Posted on Friday, May 22nd, 2015 by Russ Fischer
Mad Max: Fury Road was over a decade in the making, and hit the screen with a rich backstory. While it’s more fun to let the characters on screen exist with only the information we’re given in the movie, the tales of the creation of Fury Road are so good that we have to dive in.
Below we’ve got eight of our favorite bits of Mad Max: Fury Road trivia, from the insane planning that went into the stunts, to the freedom that digital cinematography allowed in collecting the insane amount of footage that makes up this movie and the fact that the Mad Max: Fury Road blu-ray will feature a black and white version of the film with an isolated score as the only soundtrack.
We have a few sources for this piece. The major one is the first screening of the film set up for critics in Los Angeles, which was followed by a discussion between George Miller and Edgar Wright. Any blockquotes from Miller below that are not explicitly sourced come from that Q&A.
There are also a few tidbits that Miller said to me directly when I spoke to him after that screening, specifically a bit about doing a black and white version of the film for blu. And then we’ve drawn info from around the internet, all of which is sourced specifically.
Over a Decade of Development
Here, in one paragraph, is the very brief history of Fury Road from the initial plan to shoot in 2001 to the release this year.
We started to kick this off in 2001, but it fell away. The American dollar collapsed with 9/11, the budget ballooned, we had to get on to Happy Feet because the digital facility was [ready]. Then it rose again, and we had unprecedented rains in the outback of Australia. Where there was red desert there were now flowers. We waited a year for it to dry out. It didn’t, so we had to take everything from the east coast of Australia to the west coast of Africa, to Namibia where it never rains. We had to do it old school, this is not a CG movie, we don’t defy the laws of physics, and so we had to stage it. For 120 days, and every day was a big stunt day.
Every Stunt Was Rigorously Planned and Tested
Miller has been working with some of the same crew members for decades, and one guy who was just a young man on The Road Warrior became an essential part of the Fury Road crew: Guy Norris.
And while the stunts in the film look like they are as in the moment as it’s possible to be, in fact they are all the product of painstaking research and development. George Miller explains:
We had Guy Norris, who did second unit directing and principal stunt coordinating. He was a 21-year old on Road Warrior, and partly because of the delay in the weather we were able to rehearse all the stunts back in Australia. Every stunt you see we’d rig up an old wreck, get all the weights right. He’s one of those who uses a lot of computers, goes through engineering and really tests it on the computer, and then tests it in reality.
So when that big war rig rolls at the end we not only had to pull that off safely, but we had to land it right on the spot with the cameras. So they rigged up something like that and were able to do it. it was very painstaking preparation and work.
The Freedom of Digital
The previous Mad Max films, as products of the ’70s and ’80s, were shot on film. But George Miller went digital for Fury Road. In my review I argue that the film has to be digital, and this is part of the reason.
You couldn’t make this as a CG movie. Even if you did it really well, people wouldn’t know it. Plus, [now, with digital film] you didn’t have to wait for it—you pull off a stunt, check your cameras, and there you go.
Because of the digital cameras we shot — this is ridiculous — we shot 480 hours of footage. That’s three weeks continuous, watching without sleep. With digital cameras you can just run them through. In the old days, with a high-speed camera, you’d burn up your celluloid in very quick time, here you can run it for 40 minutes at a time. [In the old days] for every explosion you had to get your crew out, the guy who started the camera, you’ve got to get them out. Here you just run the cameras, so there’s a lot of wasted footage. It was dumped in the lap of Margaret Sixel, the editor, who happens to be my partner, who was back in Australia. We said “here.” [mimes dumping a giant box] She had to find the two hours that made up THAT. [gestures back towards screen where Fury Road was just projected]
So what does that mean? It means that a crew could drive for miles and miles with cameras running trying to get one shot. Miller explains:
Guy Norris was chasing a shot which required sun to match it. It started to cloud over, and Guy had to get this shot. I was in the edge arm and I was listening to him squawking, and he said “I’m going to go inland to try to catch the sun. He went inland, and every so often I’d hear him as the squawking got more faint, and more faint. He traveled 25 miles inland in Namibia, and then I heard him yelling “yeah, we got it!” I call him “the man who chased the sun.”