George Miller talks Mad Max, Stanley Kubrick, Justice League, and more
After a long hiatus, the world of MAD MAX was once again brought to life by director George Miller; MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was one of the best films of 2015 and its success has left many fans hoping that it wouldn't take quite so long to get a sequel off the ground. George Miller recently sat down with THR for their interview series The Hollywood Masters, where they discussed everything from MAD MAX: FURY ROAD to late night telephone conversations with the late Stanley Kubrick. It's an extremely worthwhile read if you've got some time to kill, but I've gathered up some of the more interesting tidbits below.
The music of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was one of its many highlights, but George Miller initially didn't want to have any music in the film beyond the Doof Warrior and the drummers.
Initially, believe it or not, I didn’t want to have music. I thought the guitarist, the Doof Warrior and the drummers and the sound of the vehicles would be enough of a soundscape to basically tell the story. And then there would be music, once the characters started to find some affiliation, particularly Max and Furiosa, and Max in particular was more humanized. I thought we'd bring in some musical element. And so it’s a great opportunity, this movie, for sound. And there was a lot of work in that regard.
Then someone at Warner Bros. brought in some music that Junkie XL had written and Miller was very impressed, saying "he's extraordinary. He can write any kind of music when tasked to do it. He can write beautiful, lyrical music and long progressions of intense, intense action." In addition to the very important role that music played in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, Miller also discovered during test screenings that even the smallest sounds can have a big impact:
At the end of that chase we just saw, in the test screenings I thought there was a tendency for the audience to applaud, and then the applause would fall away. And then you see that there’s a shot of Max as he wakes up out of the sand. It holds for a very long time. And I thought, why are they not applauding, continuing with applause, which is a lovely thing to have in the cinema? And I realized it didn’t become completely silent. There was a little sound, little, sustained, droning sounds that had continued right through into the next scene. So that caught the audience’s ear and it led to an expectation of something else about to happen, rather than we were coming to a full stop. And by making it completely silent, with not one bit of sound, it sort of gave permission for the audience to applaud. And that was really interesting to me. I didn’t think a sound I could barely hear influenced the way that the audience would respond to them.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD went through its fair share of setbacks and delays, but as we know, it all worked out in the end. One project which wasn't so lucky was George Miller's JUSTICE LEAGUE film, which would have starred D. J. Cotrona as Superman, Armie Hammer as Batman, and Megan Gale as Wonder Woman.
That was, oh, seven years ago, I think. And there was a really great script. And Warners said, “Let's do it. Let's do a Justice League.” I really was attracted to it. But there was a writers strike looming. We had to cast it very quickly, which we did with Warner's casting people. And we cast it really quickly and we mounted it very quickly. And it depended on a start date and it depended on some basic rebate legislation that had just got through a new Australian government. But it was just too big a decision for them to make in the time. And that fell through and the whole film fell through. We almost got there. And it wasn't to be. But that happens a lot, where films line up and the stars look like they're aligning and they didn't.
The late Stanley Kubrick has proved to be a great influence on many filmmakers, including George Miller, and although he never met Kubrick in person, Kubrick and he would have many lengthy telephone conversations during the production of BABE.
I explained we’re trying to make a pig talk. He was particularly caught up with the technology of not cutting on videotape. But he was one of those people who just kind of sucked in the world by conversations. Every night, we'd sit and talk for a long, long time and talk about the process and I knew he was very, very intrigued about what could be happening. Then of course, one of the fascinating things he told me about was how he had readers who were reading for him that never knew it was Stanley Kubrick. So if he heard of a novel, he would send it out to people. I think he did it through newspaper ads at the time. And he would send it out to people and ask for a kind of synopsis or a critique of the novel. And he would read those. And it was done anonymously. But he said there were housewives and there were barristers and all sorts of people doing that. And I thought, yeah, that's a really good way to open up the possibilities. Because otherwise, you're randomly looking [for material], walking through a bookstore or an airport.
George Miller's next film following MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME was THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK starring Jack Nicholson. Unfortunately, making the film wasn't exactly a pleasant experience and Miller says that he only survived the "chaotic production" thanks to Nicholson's advice. During a production meeting there was a discussion on where they could trim the budget and Miller volunteered to give up his trailer, which led to a strained relationship with the producers who thought that “oh, this guy's negotiable on everything.” Hollywood, you're confusing.
I was always seen as being very polite. And they mistake politeness for weakness. That's what Jack told me. He said, “Be careful. They mistake your politeness for weakness.” And he said, “You've got to make them think you're a little bit crazy.”
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