While many franchises today feel very polished, cohesive, and overly manicured, there’s something that feels very authentic about George Miller‘s process when it comes to his Mad Max universe. Mad Max: Fury Road breathed new life into Miller’s world, and the winding path to Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga led to not only a drastically different film but one that allowed Miller to touch on corners of the world he hadn’t looked at before. Centering around the titular character, previously played by Charlize Theron in Fury Road and now played by Anya Taylor-Joy and Alyla Browne in Furiosa, the film not only dives deeper into one of Fury Road‘s most interesting characters but the story feels thematically and fundamentally different.

Having just premiered at Cannes, Furiosa is a deep character study into the life of the titular character. Whereas Fury Road feels more truncated and therefore leans into high-octane action and long action sequences, Furiosa takes its time. Separated into chapters, each chapter within the film explores a period in the future Imperator’s life. It explores her kidnapping from the Green Place; learning difficult lessons from her time under the warlord Dementus’ (Chris Hemsworth) thumb; her time with Immortan Joe and learning the price of being a woman in Joe’s world; and it ultimately marks her ascension up to the ranks of Imperator after heartbreaking losses and a lifetime of seeking vengeance.

‘Furiosa’ Has Been in the Works for Years

Anya Taylor-Joy as Furiosa
[Warner Bros]

The two films are intrinsically linked, not only because Furiosa is a prequel to Fury Road but also because the screenplay for Furiosa was written long before production ever began on the film. We spoke with George Miller about his process and he explained:

“This movie was written when we were preparing Fury Road. We wrote the screenplay on Fury Road and realized that that’s a story that basically happens over three days and two nights. We realized it’s a story in which everything — all the content, all the subtext, all the exposition — has to be done on the run. So, in order to tell it cohesively, we had to know everything that happened in the time before. So, we wrote a story on Furiosa, from the time she was taken (which she refers to in Fury Road) until she becomes the Imperator Furiosa.”

As a result, long before Fury Road began filming the actors and the crew behind the production got to read Furiosa and learn about her story. “[Charlize Theron] read it, I would say about, I’m just guessing, six months before,” Miller explained, “and she said, ‘George we gotta do this first!’ I said, ‘Charlize, we’ve been trying to do this movie for almost a decade!'” And, just like Furiosa, there is another script that covers the year before Max appears in Fury Road, and Furiosa gives a nod to that when we see a glimpse of Max (played by Tom Hardy‘s stunt double Jacob Tomuri) in the distance. Rather than act as a fan service moment, the cameo is meant more to link the two stories and formulate a timeline for these two characters.

Miller also revealed that during the process of writing Furiosa, they thought about making the film into an anime and referenced Mahiro Maeda, who worked on concept art and design for Fury Road, as a potential collaborator. Although Furiosa eventually did become a live-action film, elements from this early stages of planning for Furiosa were still passed down into live-action, including Maeda illustrating a teddy bear that eventually would become a major part of Dementus’ costume.

De-Aging Charlize Theron Was Considered but Ultimately Rejected

Furiosa screaming on Mad Max Fury Road posterAlthough Theron played a magnificent Furiosa, by the time her film was ready to start production, too much time had passed for Theron to play the role. Still wanting to cast Theron, Miller explained that seeing films like The Irishman and Gemini Man where actors are de-aged made him realize “all I was looking at was the technology. I wasn’t looking at the performance. I thought, we can’t do it.” Given the large progression of time in Furiosa, from when Furiosa is just a child to young adult to full adult, Theron simply wasn’t an option anymore.

“No, we didn’t do any deaging,” Miller clarified, in reference to Furiosa. “There’s one shot in which we made her smaller. Like the little girl — just one shot — we made her smaller, and then she became a normal age.” Instead, he praised the makeup and costuming for Furiosa. For both Taylor-Joy and Hemsworth, Miller said, “I spent a year in the cutting room, seeing them as characters. Suddenly I see her [on the press tour] with long blonde hair, her skin’s immaculate, and she’s got makeup on. I said, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not the real one.’ Same with Chris Hemsworth. I can’t believe that the character I’ve been watching for a year on the screen — I know every frame — this is really hard for me to compute!”

While Miller turned away from deaging, other new technology did play a pivotal role in the creation of Furiosa. When it came to planning for the film, rather than using traditional storyboards or other previz methods, the production team used the Unreal Engine to help map out the film, allowing for a more detailed outline that could convey things like the passage of time and layout complicated action sequences. Miller credits second unit director and long-time collaborator Guy Norris and Norris’ son, stunt actor Harrison Norris, for introducing the new technology that allowed for more accurate previz and a shortened previz process.

Filming ‘Furiosa’ Wasn’t Easy — Not for Production or for Performers

Chris Hemsworth as Dementus in Furiosa
[Warner Bros]

Much can be said about Miller’s approach to filmmaking. At least when it comes to these last two films, comments coming out from the actors about the filmmaking process seem mixed. Both Charlize Theron and Anya Taylor-Joy have expressed certain frustrations when portraying the character, having to advocate for the character to get more lines. Fury Road‘s script was famously anemic when it came to dialogue and both Hardy and Mel Gibson‘s Max are seemingly averse to conversation. Furiosa had about 80 lines of dialogue in Fury Road, while Max had 63. Even more shocking, Taylor-Joy only had about 30 lines of dialogue. To the actor’s credit, however, even with only a few lines, Taylor-Joy’s performance is the standout of the film as opposed to the much more verbose Dementus played by Chris Hemsworth.

Miller also touched on the difficulties of filmmaking, citing issues with the studio and Theron and Hardy’s feud as roadblocks that they had to overcome for Fury Road. For Furiosa, the obstacle was the inclement weather in Australia, and, of course, the COVID pandemic. Shooting long-term on location, which Taylor-Joy has already described as being an isolating experience in a profile with The New York Times, meant that the team always had to have a backup plan. “We always had a big tent with a backup plan to shoot interiors inside this massive tent,” Miller explained, which allowed them to avoid major delays.

It’s no secret that these sets can feel almost punishing to performers, and there is a conversation to be had about just how much an actor should suffer for their art — Taylor-Joy herself stated that she was not ready to discuss difficulties for her when it came to filming Furiosa, telling the interviewer, “Talk to me in 20 years.” However, there are moments in Furiosa where you are so immersed in the world, like an opening chase involving Furiosa’s mother (Charlee Fraser) or a war rig fight sequence that has Taylor-Joy’s Furiosa crawling all the way from underneath the rig and into the passenger seat next to Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke), that are so heart-pounding and intense that it might prove that there is some method to Miller’s madness.