Mad Max: Fury Road's Original Furiosa Design Desperately Needed A Rework

Visuals are everything in George Miller's 2015 masterclass "Mad Max: Fury Road." Compared to almost any other modern action movie, the lack of reliance on tons of dialogue all but forces viewers to pay attention to everything else the film has at its disposal in order to communicate its story, characters, and action on a fundamental level. Think of the pulse-pounding score by Tom Holkenborg, the incredible desert chase scenes with that breathless editing (oftentimes removing a handful of individual frames in order to make each punch, jump, and car crash leave that much more of an impact), and particularly, the carefully modulated look and design of all the characters. All of these elements add layer upon layer to the film, a process that ultimately resulted in a masterpiece — one that somehow adds up to even more than the sum of its parts.

As thrilling and unforgettable an experience as it is to watch the action of "Fury Road" unfold, the behind-the-scenes story of the movie's development and production almost surpasses it in terms of drama and shocking reveals. Before the version we know and love, there was a whole assortment of increasingly bizarre potential casting choices, ones that are so strange that we absolutely had to rank them. Additionally, fans have known for years that co-leads Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy repeatedly butted heads during the brutal film shoot in the Namibian desert. Luckily, "Fury Road" chronicler and author Kyle Buchanan has published both an oral history of the production of the film and, most recently, an entire book devoted to never-before-revealed details about the production.

Of the many topics to delve into with "Fury Road," the development of Theron's Imperator Furiosa is one of the most fascinating. The character is both the most active protagonist of the film and its beating heart. Some viewers took issue with the focus on her and Immortan Joe's "wives," to which I argue that they missed the entire point of the movie. But as far as Furiosa herself is concerned, so much of her character, personality, and backstory are effectively communicated through her incredible visual design. At one point, however, that could've turned out very differently. 

Ride eternal, shiny, and chrome (and bald)

More so than any other character in "Mad Max: Fury Road," Furiosa receives arguably the biggest and most effective arc. Though she begins the film already having turned against the villainous Immortan Joe (the late Hugh Keays-Byrne), her encounter with Max and her desperate mission to free the wives imbues her with a purpose and drive that slowly reveals itself over the course of the movie. As Hardy himself put it in Buchanan's oral history, "Charlize arguably laid down the finest lead character in an action movie, and that credit is much deserved, in my opinion; both to her as a phenomenal talent and also to George [Miller] for recognizing from the very start that it was time to pass Mel [Gibson]'s shoes onto Furiosa."

If actions speak louder than words, then the very look and feel of Furiosa's appearance do a significant amount of the heavy lifting. Theron summed up the journey her own character embarked upon before the movie ever even began filming, saying:

"At first, Furiosa was this very ethereal character, with long hair and some African mud art on her face. It was a different costume designer back then, before Jenny Beavan, and the costume felt a little more Barbarella-y. I worried about it."

Costume designer Jenny Beavan evidently agreed. "The clothes have to come out of the stories they tell," she explained. "Since she travels long distances, Furiosa needed very practical clothing, and when I met with Charlize, that was one of the things we talked about. That, and what on earth would she do with her hair?" Theron, thankfully, brought these issues directly to Miller.

"George was really incredible in just hearing me out. I called him and said, 'I don't know how she's getting by in the mechanics' room with all this hair. I think we need to shave my head, and she needs to be a more androgynous, grounded character.' You know, he trusted me so much that it kind of makes me emotional."

Together, the three pared-down Furiosa's look to the iconic final design as seen in the movie: her buzzed hair, fully practical desert outfit, and war paint-like grease marks on her face. Looks tell the story in "Mad Max: Fury Road," and Furiosa's, in particular, goes a long way to communicate how she's a force to be reckoned with.