Tina Turner's Mad Max Character Had To Be More Than Just Another Villain

"Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" allowed George Miller's insane action universe to expand into more adventurous territory when it came out in 1985. The previous entry, "The Road Warrior," did well to establish clear-cut villains for Max (Mel Gibson) to battle — even if the characters of Lord Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) and Wez (Vernon Wells) were a little one dimensional. For the sequel, Miller needed a more complex villain that had a reason for existing other than to simply cause chaos across a post-apocalyptic hellscape. 

Tina Turner was an inspired choice to play an intelligent, conniving villainess that could truly challenge Max as the leader of this strange, dangerous new world. Her character Aunty Entity was more than just a rampaging antagonist for Max to battle: As the mayor of Bartertown, she built a bustling community that was able to survive and thrive under her control. Turner was already an aspirational figure and casting her in the role immediately made her character a more positive force inside the world of Mad Max. It turns out, George Miller knew that Turner would keep Aunty Entity from becoming a cardboard cutout of the bad guys in "The Road Warrior" right from the start. 

Tina Turner may have been the hero we needed

In a fascinating interview with Time Out magazine back in 1985, George Miller spoke about the surprise casting of the iconic singer and how he wanted to go against type. "We didn't want to fall into a kind of fairly clichéd bad guy." Miller explained. "And we have a saying that today's tyrant is yesterday's hero." 

Miller was also inspired by the famous writings of Joseph Campbell about mythology. He wanted Turner to be a symbol of change. In the same interview, Miller elaborated:

"If you go back to the classical sense, the definition of a hero, as far as we can decide, is that they're the agents of evolution. They are the characters by which the world changes to a new order, usually for the better. They are the agents of evolution. If they create a new order, and they love that world too much, then they become what you might call holdfast. This is all this stuff from Joseph Campbell who I think is by far the best writer on mythology."

With this in mind, "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" can really be looked at in an entirely new way. Miller is absolutely one of the best living action directors, but it's clear that he also put a great deal of thought into Turner's character and how she became who she is. When Max first encounters her and tours Bartertown, she's probably already been through a lot. 

Do we need another prequel?

"Furiosa," the long awaited prequel to the Oscar winning "Mad Max: Fury Road" is on track to premiere in May of 2024. Normally, the prequel formula inherently lacks any real drama because we already know the fate of the characters. With Anya Taylor-Joy stepping into the role made famous by Charlize Theron, Miller has a fantastic lead to continue Furiosa's story that should help to buck that trend. "Furiosa" may go back in time far enough where the story won't collide with the events that occur when "Fury Road" begins. That should allow for a little more mystery. 

Interestingly, Miller's comments in the Time Out interview make a compelling case for a prequel featuring a younger version of Aunty Entity. Miller hints that providing a backstory could make her a more tragic character: 

"That's what we wanted with Tina Turner. We wanted to have the sense that before she built Bartertown, she was a genuine hero. You could have told a story, almost like a 'Mad Max' story, about her. One of the main reasons we cast Tina Turner is that she's perceived as being a fairly positive persona. You don't think of Tina Turner as someone dark. You think of the core of Tina Turner being basically a positive thing. And that's what we wanted. We felt that she might be more tragic in that sense."

Thinking about a prequel that expands on Turner's story is genuinely exciting. The casting possibilities are endless. In any case, a prequel called "Entity" would match up nicely with whatever story "Furiosa" decides to focus on. "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" may actually be Tina Turner's hero journey, after all.