopter crash in 1983, George Miller
has kept on producing movies under the Kennedy Miller production banner, keeping the spirit
of his collaborator alive. Kennedy's legacy also lives on in the form of an award for
excellence in movies and television in Australia, aptly called the Byron Kennedy Award.
While the later Mad Max films would delve into the fantasies of a post-apocalyptic society
run amok, this wasn't exactly where the ideas started out for this unique end-of-the-world
story. When George Miller and former journalist James McCausland set out to create this world
of roving bikers and cops out for revenge, there was actually some helpful real-world
inspiration to get their wheels turning.
Arguably the greatest influence for Miller and McCausland was ripped straight from the
headlines, that being the real-world global oil crisis of the 1970s. When shutoffs to
international oil exports led to vast oil shortages, Miller and McCausland noted long
lines of motorists lining up for gas, and started to extrapolate what might happen if
this desire for fossil fuel was taken to a disturbingly dangerous degree.
"You tell that g------ governor he's gotta polie this g------ gasoline situation. I will
not take the blame for this thing, I will not take the crap and the harassment from
these customers."
He would go on to become one of the most famous, and then infamous, film stars in the world.
But before all the blockbusters and controversial headlines that made him instantly recognizable
to moviegoers around the globe, Mel Gibson earned his action hero stripes in Mad Max.
After starring in the initial Mad Max film, Gibson would cement his glory in the next
two Mad Max features while also landing starring roles in a wide variety of films that included
action hits like the Lethal Weapon franchise as well as comedies like What Women Want.
But it all almost never happened. When looking for actors for Mad Max, Miller and his team
called in a group of recent graduates from the National Institute of Dramatic Art to
try out for the menacing young men who populate the film. The first time Gibson went in to
audition, however, he'd recently been in a fight and was almost unrecognizable due to
all the bruises on his face.
"I sort of took on half a rugby team, and it was just...it didn't work out too well
on my end, so...I was looking pretty bad."
Luckily, Gibson returned for a second audition after his face healed, and he was looking
a little more movie star charismatic. As he tells it, George Miller offered him the part
on the spot.
With Mel Gibson set to star as Max, it wasn't long before the rest of the movie's stellar
cast was thrown together. The ensemble Miller assembled around his star consisted of a heap
of Australian and New Zealand native performers, including Hugh Keays-Byrne as the villainous
Toecutter, Steve Bisley as Max's partner Goose, and, initially, Rosie Bailey as Max's wife,
Jessie Rockatansky.
Four days into shooting, however, Bailey was involved in a motorcycle accident that left
her unable to complete the film. Setting production back multiple weeks, Bailey's role was eventually
recast with Joanne Samuel, bringing a courageous edge to what could've been a throwaway role.
It just goes to show that not even a replacement in casting could put a stop to Miller and
his team and their mission to bring this story to the screen.
Would you be surprised to hear that the filming of Mad Max was just as chaotic and dangerous
as the action of the film itself? Being a low-budget, below-the-radar, ultra-violent
mess of a production, much of the filmmaking reflected that rag-tag style of putting things
together, all of it unfolding over the span of a crammed-together six-week shoot.
From closing roads without proper permits, not being able to use proper walkie-talkies
as to not get tangled with police radio interference, to the general chaos that comes from having
to film a series of real-life car crashes and having to wreck piles upon piles of cars,
the filming of Mad Max would likely make a worthy entry into the Mad Max saga all on
its own.
Even after filming wrapped, the production was no walk in the park. For much of their
editing process, Miller and his crew had to work out of a friend's apartment on a homemade
editing rig. Miller would edit the film itself in the living room while the sound editing
crew cut sound in the kitchen.
Most of the chaos of Mad Max comes courtesy of Toecutter and his rampaging biker gang
that spread fear and violence wherever they go. They're an integral part of building Miller's
world of future-ish Australia, where the rules of society are beginning to crumble and characters
like the Nightrider and Johnny the Boy are able to go as wild as they do.
There's a good reason these men are as menacing as they appear in Mad Max: they were members
of an actual biker gang. The majority of extras used in the film were members of outlaw motorcycle
clubs in Australia, providing an even greater sense of authenticity to the shoot. Miller
even asked them to use their own bikes and ride them all the way from Sydney to Melbourne,
as their budget couldn't allow for aerial transport. Not a very glamorous beginning,
but the trip was worth it to bring that extra bit of grit and reality to the film world.
Even as it became a huge box office success in its own home country of Australia, not
everyone was thrilled to welcome the ultra-violent antics of Mad Max into their cinemas. In one
of Australia's closest neighboring nations, New Zealand, the film was initially banned
upon its release due to overwhelming similarities between events depicted in the movie and a
real-life incident in which someone was burned alive in their car. The film would eventually
be released there in 1983, after the success of Mad Max 2.
Its reputation in Sweden, however, lasted for quite a while longer. There was no specific
scene that caused the ban there, rather just an all-around distaste for the excessive violence
of the film that kept Swedish audiences from enjoying the feature for decades. It wasn't
until 2005 that the nation decided to finally lift the ban and let Max roam free in Sweden
along with the rest of the world.
Even with its bold vision, brilliant stunts, and heart-stopping action, the general response
to Mad Max upon release in Australia was anything but rapturous. For The Bulletin, Australian
commentator Phillip Adams described the film as having, quote, "all the emotional uplift
of Mein Kampf." Hardly the kind of reviews you'd like to get for your debut feature,
but surely the American critics wouldn't be as harsh as their Australian counterparts?
Actually, they were even harsher. Upon its American release, Tom Buckley of the New York
Times deemed the film "ugly and incoherent," while Stephen King outright called the film
"a turkey." They say all press is good press, but it's hard to imagine George Miller being
happy with the initial critical reaction to Mad Max.
Many films add an English-language dub for U.S. screenings if they're made in a foreign
language, but Mad Max might be one of the only films that was made in English and still
ended up getting redubbed for its American release.
Upon its initial U.S. release in 1980, the entire film's dialogue track was redubbed
to give the film's characters so-called "American accents." This included instances of removing
Australian slang, and general attempts to make the film sound more "comprehensible"
to American audiences, even if the voices sounded downright silly out of these actors'
mouths.
"When do we go for a ride? Heh heh."
After the film caught on and spawned the blockbuster franchise we know and love today, the original
dub was eventually brought to the U.S., providing audiences with a proper glimpse as to how
the film was supposed to sound.
While Fury Road was the first entry in the Mad Max saga to achieve any sort of Academy
Award recognition, the original Mad Max still had its fair share of awards recognition at
Australia's very own film awards ceremony, then known as the AFI but today known as the
Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards. For the 1979 Awards ceremony,
the movie received seven nominations, including for Best Film and Best Direction, and racked
up three wins for Editing, Original Music Score, and Sound.
The same year, leading man Mel Gibson did indeed win a Best Actor award at the ceremony...for
an entirely different film. Gibson wasn't even nominated for his turn in Mad Max, instead
being recognized and rewarded for his other lead film role that year, in the romantic
drama Tim, in which he played the dramatic role of a developmentally challenged builder's
worker. Though global fame eluded him for this particular role, there's no question
which of Gibson's roles in 1979 would forever live in the worldwide audience's imagination.
With the release of Mad Max and its lively reception, offers from Hollywood started to
roll in for George Miller fairly quickly. According to unconfirmed legend, one of the
potential projects that might have been most intriguing to Miller was the offer to direct
the next big Sylvester Stallone movie, First Blood, another film that, although few could
have suspected it at the time, would also go on to jumpstart a highly successful and
long-running action franchise.
Whether or not that story's actually true, we do know that after Mad Max was released,
Miller spent quite a bit of time trying to write and develop another project before he
finally gave up on getting it made. After much deliberation, Miller realized that with
his first flush of success, he could return to the world of Mad Max with a bigger budget,
a bigger vision, and a bigger sense of destruction to bring to the silver screen. Thus he threw
himself back into the dystopia of his own making and brought Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
out into the world, and the rest is futuristic, hard-hitting cinema history.
More than three decades after his directing debut, George Miller returned to the world
of Mad Max with a film that is widely recognized as one of the best action movies of all time.
Mad Max: Fury Road took Miller's wide-eyed aspirations as a young filmmaker and transformed
them into an apocalyptic descent into action Valhalla.
While there's a huge difference between Fury Road and the original Mad Max in terms of
production value, one element they do share is a key actor in both films: Hugh Keays-Byrne,
perhaps better known today for his performance as the devilishly disgusting Immortan Joe
in Fury Road.
His delightfully villainous performance there had its origins back in the original Mad Max,
in which he starred as the lead villain, Toecutter. While certainly quite a bit older, and with
a starkly different look, Keays-Byrne's commitment to embodying the villainy and chaos in the
Mad Max universe was a huge part of bringing Miller's vision to life.
"But it's not for him; it's for me, baba."
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The Untold Truth Of Mad Max

97 Folder Collection
naomi published on August 12, 2020
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