Mad Max: Fury Road was a notoriously difficult film to make. Unsurprisingly, Tom Hardy was ‘irrevocably changed’ afterwards.
The fourth entry in George Miller’s cult-classic post-apocalyptic franchise defied all expectations. After 120 days of shooting and around two years of editing, it opened to critical acclaim – eventually winning six Academy Awards.
Previously, the titular road warrior had been played by Mel Gibson. However, Miller decided to enlist Hardy as his replacement, who famously struggled throughout the strain of the production.
Fury Road is built on immense practical set-pieces, with few moments of calm amid the chaos of the chase. In an oral history conducted by The New York Times‘ Kyle Buchanan, Hardy reminisced about joining the film’s cast and the leap required for Miller’s vision.
The 42-year-old, who reportedly battled much frustration on-set as a result of the hectic demands, explained: ‘I hadn’t done that much action at that time, certainly not with this level of involvement. The nature and sheer scale and volume of action set pieces was unlike anything I had experienced.’
The film follows Max (Hardy) and Furiosa (Charlize Theron) as they try to help Immortan Joe’s (Hugh Keays-Byrne) five ‘wives’ escape his imprisonment, constantly fighting off pursuit by his cavalry of crazy goons.
In retrospect, Theron said ‘she didn’t have enough empathy to really, truly understand what [Hardy] must have felt like to step into Mel Gibson’s shoes’. ‘I think because of my own fear, we were putting up walls to protect ourselves… in a weird way, we were functioning like our characters: everything was about survival,’ she added.
However, Hardy has no qualms about acknowledging his behaviour. He said:
I would agree. I think in hindsight, I was in over my head in many ways. The pressure on both of us was overwhelming at times. What [Theron] needed was a better, perhaps more experienced, partner in me. That’s something that can’t be faked. I’d like to think that now that I’m older and uglier, I could rise to that occasion.
Later, after Fury Road’s rave reception at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015, Hardy apologised to Miller for times in which he lashed out during the shoot.
There is no way George could’ve explained what he could see in the sand when we were out there. I knew he was brilliant, but I didn’t quite know how brilliant… as the reality of his accomplishment soaked in for me, I felt it was the right thing to say in the moment.
Fury Road turns five tomorrow, May 14. Plans for a sequel have been circulating for the past few years, with Miller himself confirming Mad Max: The Wasteland as the working title. However, there’s been no recent major developments.
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The New York Times