Director George Miller came up with “Mad Max: Fury Road” nearly 25 years ago. There were near deaths during a nine-month shoot in the Namibian desert. The two stars openly fought, sometimes shutting down filming. The studio wanted to terminate the production. And yet, it was made. It became a huge box office success, and is now considered by critics as one of the greatest action movies of all time.
New York Times writer Kyle Buchanan details this odyssey in his new book, “Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road.”
He says the movie has a simple plot: “You've got Tom Hardy's Max, Charlize Theron's Furiosa, and they're trying to help these five sex slaves get to safety while they're being pursued in a pretty much movie-length car chase by the evil warlord, Immortan Joe.”
There are also real car crashes and the kind of action you don’t see in movies anymore — plus themes of female empowerment and wealthy people hoarding resources, he adds.
The budget was in the hundreds of millions, and when Miller was about to start shooting, the Iraq War was happening, so the dollar was depressed, Buchanan recalls.
“They had … 100 Incredible vehicles that they had to melt down and scrap. And I think anybody who … would have to have let their whole payroll go … you've literally taken a blowtorch to all of your incredible vehicles, almost anybody would have just given up. … But George Miller kept pressing it … and trying to figure out clever, novel ways to get this off the ground.”
He continues, “They wanted to shoot this in the Australian desert. Of course, it started raining, and the rain turned the desert into basically a flower garden for the first time in decades. So they had to go all the way to Namibia to shoot it. And … Mel Gibson had become professionally toxic. So they had to do this big worldwide casting search, and that's how they ended up with Tom Hardy.”
One stuntman, Chris Patton, nearly died as well. He tumbled from the top of his pole and was almost run over. But Miller, who had medical training, was intensely focused on making stunts safe, Buchanan says.
“He knows what can happen when things go wrong. But he also knows how to push things. And I think because of that, there is this really visceral quality when you watch it. … Every time somebody falls off that war rig or a car crashes, you know that it happened for real. And what's fun about getting to talk to a lot of the admirers of ‘Fury Road,’ which include a lot of other A-list directors, is that nobody can figure out how he did it.”
The movie earned $375 million at box offices worldwide and won six Academy Awards.
People realized it was “a rare miracle,” Buchanan says.
“If you're just curious [about] how hard is it to make a movie, you are not going to find a crazier story of just how hard it is to do than this one.”