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METHOD IN HIS
Mad Max, the character that shot Mel Gibson to
fame, returns for the third time with more bloody
deeds. Trevor Johnston talks to director George Miller, as the new film opens in Scotland.
The Mad Max movies replace horses with post—apocalyptic buggies and bikes but the name of the game is the same. They are the Eighties equivalent of a good ol‘ cowboys and injuns picture, with plenty ofsock it to ‘em action. The original film Mad Max came out of Australia in 1979 and much to writer-director Dr George Miller‘s surprise gained a not unsubstantial cult following in many places. It was the release ofa sequel three years later Mad Max2 which took the scenario beyond the apocalypse and (unbelievably) increased the action quotient, that brought the series to the attention of a much wider public. A massive success throughout the world, it shot Antipodean blue-eyed boy Mel Gibson to icon status almost ovemight, and proved a launching pad for his subsequent film career.
In the midst ofa chaotic post-holocaust neverneverland. Gibson‘s leather-clad warrior, in fine cinema tradition, stood up for his belief in doing the right thing— and the audience cheered him all the way. But was that the last we were ever to see of Max? Tina Turner now sings to us that ‘we don't need another hero’, yet box office returns on Indiana Jones, Rocky and Mad Max show that the public has other ideas.
Thus, George Miller has unleashed Mel Gibson‘s steely gladiator to run amok in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. This time our hero comes up against the daunting figure of a chain mail-encrusted Tina Turner, in what amounts to a jolly scrap over a large pile of pig shit. Before you ask. by the way, the afore-mentioned unsavoury substance gives off methane gas, very handy as a power source when the world has run out of fuel.
Quite understandably. l was expecting some sort of psycho to walk in the door. Anyone who makes movies where
mohican-coiffured baddies get impaled on the fronts of speeding tanker lorries has got to be slightly unhinged. Then he walked in. straggly long hair, dashing beige jacket, and a jaunty pink bow-tie making him look for all the world like an ageing hippy crossed with an eccentric uncle.
He sat down and told me the story of how Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome came about. ‘Well. we had no thoughts of doing a third one really. But we were working on a story about a tribe of lost kids out there in the desert, who because they’ve been isolated over the years. begin to make up their own legends around the few artefacts they have left. That sort of thing about primitive tribes has always interested me. It lets you explore belief— belief without knowledge — and relationship between the two. Anyway, we had all those kids out there, and then it seemed to turn into another Mad Max movie. because that gave us another direction entirely in which to take the character. So we didn‘t set out specifically to make a third one, but I was really attracted by the story. The story has to be good. And I don‘t think we would have done another one had we not felt that it definitely expanded on and developed the other two.‘
Yet he still had to convince Mel Gibson. Wasn't he wary of being typecast? ‘Well, you know Mel's really a no-bullshit kinda guy, so we ﬂew him in from his big ranch out in Australia where he lives and got him into a room where we told him the story. And it ended up that he liked it as much as we did. Max is really more human in this one. so it gave him a new dimension to his role.‘ Another new dimension to the current film is the imposing presence ofTina Turner as Aunty Entity, Queen of Bartertown, the pig shit powered trading centre from which
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Max is banished because he has broken the law ofThundcrdome. (‘Two men enter, one man leaves‘) by showing mercy — all in the service ofTurner's tyrannical Queen, who hires him as a hit man to sort out her opponents. She turns in a snarling, boisterous performance which is the perfect foil for Gibson‘s man of few words.
Miller explains how she joined the production - ‘lt came about from the writing stage. We had this Aunty Entity character, and it was at one of the story conferences where we were talking over and defining the role that someone said “she‘s just like Tina Turner!" and so we eventually decided to get in touch with her. She came over to Australia, talked it over, and we just went on from there. She‘s quite remarkable. Very dedicated. and I‘ve never met anyone who‘s so sure about what she
wants. I mean, when she was working with us on pre-production she was offered the lead in Steven Spielberg's film The Colour Purple (His ‘serious‘ effort, a story oflife in the deep South during the depression — TJ) which is probably the best role for a black actress in the history of the cinema, yet she turned it down because she said she had come out ofall that and didn‘t want to go back. She practises this form of Zen Buddhism, and I think it gives her a very clear outlook on her life.‘ All ofwhich is a far cry from the times when Miller was a medical student, so bitten by the movie bug that he sent his twin brother to lectures while he worked on scripts. ‘Really, you know, all this is probably my brother‘s fault. He was the one who started making his own little film for a student competition before I had even thought ofit. l
2 The List 18—31 October