When Mel Gibson first stepped out of that black Ford Falcon, armored in black leather and rage in 1979’s Mad Max, he became the newest incarnation of a centuries-old archetype—the lone righteous man yanked into heroism against his will. It was a character Gibson would revisit twice over in the 1980s’ The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, a role that catapulted him to stardom and cemented him as Hollywood leading man and action hero.
So it was with a bit of trepidation that British actor Tom Hardy took on the role of Mad Max. As a kid he always loved the character and the opportunity to take it on was too tempting to resist. “Who wouldn’t want to play Max?” says Hardy. “Out of all the characters that there are, with all the superheroes knocking about, here’s a guy who’s got an iconic superhero suit, in a way, but he’s not a superhero. And he’s in a very epic world of his own.”
But Hardy wouldn’t move forward without Gibson’s blessing. He asked the actor to lunch and brought him a goodwill token: a handmade bracelet fashioned out of military paracord. (In the new film, Hardy’s Max wears one just like it.)
“I was a little bit intimidated,” Hardy says. “Who wouldn’t be?”
But it worked. Gibson phoned Hardy’s agents after the meeting.
“He said, ‘I think you may have possibly found someone madder than I am,’” Hardy says. “That’s a compliment, right?”