One of the side benefits to the release of “Mad Max: Fury Road” has been the availability of George Miller for conversation.
When I moderated the Q&A with him after this year's SXSW screening of “The Road Warrior,” by far the best parts of the evening were when I was standing outside the Paramount or standing backstage with him, chatting. Miller is that rarity, someone who lives up to expectations and then exceeds them. There is an enormous sweetness to him, and not a hint of ego. When you're the director of one of the most imitated action movies of all time and you're returning to your most iconic creation for the first time in 30 years, there might be some justifiable ego, but Miller seems to be sincerely modest about his work.
There was a moment during a Q&A after the first screening of “Fury Road” where he mentioned that he considers himself to “still be learning how to make movies.” That is a hell of a thing for him to say after seeing what he did on “Fury Road.” There are things he did in this movie that I can't imagine any other filmmaker accomplishing, and he makes them look graceful and easy.
The more I've spoken to him, the more I've realized how very different he is from most filmmakers. His version of the process doesn't look like anyone else's precisely because I don't think his brain is wired the same way anyone else's brain is wired. He's got a lifelong love of math, something he shares with his life partner Margaret Sixel, who cut the film for him. She's only ever worked on documentaries before this, and part of what makes the “Fury Road” action scenes feel so ferocious is the nearly clinical way Miller lays out the geography of his action and the meticulous way the cutting allows you to see and understand each beat.
When we sat down for our interview at the “Fury Road” press day, I was scheduled for the typical four to five minutes. At one point, Miller waved off the publicist in the room, saying we'd keep talking. This one's got a little more breathing room than normal as a result, but I felt bad knowing how many other people were lined up and waiting. It looks like Miller and I may continue this conversation in some other form in the near future, so this is by no means the final word of his work and his amazing new film. But it's a great peek into the mind of one of our finest living filmmakers.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” is in theaters now, so what are you doing reading stories on the Internet?!