George Miller Interview: Hope and Fear on Fury Road

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Check our George Miller interview in which the Mad Max: Fury Road helmer talks about the messages behind his film and the potential future of the franchise.

With tremendously favorable reviews of this Friday’s Mad Max: Fury Road pouring in (read our own positive thoughts here and here), it’s clear that George Miller’s post-apocalyptic franchise hasn’t missed a beat since we last saw Max Rockatansky thirty years ago in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The director’s first live-action film since 1998’s deliriously-charming sequel Babe: Pig in the City, Fury Road — the fourth film in the Mad Max series — proves that Miller is still on his A-game despite having turned 70 earlier this year. ComingSoon.net had the pleasure of sitting down with Miller for a brief conversation about some of the primary themes of Fury Road and also learned a bit about where Max might be headed next!

CS: One of the more fascinating ideas in “Fury Road”  — simply because it’s not a side you see argued for in films very often — is that fear might be more important than hope. Hope seems to have become a dangerous thing in this world with the Immortan Joe using it to build an army of zealots. Fear, meanwhile, seems to be what actually keeps Max alive. 

George Miller: Ah, that’s really interesting! That’s there, but I wasn’t quite so conscious of it. That’s definitely there, though. At least to Max. He says that survival is just about that instinct to survive. We see that in pre-human form in all creatures, really, in one way or another. But hope is tricky. This is a word where, at least during the course of this story, there is very little respite. There’s only a few moments where they’re not being chased. In a way, that’s when Max is most alive. A little bit like an extreme sportsman. You hear about guys who climb up massive cliffs and crazy skiers and snowboarders. They all say that, in that moment of intense focus, that’s when they feel the most alive. I think that’s true of Max. I have to really think about this, though! I think you’re really onto something. Hope is a luxury when you’ve got a moment to think. [Furiosa] has obviously had time to think and the wives have had time to think. Max, when he’s alone, basically can’t get out of his head. He’s kind of in a big trap, really. When he’s with people, it just fuels more anguish for him. He can’t get engaged because he’s going to lose them again. He’s a trapped animal in this movie, both physically and also in his psyche.

CS: There’s definitely something depressing about the fact that this is still a relatively believable future 30 years after you introduced it. Has your own vision of this future changed at all these past three decades?

Miller: I’ve thought a lot about that. The first thing to say is that the big attraction of doing these “Mad Max” movies is that you go forward to the past. It’s 45 years or so after “stuff has happened.” Next Wednesday, all the bad stuff on the news that threatens to happen, happens along with lots of other bad stuff that we never saw coming. We end up in that world and we go back to a more medieval place. It’s a medieval dark age. Really, you’ve gone back to a much simpler world where the rules are simpler. It’s much more elemental. Survival is key. I think it’s a reason why the American Western was such a staple for the better part of a century in American cinema. They were allegorical tales with figures in the landscape working these things out. I think we like stories like that because there’s less clutter in them. I know that’s a big attraction for me. Having said that, the first Mad Maxes were triggered by the oil crisis. Oil was the Macguffin. Now we have humans at the center. There’s human cargo in the five wives. You’ve got the notion that people, in many ways, are commodities. They all have the brand of the Immortan on their backs. I remember going to Indiana about 1976 and it was the first time I heard the term “Water Wars.” There was fighting because of huge droughts and things like that. I guess what I’m trying to say is that some part of me does feel more pessimistic than I did 30 years ago. But I also think that the behavior we see is the repetition of behavior that has gone back across every era of time. The dominant hierarchy. The rise of the tyrant who, in whatever form, controls all the resources. The citadel. The water. The gasoline from gas town. The ammunition from bullet town. He uses al the methods standardly used by tyrants to dominate his people. He gives them the idea that they can ride with him eternal on the highways in Valhalla. You go to any citadel in any part of the world and look at the history. They never knew each other and yet they have the same structure and architecture. I find that really interesting. On the one hand, I think that’s who we are in many ways. Repeating the same patterns. Then again, I’m worried that at this time when there’s so much information and data and so much light being shown on everything, that there is still underneath a kind of worry that things are getting worse.

CS: What is the future of the franchise looking like at this point? Do you want to do more?

Miller: As I like to say, asking someone who just finished this film twelve days ago is kind of like asking a woman who has just given birth, “Do you want to make another baby?” I will say, though, that in order to tell this story, we had a backstory for everything. Every actor we knew, basically from the moment they were born, how their character got there. Every vehicle, from the moment it was created. The guitar that the Doof warrior plays. At the center of it is a hospital bedpan. We had a story about how that got there. How the double-neck guitar got there. And so on and so on. This is the first time in my life that I’ve gotten to work on comics with something I’ve worked on. We’ve got comics going to tell backstories of Max, Nux and Immortan. Not so much Max’s full history as his year before the events of “Fury Road.” The short answer is, we have come up with three other stories. One is written as a screenplay, one is novella and one is an in-between birth. Depending on how this goes and whether or not I’ve got the appetite to head back out into the wasteland, we’ll see.

CS: Do you think you might ever hand the franchise off to another director?

Miller: Oh, I think there’s some great filmmakers around. It’d be great to work with other filmmakers as well. I mean, sitting here right now, I don’t know. But I’d love to see what someone else could do if they took one of these stories.

(Photo Credit: Nicky Nelson / WENN.com)