I’m not afraid to say it: Mad Max: Fury Road? Good movie. Maybe even the best movie of the 2010s (and now I’m sore about it losing Best Picture to Spotlight all over again). The action rules, the direction rules, the score rules, and the guy playing the flamethrower guitar obviously rules. In case I didn’t make myself clear, Mad Max: Fury Road rules, and a big reason for that is the casting. There’s Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, of course, but also Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, and as the Five Wives, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Abbey Lee (she knew the assignment, as they say, in Old), and Courtney Eaton (Lottie from Yellowjackets!).
It’s hard to imagine Fury Road without them, Hardy especially, but as revealed in author Kyle Buchanan’s Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road, the movie could have starred Rihanna, Eminem, and Margot Robbie.
[Director George] Miller and his casting director, Ronna Kress, began meeting with actors in 2009, and their casting search was expensive and extensive: To cast the five Wives that Furiosa escapes with in her War Rig, Miller and Kress saw hundreds of women, including future superstars like Margot Robbie and Jennifer Lawrence. Near the end of that process, Miller even set up a meeting with a pop icon.
That would be Rihanna, who “looked spectacular when she walked in,” Miller said. “I’m not sure she was even aware of the content of the movie, so she dressed up as Rihanna, which was the right thing to do.” It’s unclear why she didn’t get the job, as she’s the best (and only) reason to watch Ocean’s 8 and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. But she wasn’t the only Grammy winner to be considered for a role.
“This is something I don’t hear about very much and that George never admits, but I have a very, very, very strong memory of George talking about Eminem for Max,” lead storyboard artist Mark Sexton said. Miller confirmed the memory: “He’d done 8 Mile, and I found that really interesting — I thought, He’s got that quality. We’d done the first Happy Feet with the late Brittany Murphy, and she had done 8 Mile, so I asked her what he was like and would this be something really interesting for him? She had no reservations about saying what a wonderful talent he is.” That’s as far as things got (“We were going to shoot it in Australia at that point, and he simply didn’t want to leave home,” Miller explained), which is probably for the best, but just remember: rapper Eminem almost played Mad Max because of the dancing penguins movie.