eventually became involved with it too. but up to that point it had never actually occurred to me that you could really do it yourself.‘ Meeting at a Melbourne film workshop with one Byron Kennedy. Miller found ‘someone whose ideas on movies. and what movies should be were very similar to my own‘ and the pair formed an instant partnership. As the production company Kennedy-Miller they spent years working on experimental shorts and a longer documentary before coming up with a script for a feature film to be entitled Mad Max. All they then had to do was to find the money to finance it.
It took two years of intensive grovelling. We all know about the blossoming of the Australian film industry in the mid to late seventies. brought about by a healthy programme ofgovernment
investment and producing such
memorable works as Peter Weir‘s Picnic at Hanging Rock and Bruce Beresford‘s The Getting ofWisdom. but the system did have its drawbacks. ‘Everything was done by committee. lfyou wanted money you had to talk to several committees. so the tendency was towards conservatism. And there I was. wanting to make Mad Max. in a country with no tradition of that sort of movie, and I had only really made experimental things before.‘ Somehow Miller managed to unlock halfa million dollars (Australian) from their grasp and went off to the desert to make his movie. collecting a young Mel Gibson from the National Institute of Dramatic Art on the way.
‘I was really disappointed with Mad Max when I finished it. I suppose it‘s the same for everyone
and think “now why didn‘t we do this or that differently." Still. you learn so much from it. In fact I was really surprised when it began to do so well. not only in Australia but all over the world. I think why it succeeded in so many cultures was that Max was in the tradition of the heroic archetype. a tradition going back over centuries ofstorytelling. Which was great because whenever we went abroad we could say all these different things about it — in Japan Max was a samurai. in France Max was a western gunfighter. and so on.
‘I don‘t think that all along the line we were considering doing a sequel. but then we came up with the story of the tribes fighting over petrol. That actually arose from a fuel strike we had in Australia several years back. two weeks and people were nearly
shooting each other over the queues at the pumps. 80 we thought that there was a good idea for a movie in there, and Mad Max 2 was born. It‘s really what we would have wanted to do on the first one, but couldn‘t because we didn‘t have enough money. There was a great deal more planning involved in the chase sequences.’
The enormous success of Mad Max 2 in the US (under the title The Road Warrior) led to an invitation from Steven Spielberg to direct one of the four segments on Twilight Zone: The Movie. Miller‘s Nightmareat20,000 Feetstory. with John Lithgow as a pathologically nervous air traveller was the highlight ofa rather lacklustre portmanteau. but Miller did have his initial reservations about going to Hollywood; ‘I thought it was going to be run by the unions. I‘d heard that there were rules about the director not being allowed to look through the camera. that you couldn‘t pick up a paper cup ifyou dropped it because that was the cleaner‘s job. It wasn‘t quite so bad as that but there were a lot of old. tired technicians. so I suppose I was quite lucky to work with the young crew that shot E. T. for Spielberg. We did it in ten days which was quite exciting. But I don‘t really like the confinement of the studios though.‘ Thus. for the short term at least. a permanent move to Hollywood seems unlikely.
Unlikely. especially since Kennedy-Miller are now one ofthe largest TV production companies in Australia. Despite Kennedy‘s tragic death in a helicopter crash in mid-1983. Miller has now become heavily involved in making mini-series. taking on both production and writing duties. but restricting his activities as director. This seems to be the direction that Miller‘s career is taking. ‘There are three stages to movie-making. and I enjoy the first and the third. Writing and editing I find tremendously exciting. but the actual physical process ofgoing out and shooting the thing can be a bit of a chore. I‘m really wakening up to the possibilities of the control you can exert over a film from the writing stage. writing visually. I would say that my priorities now are writing. producing. then maybe directing. But I would like to move on from Mad Max. I‘d really like to do comedy for instance. because Buster Keaton is probably the director I admire most.‘
A pity that the world‘s most gifted and exciting action director seems to be slowing down in his old age. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome looks like the work ofa man who wishes people thought he was ‘deep instead ofjust macho‘ — yet. despite the would-be portentous jabbering of the lost children. it is the action set-pieces that still stand out.
Then again. there‘s always that rather dubious story about the twin brother back in Australia. Perhaps he‘s the real psycho who likes impaling punks. and who sends his brother off on promotional tours. Perhaps we haven‘t seen the last of the ‘real‘ George Miller yet.
The List 18—31 October 3