The Mad Shall Inherit

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n the craziness that’s my job lately, I almost forgot to write about my wonderful experience last March interviewing a great filmmaker from Australia whose movie is out in cinemas this summer, George Miller.

It began with an offer for a phone interview earlier this year. The studio emailed us and asked if we were interested in talking to George Miller about Mad Max: Fury Road. After we said yes and filled out the appropriate paperwork (WB likes to make us fill out forms and stuff) we waited for almost two months to hear about the confirmation. It was in end of February/early March that we heard back from them, who said that yes, we got a slot with Mr. Miller at the end of March (27th to be exact) at 8 AM.

8 AM, Sydney time. I had to wake up at 2 AM in order to get ready for the interview at 4 AM my time because we’re 4 hours behind Sydney. But other than this time zone shenanigan, I was fine waking up at 2 and I was strangely excited about the interview.

I say ‘strangely’ not without reason. When I knew, earlier in the year, that we were going to write about the new Mad Max movie and I’d be interviewing Mr. Miller, I was actually dreading the assignment. I’ve never watched the original Mad Max, I haven’t been following Fury Roaddevelopment updates, and I’m not overly familiar with George Miller’s works (I’ve watched all theBabe and Happy Feet movies in my youth but I didn’t exactly study them!) Also, I knew a little bit about the troubles that plagued Fury Road‘s making that delayed them further and further so I was afraid the studio was going to be putting a lot of restrictions on what I could ask about the problem. And yet, the days before the interview, while I was constructing my interview questions, I developed some form of enthusiasm. Perhaps it’s the thrill of getting to talk to the man who made Happy Feet – one of my favorite animated movies of all time – and gave me happy times at the movies (post-Lord of the Rings), or maybe it’s the two trailers I watched that showcased some spectacular action… but in any case, I was finally ready and pumped up for that interview.

My phone rang at exactly 4 PM and, to my surprise, it was Mr. Miller himself who greeted me. “Hello, is this Amanda?” he asked. And I was so flabbergasted, I almost forgot to answer for two seconds. But then I remembered myself and I greeted him back and just like that we were chatting easily about Mad Max. Naturally my first question would be about why he decided to return to the Mad Max ‘verse after Babe and Happy Feet… and his answer was so brilliant that I just thought, “Wow, this man is an absolute genius.”

During the next 45 minutes (that’s how long the phone call lasted), I asked him various stuff. I don’t profess to have original questions to ask him but I may be the only movie/entertainment journalist who dared to confess to him that I’ve never seen the movies. I actually told him candidly, “I’ve never seen the original trilogy. I wasn’t even born yet when the first Mad Max came out.” He laughed merrily and interjected, “You weren’t even born yet! Tom Hardy was only a few months old when I made the first movie!”

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In the middle of the interview, he apologized twice for eating his breakfast while talking to me at the same time. He even asked if I had my breakfast. Looking back, I think this part will always stand out because it’s so rare that a conversation during an interview would include mundane tidbits like breakfast. All the ones I’ve participated in before have always been so formal, so controlled, that I never see/hear the interviewees do anything other than talk. I don’t know, I just think it’s funny that he eats – it’s like, “Wow. Filmmakers eat too!”

He gave me some really good advice, too, about whether or not we should watch the original trilogy before going to see Fury Road. He said that we didn’t have to because the movie’s story was a standalone; it’s enough that we see Fury Road and then decide if we want to check out the original trilogy. But he also admitted, “I know some people are going to watch the first three continuously before the new one comes out. This, I found out from the internet. That’s fine too.”

By the time I concluded the interview at almost 5 AM, I’ve been converted into a believer. It’s not that he spoke superlatively about the film – he never once sounded ‘promotional’ about it – but I got the impression that he really cared about the story and particular ways he made it. He knew this world, Max’s post-apocalyptic world, like the back of his hand and he’s passionate about it, in a subtle and smart way. And my biggest surprise was how gentle he sounded – from the tone of his voice to the way he words his sentences – for a man who made ‘tough’ movies like the first three Mad Max films. All in all this was one of the best interviews I’ve ever had.

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I learned later that Mr. Miller had invited Eve Ensler to become a consultant in the film and I was even more blown away. Of all the things he did to make Fury Road that sounded crazy, inviting the author of Vagina Monologues to Namibia was the most surprising. Shooting for 8 months in the desert, putting cameras on a crane on a truck so camera operators could shoot action scenes from the actors’ close-ups, and welding old cars to make monster trucks seem typical in comparison.

I’ve had some amazing interviewees before – Viola Davis, Hugh Jackman and James Gunn last year, for example – but, like his movies, George Miller is in a league of his own. Perhaps it’s the length of the interview, which allows me to be more elaborate on my questions than before, but I feel like Mr. Miller answered all of my questions and also gave me a lot more to go on. (The article that came out of that interview is also one of my best, mostly because it’s full of Mr. Miller’s quote.) When I’m having a truly bad moment in my job (like the incident of the botched up phone interview with Carla Gugino for Wayward Pines), I only have to look back to the good ones to keep my spirit up. This interview with George Miller is going a long way to make sure I stay excited about my job for the next days to come.

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