Oscars: How 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Created All Those Race Scenes

Behind the Screen Mad Max Split- H 2016
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment; Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images; Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc./Village Roadshow Films

This story first appeared in the Feb. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Mad Max: Fury Road is one of only four films in Oscar history to have earned nominations in all eight of the so-called "craft categories" — cinematography, film editing, sound editing, sound mixing, makeup/hairstyling, production design, costume design and visual effects. (The other three films are The Revenant, 2003's Master and Commander and 1997's Titanic.) To ensure all the movie's various craftsmen were in sync with his vision — which first came into focus back in 1999 when he, comics writer Brendan McCarthy and storyboard artist Mark Sexton created more than 3,500 panels visualizing the film's post­apoc­alyptic world — director George Miller, 70, saw himself in the role of conductor. His goal, he says, was to make sure every­thing came together "in a way that's harmonious. Probably the most important obligation of the director is to be the guard­ian of the narrative, while watching the tonalities, textures, rhythms, colors, everything."

Miller didn't conduct from on high, though. During the $150 million production, which saw the filmmakers racing across the desert expanses of Namibia for 120 days, he was very hands-on. Miller monitored scenes from inside a camera car called the Edge, a four-wheel-drive vehicle that could plunge right into the action. He praises cinematogra­pher John Seale for also being "in the thick of it — on the top of the vehicles, underneath the vehicles." And he describes production designer Colin Gibson as a "wild man. If a vehicle is bro­ken down and the mechanics team is some­where else, he knows how to fix it."

Miller has particular praise for his film editor and wife, Margaret Sixel, for helping structure the film so that "the audience learns about the characters and what the world is about" even though in the Warner Bros./Village Roadshow production, which has grossed $377 million worldwide, "you are doing it on the run — there's no stopping for exposition."