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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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What really happened behind the scenes during the making of this gonzo action spectacle?

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The Untold Truth Of Mad Max

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    naomi posted on 2020/08/12
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