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George Miller Pays Tribute to His ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Below-the-Line Crew

Everything about “Mad Max: Fury Road” is mind-boggling: 15 years from inception to premiere; 3,500 storyboard images; nine months in the Namibian desert, often with 20 cameras and up to 80 vehicles; 480 hours of footage tightened into two hours, with 2,700 edits for the final print. In this interview, director George Miller pays tribute to his below-the-line colleagues.

Cinematographer: John Seale

“He was the great camera operator during the Australian-cinema resurgence. Everyone wanted to use him. Now, he’s a great cinematographer and still a great operator, which is important in a tight space. For example, when you’re working in the cabin of the War Rig (Charlize Theron’s vehicle), that’s seven or eight actors in a very limited space, and the whole thing was in motion. But he was always gentle, elegant. He was highly influential in creating a safe space for the actors, and that’s a big deal. To him, it’s as much about the performance as about composition. He had wanted to retire, and he turned 70 during the shoot, but he was right in the thick of it, and was very agile with cameras, and always with calm and artistry.”

Editor: Margaret Sixel

“Ah, the love of my life, and the mother of my two teenage boys. She hadn’t done an action movie, and didn’t think she would be right for this. But she’s done quite a few documentaries, and can take material that looks ordinary and fashion a real story. We dumped massive amounts of footage on her. We had lots of digital cameras shooting because they’re (relatively) cheap, and a (digital) card ran 40 minutes. She had storyboards and script, but can be dispassionate about footage, which is what you need. She knew what I intended, but she looks at what’s on screen, which is not always the same. That’s important. I knew she could find the rhythm. Like a composer, you have to find the tempo, the progression, the melodic line. You look for the relationship between one moment and the next. She spent a lot of time on the film; it wasn’t fair to our kids, but they thought it was cool that their mother was editing an action movie as opposed to ‘Happy Feet.’”

“We had lots of digital cameras shooting because they’re relatively cheap.”
George Miller

Hair/makeup designer: Lesley Vanderwalt

“She brought great skill and she’s also a great leader, in the way the hair and makeup team prepares the actors. That’s how actors start their day, and a fine crew will be sensitive to that. She’s understood the characters and the restrictions. Sitting in a War Rig hurtling across the desert, you couldn’t stop to do touch-ups. Charlize had a makeup kit to do it herself, and Lesley designed a look that could be striking but easy to touch up.”

Production designer: Colin Gibson

“I think he had fun, especially with the vehicles. One of the guiding ideas of the film: Everything has to be made from found objects. Max’s mask is a garden fork; the guitar on the car uses a hospital bedpan. Colin and his team took a steering wheel, a doll’s head and found how to use them. Even though it’s the wasteland, people can make beautiful things. Colin is almost impossible to describe. There were times I thought he was triplets. He’s everywhere, on top of a cliff with a motorbike, the next minute he’s down the road, painting a fake rock. He’s not afraid to tell you what he thinks, which is very valuable.”

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