'Max' without Mel? New 'Fury' in Oz

Charlize Theron is revving up for “Mad Max: Fury Road,” with producer-director George Miller set to start filming next August in Australia.

British actor Tom Hardy (“Black Hawk Down”) will also star opposite Theron.. Thesps are the first major castings announced in the fourth version of the futuristic “Mad Max” franchise, which has been dormant for 2½ decades.

Theron will next be seen in Dimension’s post-apocalyptic “The Road” opposite Viggo Mortensen.

Logline on the script, also penned by Miller, is being kept under wraps. Doug Mitchell is producing with Miller, and Warner Bros. is set to distribute.

Miller had announced last weekend that pre-production work was starting in New South Wales but he didn’t give any indication as to whether Mel Gibson might return or who would play the male lead. “It could be Mel, it could be anyone,” he told reporters.

Miller and the 21-year-old Gibson launched their careers with “Mad Max” in 1979, shot in Victoria and portraying a broken-down future society. The duo teamed on “The Road Warrior” (1981) — which was a worldwide success — and “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome” (1985).

Miller, who went on to produce “Babe” and direct “Happy Feet,” announced in 2003 that a script had been written with Brendan McCarthy for “Mad Max 4″ and that pre-production was in early stages, but security concerns over trying to film in Namibia put the project on the back burner.

Miller’s also directing “Happy Feet 2,” for which Warners has set a release date of Nov. 18, 2011.

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