George Miller Knew Immediately He Wanted Tilda Swinton And Idris Elba To Star In Three Thousand Years Of Longing [Exclusive]

While watching various George Miller movies from the outside looking in will likely cultivate a healthy respect for the director's casting eye, those who've read Kyle Buchanan's "Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road" oral history have an even deeper appreciation for the esteemed filmmaker's process. After all, just imagine meeting the enormous task of having to fill Mel Gibson's shoes for the character of Max Rockatansky (to say nothing of casting Gibson in the first place with the original "Mad Max") and deciding to take a leap of faith on, at the time, an up-and-coming Tom Hardy. From Hardy to Charlize Theron to Nicholas Hoult — the latter of whom even Miller had initially dismissed — the director went above and beyond to remind audiences that he might very well be second to none when it comes to pinpointing his lead actors.

"Three Thousand Years of Longing," based on a short story titled "The Djinn In The Nightingale's Eye" by A.S. Byatt, will mark Miller's first feature since "Fury Road." According to /Film's Rafael Motamayor in his review, the film doesn't just live up to the hype, but exceeds it. Though such an unwieldy production could've fallen apart in lesser hands, many of the contributing factors to making the film work fall on the shoulders of both Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba, cast as Dr. Alithea Binnie and a mystical, wish-granting Djinn, respectively. "Three Thousand Years of Longing" first captured Miller's imagination back in the 1990s, and it took no time at all for Miller to be convinced that Elba and Swinton were the best actors for the job.

'They have the vividness and the qualities of these characters'

With "Three Thousand Years of Longing" arriving in theaters today, /Film's Emma Stefansky spoke with George Miller in an exclusive interview covering several different aspects of his newest movie. Inevitably, the conversation turned towards the impressive work by the entire cast and crew, especially by Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba. Though well-familiar with their work over the years, Miller had never actually met them until he began developing the film. According to the director, it was immediately clear that they were born for their respective roles:

"In particular, when I met, in person, Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba in Brazil, I immediately saw them as the characters. I knew their work. I had no idea, other than the characters I'd seen onscreen, who they were. When I actually got to talk to them and had conversations, recreational conversations, I suddenly thought, 'Oh my god, they have the vividness and the qualities of these characters.' The Venn diagrams of the characters and the actors overlap for me. I was very fortunate that they were engaged enough with it to want to make the film."

Despite a filmmaker's best intentions, casting can always feel like a bit of a crapshoot. Subject to the whims of various factors such as personalities, schedules, and especially star-power, any number of things can go wrong and prevent an artist from moving forward with their first choice for a particular role. Luckily, everything seems to have lined up for "Three Thousand Years of Longing" to produce exactly what Miller set out to make. In a business where getting movies funded, made, and released feels more fraught by the day, there's something worth celebrating about victories like these.

"Three Thousand Years of Longing" is now playing in theaters.