Director George Miller has quite the variety of movies under his belt: His film credits include the family-friendly Happy Feet and Babe: Pig in the City as well as the cruder Mad Max trilogy. Now, the Australian filmmaker is visiting Comic-Con for the very first time to promote the fourth in the Mad Max series, Mad Max: Fury Road starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron.
Miller stopped by EW’s Comic-Con Hideout to explain why Mad Max: Fury Road is “basically a western on wheels,” his action movie inspirations, and why you won’t be seeing much CGI in his latest film.
EW: Welcome to Entertainment Weekly’s Hideout. I am honored to tell you that I am here with director George Miller, of course, of the Mad Max film fame, and Happy Feet, and Babe: Pig in the City, a personal favorite of mine. George, thank you for joining us.
George Miller: Really great pleasure. Thank you.
Have you been here at Comic-Con before?
Never, I’m a Comic-Con virgin. I’ve heard about it.
You’re not the only Comic-Con virgin here.
Really? Not, not you?
Or at least, not the only virgin at Comic-Con. [Laughs] How have you been enjoying it?
I’ve heard so much about Comic-Con and then had the opportunity to come. And I felt so much at home here. I felt like I was of the tribe. It’s fantastic, yeah.
I will tell you, last year, I saw someone dressed as Lord Humongous. He was a little slightly too humongous for the leather trappings, but… yeah. A lot of huge fans here. So we have Mad Max: Fury Road coming up soon, but for you it’s been a long, long road. Are you excited to have it, kind of have the finish line in your sights?
Yeah, I do. It’s been way too long. It kind of is a crazy undertaking, and stuff got in the way. We were rained out of Australia, we just… lots of stuff happened. You become the prisoner of your dreams, really. You buy into the story, you start making it, pretty soon, you’re spending over 100 days in the desert, Namibia, doing old school kind of stunts day after day after day. And thinking, oh boy, we’ve got to be really careful we don’t hurt people. But somehow, we’ve got it there, and it’s coming to the end. And we’re getting really good response, which is always gratifying.
I feel like a lot of people are very excited about the idea that you’re doing old school stunts, old practical effects. Was that very important to you, going into it?
Yeah, Mad Max is not a superhero. We don’t defy the laws of physics, it’s not a fantasy film. It’s basically a western on wheels. And I think if people see, I know when I see too much CG, that sort of takes me out of the experience. You want to have that sort of almost, I’m not going to say documentary experience, but you want to feel it like you’re really immersed, like it’s really happening. So we decided to literally do every car that’s smashed is smashed, every stunt is a real human being, even the actors do a lot of their own stunts, and so on.
You described the movie as essentially one long action sequence. Are there any particular action sequences that have really inspired you from cinema history?
Way back, you know, I’m one of those people. Film language is a relatively new language. It’s not too, 120 years old, we all seem to pick it up even before we read, it was developed over that period of the time, in the silent movies, the Buster Keaton movies, the Harold Lloyd, really started to make the action movie. And if you look at those movies, they basically defy, you know, the westerns, the car chases, the whatever, they were kind of a pure film syntax and I was always caught up with that.
The General is basically one long…
The General, yeah. Believe it or not, I learned to make Mad Max by watching films like The General. And then the early Spielberg movies, Duel and stuff like that. And you know, all those masters. And then, so, doing this as a long chase is just going back to that. I like to call it visual music. It’s like music for deaf people. There are rhythms, when you talk to the composers, you are talking about the exact same thing as we’re talking about in the editing room and so on. As a film exercise, it’s really interesting. And as a story, you’re just trying to get the story out of your head and into some real world up on the screen.