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In the early 1970s, Australian director George Miller traded medicine in for film.
While in med school at the University of New South Wales, Miller took a film course at Melbourne University, where he met Byron Kennedy, with whom he would go on to operate the production house Kennedy Miller until Kennedy’s death in 1983.
Their first feature, 1979’s Mad Max, which Miller helped fund by working shifts as an emergency room physician, set a world record for most profitable film upon release, grossing $100 million-plus worldwide on a budget of less than $1 million, and made a star out of its lead, Mel Gibson.
Its success spawned sequels Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. “Working with George is exhausting, but intellectually stimulating,” says Road Warrior and Thunderdome screenwriter Terry Hayes with a laugh. “He’s one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met in my life.”
The third installment, which THR described as “a slyly optimistic film with enough rattle-trap action and bizarre confrontation to attract an audience of Mad Max stalwarts,” left off with Gibson’s Max struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic desert town.
Thirty years on, Miller, 70, is back with Mad Max: Fury Road, which premiered here May 14 and has pulled in $109 million to date. Tom Hardy stars in the role originated by Gibson.
“The character hasn’t aged as the actors have,” jokes Hayes, who isn’t affiliated with the new film. “It was inevitable that the film was going to be recast, and I think Tom Hardy is absolutely fantastic in it.”
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Santa Barbara International Film Festival