‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Director George Miller on Keeping His Crew Safe on an Intense Set

The artisans on “Mad Max: Fury Road” earned a whopping six Oscars, the most of any film at the 2016 ceremony. Director George Miller spoke with Variety about maximizing the creativity of his team.

How do you create the right mood in filmmaking?

It usually starts with the camera crew and the director’s unit — I call it the “circle of grace.” They need to have a calm discipline around the camera so people can perform optimally. I can never understand how people can do their best work under extreme tension.

The “Fury Road” production was intense.

Sometimes the pressure is extreme, and it’s soon evident who can work optimally under pressure. People who start in the industry learn quickly that they need to be focused and calm under pressure. They’re like extreme sportsmen; one mistake can be disastrous. Everyone wants to do a good job, but some people tend to panic if they feel things are getting out of control. They need to stay very intently focused. I think it’s something intrinsic, and often determines if a person has a long career.

Safety must have been a major concern.

Safety was critical. We had a big, tall, New Zealand safety supervisor named Sean Rigby. When you look at him, he seems intimidating, but he was kind and alert. He was never dictatorial and never shouted, but everyone was conditioned to do exactly what he said. They knew he was there to keep them safe. His manner filtered through assistant directors, the stunt crew, everyone.

Is that something you look for when hiring?

It’s like putting a sporting team together. It’s not just gathering a group of champions, but people working as a team. You’re looking for people who are filmmakers — who see the whole of the film, and not just their specific job. It’s a way of saying, “We’re all here together.”

What’s an example of that kind of teamwork?

Makeup is critical to actors’ performances. The makeup artists have to understand what kind of scene is being played that day; they’re part of preparation for
the actor.

Is the payoff in efficiency or creativity?

Both. A director in many ways is like a football coach. Part of a director’s job is to create strong strategies. If you do that well, everybody is free to express themselves in a great, creative way. That’s one of the most important things in the “circle” preparation stage. That same principle works with design, camera, sound, music; if you get really good people, there’s a tremendous creative energy that’s harnessed. If they’re good, they’ll give a special quality to the film. … When you get a team like that, you’re in good hands.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • The Sweeties

    China's Phoenix Buys Italian Body-Positivity Comedy 'Sweeties'

    Chinese distributor Phoenix Entertainment Group has bought all China rights to the Italian comedic drama “The Sweeties” from Germany-based Media Luna New Films. The movie is the second feature from director Francesco Ghiaccio and stars Valeria Solarino, Vinicio Marchioni and four young newcomers in their acting debut. It deals with issues of bullying and body-shaming [...]

  • The Upside TIFF

    'The Upside' Poised for China Theatrical Release

    “The Upside,” a 2017 American remake of the 2011 hit French drama “The Intouchables,” will get a China release on Nov. 22. The film was directed by Neil Burger and stars Nicole Kidman, Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston. It tells the story of an unlikely friendship that forms between a rich quadriplegic and the struggling [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Virginia Leith, Female Lead in Stanley Kubrick's First Film, Dies at 94

    Actress and model Virginia Leith, who starred in Stanley Kubrick’s first film “Fear and Desire,” which he later disavowed, has died. She was 94. According to family spokesperson Jane Chalmers, Leith died after a brief illness at her home in Palm Springs, Calif. on Nov. 4. Born on Oct. 15, 1925, Leith met Kubrick in [...]

  • Sarah Bolger's 'A Good Woman Is

    Film News Roundup: Sarah Bolger's 'A Good Woman Is Hard to Find' Bought by Film Movement

    In today’s film news roundup, “A Good Woman Is Hard to Find” and “After Parkland” find homes, Jack Johnson is honored, AGC closes deals on Neill Blomkamp’s latest and Paramount is in talks for a “Power to the People” project. ACQUISITIONS Film Movement has bought North American rights to the thriller “A Good Woman Is [...]

  • Sir Lionel Frost (left) voiced by

    Chris Butler Looks At The Magic Behind Animating 'Missing Link'

    Laika’s latest feature “Missing Link” raises the bar once again for the world of stop-motion, pushing boundaries in scope and visuals. The story of an unlikely friendship between Mr. Frost and his 8-foot yeti buddy Link is one of hope. “Missing Link” producer Arianne Sutner says the message of the film was to “leave people [...]

  • Jonah Hauer-King Prince Eric

    'Little Mermaid' Live-Action Movie Finds Its Prince Eric

    Jonah Hauer-King will soon be a part of the “Little Mermaid” world. The newcomer has been tapped to play Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action remake of the animated classic. At one point, Harry Styles was is in early talks for the role, but ended up passing. Hauer-King has had two screen tests, with the most [...]

  • Peter Caranicas

    Variety's Peter Caranicas to Receive 1st HPA Legacy Award

    Peter Caranicas Variety managing editor, features, will be honored with the first HPA Legacy Award. Caranicas joined Variety as features managing editor in 2008, and currently serves as both deputy editor and managing editor, features. He has developed the editorial franchises Dealmakers Impact Report, Hollywood’s New Leaders, Legal Impact Report and Business Managers Elite. Caranicas also [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content