Even before Mel Gibson made an unannounced appearance on the red carpet for “Mad Max: Fury Road,” energy was high at the Hollywood premiere of George Miller’s action epic, as the cast and producers reunited for the first time since the Warner Bros. production wrapped filming more than two years ago.

“It’s so good that this film has finally made it to the screen, because we shot it almost three years ago, and then it’s been an idea of George’s for over a decade,” Megan Gale (Valkyrie) told Variety. “It’s been a labor of love not just for us but definitely for George Miller, so I’m so thrilled for him that it’s here.”

Labor was the operative word, especially for Miller: “People often say it’s like giving birth — it’s the closest a man gets to it, and it’s been a long labor, but the baby’s here,” he laughed. “Now we’ll push it out into the world and see what it does.”

Star Tom Hardy is certainly hoping that it does well enough for a sequel or three, telling Variety, “On the level of really cool characters to play in an epic franchise, Max is right up there. There’s no CGI — very, very little — and it’s brutally visceral.”

The thesp compared Max Rockatansky to Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones, noting, “There’s a human level of ‘everything hurts,’ and a little bit of cowardice — imperfections that are human, so there’s a character to play there. I’ve landed a really great opportunity because there’s more to breathe into him, there’s further to go with him. I hope everybody enjoys it so I can come back and investigate him more now that I know what I’m doing.”

Miller admitted that he definitely has enough material to keep the road trip going, even if the prospect is a little daunting with “Fury Road” still a week from its May 15 release.

“We’ve got other stories and other scripts, but it really depends on how this goes and whether everyone — particularly me — has an appetite to go back into the wasteland. Going back to the baby analogy, it’s like asking a woman who’s just given birth, ‘You wanna try it again?’ ‘No!'” he laughed.

The cast and director were thrilled to see Gibson on hand at the premiere, and the 59-year-old star seemed happy to pass the “Mad” mantle on to Hardy, embracing him warmly before the two posed for photos on the carpet.

Image courtesy of Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

“Obviously, he was brilliant and the original Max, wonderful at it,” Nicholas Hoult (Nux) enthused. “I know [Gibson and Hardy] had dinner before, so it’s great to have his support.”

Hugh Keays-Byrne, who plays “Fury Road’s” villainous leader Immortan Joe, also appeared in the 1979 original as Toecutter, and remarked that things have changed considerably in the intervening years. “That was 37 years ago and so tiny, so scary because of its tininess, and this is so big, and scary because of its bigness,” he laughed. “I had it easy because I’m playing the boss, and everybody treated me like that — and they were surprised I was still alive, because most of them weren’t born when we did the first one.”

“Fury Road” differentiates itself from typical action fare by giving its female characters just as much agency as its male protagonist, with Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa more than holding her own opposite Hardy’s titular hero.

“He’s a loner and he’s pretty fierce and a survivor, so to see the — for lack of a better way of putting it — female version of him gives it a really new, fresh injection into the franchise,” Gale noted. “It’s a true testament to George; he’s always embraced the philosophy of not making women these wilting victims onscreen. Especially in this kind of world — kill or be killed, you have to survive — he embraces women as strong and capable characters.”

Despite Furiosa driving much of the narrative (figuratively and literally), Theron insisted, “It really, truly is an ensemble piece; I think Tom and I feel that way — the whole cast is what makes the movie, so I’m really happy to be a part of the ride with everybody else. I’m just really happy and proud that George stayed the course and stuck it through with an idea that I thought was so brilliant with Furiosa.”

The South African thesp also credited Miller with creating such believable character dynamics onscreen: “It just felt real; the relationship between all the women felt very authentic to me. I loved how so many different generations were represented in this movie in such a truthful manner. Not in a ‘look how strong we are, we can fight too’ [way] — it really felt like I was surrounded by real women and we were all playing real women, and that was very nice.”

The cast seemed equally in awe of Hardy’s performance, which sees Max near feral and almost silent (save for his scattered internal monologue) for much of the opening act. “He’s one of the most talented actors of his generation; just phenomenal to be around, to watch how he crafts characters,” Hoult said. “Every take’s different, and you’re never sure what he’s going to do, and I think that’s what makes him so watchable.”

Next up for Hardy is Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “The Revenant” — which reunites him with his “Inception” co-star Leonardo DiCaprio — and Brian Helgeland’s “Legend,” in which he portrays twin London gangsters Ronald and Reginald Kray. After that, a more personal project: “Taboo,” a TV series that the British actor is developing with his “Locke” director Steven Knight, “Black Hawk Down” helmer Ridley Scott and father Chips Hardy, through his Hardy Son & Baker production banner.

The BBC/FX co-production won’t be Hardy’s first smallscreen role — he most recently appeared in Knight’s “Peaky Blinders” — and the actor insisted “there shouldn’t be a stigma” when it comes to actors transitioning between film and television. “There should be no difference between a $5 performance and a $50 million performance… a goldfish grows to the size of its bowl, and every medium is just as important as each other, so I like to get out and try everything, to tell stories in different ways in all the different mediums… whether it’s radio, press, theater, film, even writing,” Hardy told Variety. “There’s so many different mediums to use when it comes to acting and directing and producing, so why opt out of something where you can extend character? You can do an awful lot with TV that you can’t do with film.”

Following the raucous “Fury Road” screening at the TCL Chinese Theatre (during which the crowd cheered and applauded throughout), attendees crossed the rain-soaked street to the tented parking lot of the El Capitan Theatre for a sprawling after-party, which was adorned with skulls, rusted car parts and acrobats suspended above the crowd on swinging platforms in homage to the one of the film’s most memorable setpieces.

“Mad Max: Fury Road” hits theaters on May 15.