05 Mad Max Fury Road — A Legend Roars Back To Life, Part 1

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“It is by my hand you will rise from the ashes of this world.”– Immortan Joe

From the very first image, “Mad Mad: Fury Road” played out in Miller’s imagination as a visual narrative. Rather than write a traditional screenplay, the filmmaker contacted Brendan McCarthy, a comic book author, animator and artist who had been sending him his work for years. What began as a collaboration on conceptual art resulted in Miller asking the avowed Road Warrior fan to co-write the screenplay.

For McCarthy, it was a jaw-dropping proposition. “I said, ‘You do realize I haven’t written a big feature film before, don’t you?’” McCarthy remembers. “He shrugged and said, ‘Don’t worry, I have.’ So we set to work, like two maniacs inside the Thunderdome, hammering out the story. As a fan of the original movies, it was wonderful to watch a new one taking shape in front of my eyes. The whole time we were coming up with the initial foundation, we were very aware that this movie had to roar into cinemas with all cylinders firing. We knew we absolutely couldn’t disappoint.”

Two additional artists joined the fray to take Miller and McCarthy’s thumbnail images and refine them into fully realized art: Peter Pound, a “gear head” with a mind for vehicle movement and specs, who became the film’s principal vehicle designer; and Mark Sexton, with a scientific background and an acumen for world-building, who served as principal storyboard artist. After nearly a year, the creative team had wallpapered the conference room of Miller’s studio with a 3,500-panel storyboard—the visual first draft of “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

Miller enlisted Nico Lathouris to create a dramaturgical analysis of the story, but soon asked his longtime collaborator to join the screenwriting team. “I think George has intuitively tapped into a rich vein in the human psyche with the ‘Mad Max’ story,” he says. “Beneath the wall-to-wall action of ‘Fury Road,’ I saw a constellation of characters who are intimately affected by one another, and the story’s rich allegorical layers became a huge influence in adjusting the dramatic forces operating between them.”

Three key members of Miller’s team also jumped in at the beginning, and hung on through each stall, detour and hairpin turn the project would take over the next ten years—PJ Voeten, Guy Norris and production designer Colin Gibson. “If it hadn’t been for the abilities of PJ, Colin and Guy, we wouldn’t have had a hope of getting this movie made,” Doug Mitchell attests. “And it also wouldn’t have been possible if George hadn’t taken the time to write the story visually. The storyboards allowed him to edit the film shot-by-shot, and it became the Magna Carta at every stage of realizing ‘Fury Road.’”

In the years that followed, the collaborative circle grew to encompass costume designer Jenny Beavan, makeup designer Lesley Vanderwalt, special effects supervisors Dan Oliver and Andrew Williams, and visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson.

Oscar-winning cinematographer John Seale was just a month into his well-earned retirement when the filmmakers invited him aboard. “It was ‘Mad Max,’ and it was George, after all,” Seale says. “So it didn’t take too long to decide. I love working with George. He’s the loveliest man. You’re in the desert, the camera’s rolling, the truck’s rolling over or blowing up, the weather does not match, and he puts his hand on your shoulder and says, ‘Don’t worry, Johnny, I’ll take care of you—we’ll fix it in post.’”

Miller had planned a one-camera shoot, but by the time principal photography was underway, Seale and his team would have an average of three to four Arri Alexa Plus cameras and two to four Arri M Steadicams running simultaneously each day, plus aerials and crash- cams with retrievable digital cards. Seale also volunteered to operate his own camera, capturing the imagery through the 11:1 zoom lens of what Miller nicknamed the cinematographer’s “paparazzi camera.” “I love to get out there and get little close-ups,” Seale says.

Then there was the Edge Arm…

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