George Miller Originally Wanted Heath Ledger To Star In ‘Mad Max’

The war machine that is director George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road finally roared its way into theaters across America last week to the critical acclaim of pretty much everyone who’s had the twisted pleasure to make its acquaintance.

Fury Road is the fourth installment of the Mad Max franchise, the first since 1985’s Beyond Thunderdome and the only one to star someone other than Mel Gibson (this time it’s Tom Hardy’s hulky stoicism that guides viewers through the  brilliant wreckage). But that almost wasn’t the case.

Miller explained to The Daily Beast that Fury Road was set to get off the ground in 2001, but the 9/11 attacks created logistical problems that prevented filming. Then, the very public meltdown of The Patriot star forced further delays as the role needed to be recast. He said that he and the late Heath Ledger had spoken extensively about that possibility:

“Every time Heath [Ledger] would come through Sydney, he’d call in and we’d chat about Max,” says Miller. “He had that same thing that Mel and Tom Hardy have—that maleness, charisma and restless energy, which you need to play a relatively still character. The world lost someone great when he went. Tom was the next to walk through the door that had that vibe.”

While that potential dream pairing never came to fruition, it’s difficult to argue with the high-octane product that hit theaters on Friday. Miller has acknowledged that Hardy is signed on for three more films and — in a recent appearance on The Q&A podcast with Jeff Goldsmith — revealed that the delays in filming led to the next screenplay and a novella born from the extended backstories of the characters we already know.

Brace yourselves for Mad Max: The Wasteland.

(Via The Daily Beast, IndieWire, The Q&A With Jeff Goldsmith)