CANNES – “Mad Max: Fury Road” hit the Croisette this morning and like their counterparts in America and the UK, the global media went gaga for George Miller”s visual masterpiece. Before the movie's red carpet screening, the director and his cast sat down for a packed press conference in the Palais. While Theron wasn't asked about the silly controversy centered on misogynists who are calling for men to boycott the movie, Miller was asked what the original Mad Max, none other than Mel Gibson, thought of the movie.
Although Gibson and Miller hadn't seen each other “for a long time,” the former collaborators sat next to each other during the film's world premiere last week in Los Angeles.
“Mel is someone, in a sense, who cannot lie and he started chuckling during the movie and I thought, 'There's that chuckle that I remember,'” Miller said. “Then he started chuckling and kneading me in the ribs and then he started asking me about the actors, because he's about to direct a movie in Australia. Then he gave me great respect at the end as a director, because I think he's a wonderful actor, but also a really great director.”
Gibson's personal turmoils made for “kind of an emotional moment for me,” Miller continued. “You probably know I was heartbroken to see what was happening with Mel because I had always known him to be a really, really good man.”
The new Max Rockatansky, Tom Hardy, was asked if he had any qualms about taking over a role that helped turn Gibson into a global superstar.
“Like any actor you get excited to get the part,” Hardy recalls. “Than I realized…that 'Mad Max' is synonymous with Mel Gibson and there group of people who love Mel as Max so if it's not Mel as Max…I was a little bit crestfallen for a second.”
Miller made it clear he specifically wanted something new and that helped Hardy feel more comfortable about taking the role.
“Ultimately George and Mel are on a journey for three movies and the legacy continues to develop,” Hardy said. “So I just had to take comfort in George being [comfortable] with that.”
The true stand out in “Fury Road,” however, is Charlize Theron. The Oscar winner portrays Imperator Furiosa, a warrior willing to risk everything to save five women from the horrific Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Theron said she saw great potential in the project from the beginning.
“I had heard kind of just lose talk about it,” Theron said. “There was a lot of talk about the female character that would stand alongside Max. So, for a female actress that sounds really good. Seeing it through was something else. I've been doing this for awhile and I had my cynical self and I'd freak out every once in awhile and George just never disappointed. He promised me he'd do something and delivered on it and never veered away from that.”
For Theron, “it was incredible to play in this sandbox, literally,” she continued, “and be a woman not trying to be a man, celebrate everything there is about being a woman. Not trying to put women on a pedestal, but be surrounded by other women who are just real. And in a story that was informed and real. So I know that I was given a great opportunity.”
“Mad Max: Fury Road” has received euphoric reviews and at the time of this story has a 90 on Metacritic and an astounding 99% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, out of 90 reviews. Since production wrapped over two years ago, Hardy and Theron have both been public about what a grueling and difficult experience it was. Their reactions to the final product include a mea culpa from the film”s leading man.
Hardy provided the following long-winded and fascinating reaction.
“I suddenly got what George was talking about, actually, because for seven months I think the most complicated piece for me or the most frustrating piece for me or the hardest parts was trying to know what George wanted me to do at any given minute, so I could fully transmute his vision,” Hardy says. “But because he's orchestrating such a huge village — literally so many departments and…because the vehicle is always moving…the whole movie is just emotion.”
More importantly, Hardy turned to Miller on the podium and remarked, “There was no way, I mean, I have to apologize to you because I got frustrated. There was no way George could have explained what he could see in the sand when we were out there. Because of the due diligence that was required to make everything safe and so simple, what I saw was a relentless barrage of complexities, simplified for this fairly linear story. I knew he was brilliant, but I didn't know how brilliant until I saw it. So, my first reaction was 'Oh my god, I owe George an apology for being semi-off it.'”
Apparently Theron didn”t need to apologize to Hardy (although reportedly Hardy may still need to make good with his co-star), but she clearly recognizes “Fury Road” now stands alongside the best films of her career.
“I was blown away. The post-production was really long. You kind of go on with life, and then I saw it and I was in a dark theater kind of by myself and I was a kid back in South Africa watching a movie,” Theron says. “It felt like I was in a world that was so different and I think the time of post-production gave us all a moment to breathe, so I had full appreciation of when I watched it in the theater. I was really blown away by the time and the effort people put towards this film. I knew it was a long time because my hair was in a ponytail.”
“Mad Max: Fury Road” opens nationwide on Friday.