The Original Casting Plan For Mad Max: Fury Road Is, Well, Weird!

Brad Pitt as Mad Max and Angelina Jolie as Furiosa: can you picture it? Apparently, George Miller, the director or co-director of every "Mad Max" movie and creator of the franchise with Byron Kennedy, could. With "Mad Max: Fury Road," Miller delivered one of the best films of the 2010s, and by then he had long since moved on to the idea of Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron as his stars. However, "Fury Road" spent many years before that in development hell, and at one point, Miller was indeed considering Pitt and Jolie for the roles.

The original "Mad Max" trilogy, starring Mel Gibson as Max, played out from 1979 to 1985. Miller was gunning to film his belated four-quel, "Fury Road," in the early 2000s before the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and the subsequent Iraq War stymied his production plans. The upcoming book, "Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road," by New York Times writer Kyle Buchanan, will give readers and cinephiles an inside look at the film's fraught behind-the-scenes history.

Buchanan took to Twitter recently to tease some of what you can expect from the book, and revealed the fascinating bit of parallel-universe casting that might have seen Pitt playing the muzzled "blood bag," Max, and Jolie playing the one-armed Imperator, Furiosa (who will next be played by Anya Taylor-Joy in an upcoming standalone prequel).

As you can see from the tweet above, Miller was already ready to move on from Gibson as Max even before the actor became persona non-grata in Hollywood thanks to some well-publicized controversy in the mid-2000s and early 2010s. As far back as 2001, Miller became interested in Pitt and Jolie for "Fury Road."

The Miracle of Fury Road

I can actually see Jolie as Furiosa, but while I'm a fan of Pitt's work overall, I can't really see him as Mad Max. What's interesting is that casting them in 2001 would have put them together before the 2005 romantic actioner, "Mr & Mrs. Smith," where they reportedly fell in love on the set, becoming the Hollywood supercouple nicknamed "Brangelina" until their divorce in 2019.

Recently, while inwardly raging against the unoriginality and hollow hauntology (look it up) of Hollywood legacy sequels and nostalgia porn in general, I found myself trying to come up with an example of any film franchise that had released a decades-later sequel that fully justified itself and was as good as, if not better than, the original. "Fury Road" makes a convincing case for itself as one such sequel, and maybe part of the reason it was so successful was because it was not too beholden to the past.

Miller could have brought back Gibson as an older Max, but instead, he went with Hardy. Yet as much as "Fury Road" might bear the name of Mad Max in its title, it's arguably just as much Furiosa's story and a story about toppling the patriarchy in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Hardy and Theron did not always get along while filming, but out of that friction came a thrilling chase movie packed with "shiny and chrome" world-building and some deeper feminist themes. That "Fury Road" was able to come together so well after going through so much development hell and on-set trouble is a testament to the miracle-making factor of certain movies, which turn out better than they had any earthly right to be.

To think that "Fury Road" almost starred Pitt and Jolie (who are both good actors, but would arguably not have been the best casting choices) is a reminder of that. Seven years later, "Mad Max: Fury Road" remains a beacon of franchise filmmaking at its best.

"Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road" releases on February 22, 2022.