02 Mad Max Fury Road — The Future Belongs To The Mad, Part 1

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“As the world fell, each of us in our own way was broken. It was hard to know who was more crazy…me or everyone else.”– Max

It’s 45 years after the fall of the world. There is no rule of law, no power grids, no water, and no mercy. In “Mad Max: Fury Road,” civilization is a memory, and only to a few. The world’s great economies have fallen into dust, the coastal cities have been erased, and in the wake of wars for water and oil, food is scarce and air is poison. What’s left of humanity roams the Wasteland in wild tribes or clings to survival at the foot of the Citadel, a fortress spun into a cave system where water is pumped from the only aquifer for miles around. By controlling the essentials, the Citadel and its allies, Gas Town and the Bullet Farm, control the Wasteland.

“When you go into a reduced, dystopian future, you’re really going back to an almost medieval past,” Miller comments. “People are just surviving. There is no honor, and very little time for empathy or compassion. This gives rise to a clear balance of hierarchy—with the powerful few literally above the many, and above the moral. And into this world comes Max, who is simply trying to escape his demons.”

Max Rockatansky was first introduced in Miller’s original 1979 film, and the character’s global resonance took even his creator by surprise. “I realized I’d unconsciously tapped into that classic mythological archetype,” he says. “In Japan, they called Max a lone Ronin Samurai. In France, they saw the film as a ‘Western on wheels’ and Max as the lone gunslinger. In Scandinavia, some said Max reminded them of a solitary Viking warrior, wandering the harsh landscape.”

Casting Tom Hardy in the role, Miller knew he’d found an actor who could bring a palpable truth to the mythic figure, noting, “It’s easy to be cautious as an actor, but there are some who are emotional warriors, and that’s Tom. He’s fearless. I was waiting for someone like Tom to come along and knew he would find the soul of Max within himself.”
Miller sensed in Hardy a quicksilver energy that recalled his first encounter with Mel Gibson when he initially cast him as Mad Max three decades ago. “It’s a charisma born out of paradox that makes him so compelling to watch,” the director posits. “Tom can be accessible, yet mysterious; tough, yet vulnerable. There’s tremendous warmth, but also an element of danger.”

Hardy was just six weeks old when the first film was released, but grew up very much aware of the Road Warrior legend. Once he wrapped his mind around the director’s vision, he understood that he wasn’t being asked to revisit the character but to reinvent it. “Mel’s Max is iconic,” Hardy relates. “But when George asked me to play this character, I entered into a collaboration with him to transmute Max for the events in this film. It’s brilliant material and a great honor to play this role.”

Still, Hardy reached out to Gibson to seek his blessing. “We had lunch, and it was good. He handed over the torch.”

Embodied by Hardy, Max Rockatansky emerges as a veteran of some desert war with a skill set that allows him to survive alone, having learned that attachment only leads to sorrow in a hostile world. “Max is somebody who just wants to go home, but there is no home,” Hardy says. “There’s nothing but silence, pain and destruction. He lives in a place where there’s no humanity, yet he still yearns for it. But relationships cost in this world.”
In the film, we find Max contemplating the dead, featureless void of the Plains of Silence, where his battered Interceptor, the last remnant of his old life, has taken him.

“He’s seen a tremendous amount of trauma and horror, and everything he cares about is lost,” Hardy notes. “But even though his life, in many ways, is not worth living, there’s an argument to defy death. He’s not ready to die until he metes out a certain amount of justice for everything that has been taken from him.”

The moment is extinguished with the roar of supercharged engines as Max is swarmed by a wild pack of marauding War Boys, who ambush the wanderer, then drag him back to the Citadel—the most fortified stronghold in the Wasteland—where the car will be restored and Max will be rendered as livestock.

It’s at the Citadel that we meet Furiosa, whose rage will trigger the coming Road War. Furiosa’s journey as a female warrior in a world that enslaves women is what first pushed Miller onto the path to realizing “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and the director says Theron made her struggle very real. “Charlize is a very strong woman, not just physically but also in spirit,” he notes. “At the same time, you recognize her vulnerability. It’s not a mask. Charlize is unmistakably a woman, but this is a character who makes no concession to being female. Her life has been one of sorrow and pain, but there’s no time for reflection. She just has to go out there and be hardcore, and Charlize has the passion and skill as an actor to go there without fear.”

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