New biography "Miller and Max" on bookshelves June 1

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New biography "Miller and Max" on bookshelves June 1

Postby biolumen » Thu May 25, 2017 11:52 pm


Miller and Max is the story of two heroes. One, the protagonist of the wildly successful Mad Max movies: a leather jacket–clad Road Warrior whose adventures in a dystopian future have made an indelible imprint on global popular culture. The other is the artist, George Miller, who created him: a softly spoken son of Greek and Turkish migrants whose life charts a spectacular course from a tiny Queensland town to the highest echelons of Hollywood.

George Miller would begin making his first film, Mad Max, in 1977 after privately raising $350,000 and hiring a no-name actor, Mel Gibson. Some people would be paid in slabs of beer. Edited in a kitchen, the film grossed more than $100 million worldwide and became the most profitable film ever made—a title it kept for two decades. Miller would go on to make more Mad Max movies over three and a half decades including Fury Road, which in 2016—against all odds—won a record-breaking six Academy Awards, the largest haul of an Australian film in history. In between times, with both success and failure in Hollywood and beyond, Miller’s quiet determination and audacious filmmaking is never more apparent than in the Mad Max universe.

Written with the cooperation of a role call of cast, crew, family and associates, Miller and Max gets behind the scenes and on set, as well as behind Miller’s sensible-sounding camouflage to reveal what’s really inside the man—which is more than a little Max Rockatansky.

‘A comprehensively researched and detailed dissection of the legendary Mad Max movies and of their extraordinary creator.’

David Stratton

‘A terrific achievement. An insightful, brilliantly researched and absolutely riveting account of an Australian icon and the filmmaker who created him.’

Margaret Pomeranz

About the author

Luke Buckmaster is an award-winning writer who has written about cinema since 1997. He is The Guardian Australia’s film critic, and chief critic for Daily Review. ... 071RY1347/
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Re: New biography "Miller and Max" on bookshelves June 1

Postby Stef-Man » Fri May 26, 2017 3:32 am

Thanks for the news, bio! I'll receive mine end of june.
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Re: New biography "Miller and Max" on bookshelves June 1

Postby biolumen » Fri May 26, 2017 10:18 am

A couple of excerpts.

How Mad Max was made - the story behind the epic

Luke Buckmaster, The Daily Telegraph
May 26, 2017 4:00am

When George Miller and Byron Kennedy knocked on the door of Melbourne stockbroker Noel Harman, Kennedy said: “We heard you take care of disasters, so here we are.”

Having exhausted the financial goodwill of friends and family, the filmmakers were still well short of the $350,000 they needed for Mad Max — a still-piddly amount of money for this kind of production, even in the 1970s.

They had been told the financial whiz might be able to help. Harman, who knew nothing about cinema but a lot about corporate structure and investing, agreed to take on the project. “Byron and George had been let down by a number of people,” he remembers. “And even though they were inexperienced, I was impressed by their professionalism.”

Under Harman’s guidance, they developed a plan whereby about 30 investors would be asked to chip in about $10,000 each. In addition to what they already had, this would be enough to make up the budget.

Harman compiled a document outlining a business case for investing in Mad Max, believing “there was a big gap in the market for something with heavy action”.

He envisioned the film getting a dual release in Australian theatres and drive-ins. Factoring in average audience attendance and a modest advertising budget, Harman argued it was possible for the film to have a combined local box office of just over $1.1 million, providing a reasonable return on investment.

His estimations ultimately proved extremely conservative — but nevertheless, the stockbroker says: “It was a risky investment.”

The success of Miller and Kennedy’s short film Violence In The Cinema Part 1 helped get investors over the line, and Harman proved to be the circuit-breaker the young filmmakers needed. His efforts were so successful, the trio found themselves turning back taxpayer funds offered to them by the Victorian Film Commission.

Thus Mad Max was entirely privately financed — an unusual occurrence in the Australian film industry, which relies on generous taxpayer-funded assistance.

“I wanted as much as possible to do it without government assistance and that’s exactly what we did,” Harman recalls.

With the money in place, Miller and Kennedy broached the task of casting Mad Max, never under any doubt which actor would have the biggest shoes to fill.

His name, after all, was the title of the movie, and the success of it would clearly be influenced by the person chosen to don the leather and channel the requisite hard-bitten charisma. Miller began the search for his Road Warrior in Los Angeles in 1976, but returned home empty-handed.

He knew a famous name would help sell the film at home and abroad; the problem, of course, was that famous actors tend to want money commensurate to their celebrity status.

Miller realised a massive chunk of their small budget would be consumed by such an actor, leaving even less for the stunts and action scenes.

The director and producer cast the net high and wide, auditioning scores of young men and screen testing some, but few inspired confidence.

They thought they had a winner in Irish-born actor James Healey, who had appeared in the Australian police procedural drama Homicide, but he turned down the role.

Australian casting agent Mitch Mathews encouraged the pair to meet some graduates from the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), a prestigious and picky Australian arts school, at the time accepting fewer than 30 students a year.

The school’s 1977 alumni included a handsome, fresh-faced, blue-eyed aspiring actor by the name of Mel Gibson. It also included one of his housemates, Steve Bisley.

The pair lived with two other young men in a run-down four-bedroom house near Bondi Beach in Sydney. The four students were poor, though they hosted plenty of alcohol-fuelled house parties.

Late one afternoon in September 1977, having screen-tested several people, Miller was feeling exhausted and pessimistic when Gibson walked through the door.

Miller felt shivers up his spine when he looked through the eyepiece of his camera: at last, here was the guy they were looking for.

“I remember George calling me and saying ‘Do you want to come and look at footage of some auditions? I think we’ve got a Max’,” production co-ordinator Jenny Day recalls.

“I remember going over there and seeing the audition with Mel and two or three other male NIDA graduates. There was no doubt that Mel had it. Everybody felt that. George felt that. Mitch felt that. I felt that.”

The search to find Max Rockatansky was over. Mel Gibson signed on. His housemate Bisley also joined the production, taking the role of Jim Goose, Rockatansky’s best friend. It was a coup for both of them.

“In Australia in those days there was not a big film market. People like George Miller were a totally new breed on the horizon,” recalls Faith Martin, who was Gibson’s agent from 1976 to 1979.

“When I started as an agent, all there was were classy productions in television and theatre, and that was pretty much it.” On the subject of her yet-to-be-famous client, she says: “It was clear even back then that there was a lot more to Mel than his looks. There always has been”.

In late 1977 Gibson was a major new talent on the cusp of celebrity. He was a playful but shy 21-year-old who relished taking the mickey out of himself and good-naturedly entertaining his peers: the proverbial class clown.

Before Mad Max came along Gibson had starred in one other movie — a laid-back, low-budget surfer drama called Summer City, which was released in 1976. It marks his first onscreen kiss, with (of all people) Steve Bisley again co-starring.

Now to cast the rest of the Mad Max. The inimitable Roger Ward was an Adelaide-born actor whose shaved head would go on to become the most iconic bald cranium in the history of Australian cinema.

Miller had him in mind to play Fifi Macaffee, Max’s chief at the Main Force Patrol. The director contacted the actor’s agent and arranged to visit Ward’s house in Balmain, Sydney, to meet him.

There is more than one notable George Miller in the history of Australian film and TV. The other, who went by the nickname Noddy, was well known at the time, having worked extensively in television productions throughout the 1970s, including directing Ward on episodes of Homicide.

So when the actor was told that George Miller was coming around to his house, he naturally assumed it was the George Miller he knew.

“When I heard he was coming over I said ‘Good-o’ and put a roast in the oven and got a couple dozen beers, because Noddy likes that,” Ward recalls. “Then this stranger turned up at the door wearing a bow tie. He looked like a schoolteacher. I said ‘Oh, sorry, I was expecting somebody.’ He said ‘Were you expecting George Miller?’ I said ‘Yeah, I am.’ He said ‘Well, I’m George Miller.”

Ward invited an apprehensive, non-Noddy Miller inside, encouraging him to tuck into the food and drink. “It took a few minutes but he came in. He had beers and we had lunch, and he ended up loosening up a bit,” the actor remembers.

“George was very nervous. He changed totally after the first Mad Max, but he was quite nervous at that stage. He showed me the script and I read the characterisation. I was quite excited.

“The script said Fifi had a bald, shaved head. I had always wanted to shave my head but I was always too scared. I thought well, this is an ideal opportunity.”

When Ward asked what kind of money he could expect, Miller meekly responded that money wasn’t something they had much of.

“That’s fine,” replied Ward, ‘‘but I’d like to get a grand a week.” The director recoiled — “oh God, I can’t pay that” — but the actor stood his ground. “That’s my going rate,” he said “and while I’d love to do the film, I really can’t go below that.”

Miller went quiet, got hold of his script and started working out figures on the back of it, not saying a word for 10 minutes.

Finally, he looked up and said ‘‘Yes, I can do it.”

“Fabulous, how many weeks?” asked Ward.

Miller replied: “One. I’ll cram all your work into one week.”

The rest of the cast was recruited in less awkward circumstances. One evening, after a play at Sydney’s now-defunct Nimrod Theatre Company, Miller waited in the lobby, Mad Max screenplay in hand, to meet one of the actors, Tim Burns.

The director had him in mind for Johnny the Boy, an erratic, overexcited, certifiable member of Toecutter’s bikie gang. He introduced himself to the actor and talked briefly about the character, handing him the script and encouraging Burns to audition. He didn’t need to be asked twice.

Things were very much off-key about the style of the performer the director cast in the role of the principal villain Toecutter. His name was Hugh Keays-Byrne, the Kashmir-born son of a British Indian Army colonel. The actor shocked Tim Burns once early in their encounters, grabbing Tim by the face, pulling him towards himself and growling “Johnny the Boy!” in a menacing tone.

Keays-Byrne, leading up to Mad Max, was a bikie in Stone and a criminal hanged for his sins in the TV series Ben Hall. On stage he played the part of Stanley in a 1976 theatre production of A Streetcar Named Desire. Then, of course, there was Toecutter — a nefarious, lipsmacking wack job of a character, charismatic in a feral sort of way. ... 043c968529

Mad to the Max

May 26, 2017 8:00pm
Luke Buckmaster

GEORGE Miller declared the Beyond Thunderdome set in Coober Pedy a dry zone: nothing – at least theoretically – stronger than tea or coffee. The Mad Max cast and crew, however, were not the kind of people to be told when, where or what they could drink.

Mel Gibson later revealed he was battling alcoholism during the making of this film and several others, downing a six-pack of beer with breakfast before arriving on location.

According to the 2004 biography Mel Gibson: Man on a Mission, he was provided “a driver and a minder so that their star would not end up in some small-town jail cell when he was supposed to be shooting a $10 million movie”.

But Gibson was not responsible for the carnage that engulfed Beyond Thunderdome: an alcohol and substance-infused symphony of on- and off-screen turmoil. Indeed, some of the shenanigans that took place could have done with a bit of his professionalism; by all accounts the actor was well-behaved and hardworking on set – remarkably so, perhaps, given the huge quantities of ethanol he was imbibing.

With the death of Byron Kennedy (the other half of the Kennedy Miller production company that made the Mad Max movies) hanging above it, Beyond Thunderdome was a production born under a dark cloud. Everything that could have gone wrong seemed to go wrong. Grant Page, the legendary stuntie whose skills were crucial to the crash-and-burn success of the original Mad Max, was back as the stunt coordinator.

“It was like there was a part missing,” he says, reflecting on the absence of Kennedy. “You couldn’t really read a difference outright. It’s just, you felt something wasn’t there that used to be. Something that no longer was. George was the person who would’ve felt it most.”

The budget for Beyond Thunderdome has always been kept under wraps, but is believed to be around $12 million. This made it by far the most expensive movie ever produced in Australia at the time.

A lot of people would be working on it; a lot of people would be partying.

Gary “Angry” Anderson, an Australian music icon and long-time friend of George Miller, was cast as the villain Ironbar. “Once we got to the desert it was f…in’ on for young and old,” recalls Anderson. “There was a lot of dope going around. A lot of cocaine. A lot of speed.” And of course, a lot of alcohol.

Anderson recalls one blurry evening at the local Greek restaurant, Tom and Mary’s, where the food was always good and management more than happy to cater to its influx of Thunderdome clients wandering in from the proverbial Wasteland (the restaurant to this day boasts of serving Mel Gibson and Tina Turner).

On this evening an altercation took place involving Mel Gibson and an angry local, who believed the actor was having an affair with his girlfriend. Recalls Anderson: “I went into the toilet with Mel to have a slash. By that time of course we were all three parts cut. We’d been in the restaurant, we’d had dinner, we’re drinking the retsina and some f…in’ beer and shit, then this guy comes in and pulls a f…in’ gun on Mel.

“He’s shouting, ‘You been f…in’ my girlfriend!’ This guy was a Yugoslav lunatic. He’s sayin’, ‘I’m gonna kill you, you f…in’ c…!’

“Ranny (a friend and colleague) steps in between him and Mel and says, ‘Look mate, no.’ He says the girl, with all due respect – or words to that effect – she’s just tellin’ stories. ‘Mel’s wife is here with him’ – which she wasn’t – ‘and Mel goes home to his missus every night’.”

Continues Anderson: “This mad guy is saying, ‘Is this true, is this true?’ We go, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s true, it’s true.’ It was only a little .22 f…in’ fiveshot revolver, but if he’d have stuck it up Mel’s nose it could have done some damage. That was the sort of thing that went on in Coober Pedy.”

The remote mining town didn’t have much in the way of nightlife. Aside from some places to eat, the other attractions were a drive-in theatre and Porky’s, the local watering hole. A sign on the wall there read: “Patrons, check guns and explosives at the bar”, providing some idea of the kind of clientele the place attracted.

One of its patrons – though certainly not the gun or explosives-wielding sort – was Mel Gibson. It’s not every day a big movie star fraternises with the locals at a place like Coober Pedy. Word got out that he and the Mad Max circus had come to town.

From his early years as an actor fresh out of NIDA, Gibson has shown signs of being uncomfortable with his celebrity status. He could hardly be further from the image of a snobby, holier-than-thou, elitist Hollywood type: Gibson was – perhaps still is – a larrikin at heart, with a soft spot for vulgar humour. Speaking to a Rolling Stone journalist reporting on the production of Beyond Thunderdome, Gibson, in his hotel room late at night, munching on gyros picked up from the Greek restaurant on the way home, described himself as the “guy that dances on tables, puts lampshades on his head, sticks his dick out in crowds”.

The actor, who was bestowed with People magazine’s first ever “Sexiest Man Alive” award one year after Thunderdome opened, was a sort of travelling human tourist attraction. Women came from miles to see him. One night Martin O’Neill shared a spot with Gibson on the floor of the pub as he hid from a pack of girls. The (very drunk) pair were engaged in what O’Neill remembers as a really ridiculous conversation.

“We were literally, physically under the table, having a heart-to-heart. Mel was telling me he was waiting for everyone to realise he was a total fraud and not a very good actor. He was saying we’re all going to wake up to him one day and it was all going to be over. I guess those kinds of thoughts are not uncommon among actors.”

Another night at Porky’s, Gibson was drinking with Karan Monkhouse, the stand-by props coordinator. Covered in dirt, dust and grime after a long day shooting in the desert, Monkhouse fended off a group of women hoping to catch a glimpse of the star.

“They said, “That’s Mel Gibson, isn’t it?”

“I said, ‘Don’t be ridiculous, do you think Mel Gibson would be sitting here having a drink with me? That’s his double’,” she recalls, laughing.

“Mel was just sitting there looking at his drink, because he didn’t like that sort of attention. They asked if the other film crew were coming. I said ‘yes, they’re watching the rushes now but they’ll be in later. Hang around if you wanna see Mel’.”

It wasn’t just prodigious amounts of alcohol that were consumed while making Beyond Thunderdome. As Monkhouse puts it: “Being the eighties, there was a giant ocean of drug use.” During the shoot police raided a location where one of the members of the stunt team was staying. Monkhouse remembers an emergency production meeting fronted by co-writer/co-producer Terry Hayes or producer Doug Mitchell.

“One of them stood up,” she recalls, and said, “I don’t want to know who’s got what, I don’t know what you’ve got, but get rid of it. Anyone caught with drugs will be instantly dismissed.

“We’re going to give you time to get rid of it.” So everybody suddenly went out into the desert and buried their stuff.

A few days after the raid, a handful of suspicious-looking strangers turned up on location, in the middle of nowhere, in a Bronco four-wheel drive. Angry Anderson watched as two of them got out of the vehicle and started mingling with the crew, while the other pair sat on the bonnet of the car and watched from afar. He suspected they were undercover police officers.

“A couple of the boys working on the crew had been ex-service, like ex-military,” recalls Anderson. “These boys had a bit of a walk around, came back and said, ‘Yeah, f…in’ oath they’re cops. They stick out like dogs’ balls.”’ Anderson announced that he was going to stir their visitors. The performer took a bottle of water, walked over to the pair sitting on the bonnet and shouted “Hey, does the force f…in’ supply you blokes with your own water?”

One of them looked at Anderson and said, “What makes you think we’re coppers?” Anderson shot back, “Oh, f…in’ please! You’re like nuts on a f…in’ cow! Tits on a bull! You’re coppers and we all know that. You’re here because of the drug bust.”

The mysterious men insisted they were “just sightseeing”. When the other two returned about fifteen minutes later, the four drove off and were never seen by the Beyond Thunderdome cast and crew again.

George Miller may not have partaken in excessive alcohol or drug consumption, but that is not to say the director didn’t put himself at risk in one way or another. One day while location scouting with cinematographer Dean Semler, a 40-knot southerly wind blew across the terrain, creating a severe dust storm.

The location manager George Mannix remembers people running around everywhere, their eyeballs clogged with sand, desperately trying to keep it off their faces.

The situation was, in his own words, “unpleasant, unhealthy, uncomfortable beyond endurance and dangerous beyond belief”. Miller and Semler were standing on a mound surveying the landscape in front of them. They were imagining what a shot would look like when Mannix ran up to them and informed the pair they needed to leave, very, very quickly.

“Those two were standing there with big grins on their faces saying “look at this” and “look at that!’,” recalls Mannix. “All George could see was how great it looked. It’s not that he was careless. He was a very compassionate man concerned about the health of the crew. A doctor. But all he could see was the shot and how to get it.

That’s the obsessive, tunnel vision of his. He’s got his goggles on and he’s looking through the frame to the exclusion of all else.”

Miller’s attempt to make Beyond Thunderdome a dry set wasn’t just about countering drunken shenanigans; it was also about safety. Alcohol dehydrates the body, which was particularly concerning given the cast and crew were working in excruciatingly hot environments. The Rolling Stone journalist described the temperature during the shoot as “homicidal”.

On one of the days, the journalist counted eight crew members collapsing from sunstroke and dehydration. The previous evening one of the camels had died, bringing the total camel death toll (according to the magazine) to three.

A unit nurse was on hand to distribute vitamins and lozenges for parched throats. “Don’t worry,” she told the Rolling Stone scribe, “everyone gets it. You’ll start spitting blood soon.” During one killingly hot morning out on The Breakaways, a reserve 32 kilometres north of Coober Pedy, a person in the kitchen suffered heat stroke and was rushed to hospital. Filmmaker Mark Lamprell, who was on set shooting a “making of” documentary, remembers it being so hot out there, people were keeling over all the time from heat exhaustion.

The heavy and elaborate costumes the cast were required to wear didn’t exactly cool them down, as Tina Turner was acutely aware. The star’s outfit was outlandish, even by costume designer Norma Moriceau’s far-out standards: a steel mail dress (with accompanying head adornments) comprised of bits and pieces of coat hangers, chicken wire and dog muzzles soldered together.

“The costume weighed like 70 something pounds (about 31 kilos),” Turner later said.

“I didn’t realise it was that heavy when I was doing the preparations, because I wasn’t standing that long in that dress. But I would have died for it.”

She didn’t die for it, but she did get a bit scalded. One day, when Turner was driving “Aunty’s Vehicle” (the actor was determined to do as much driving herself as possible) she turned to the person working on stand-by props and told them, “This dress is burning me.”

Recalls Karan Monkhouse: “The metal in the dress had heated up so much that when she took it off she had all these little red burn marks. She was such a trooper. She hadn’t complained until they got the shots.”

Another, far worse, burn-related accident took out Angry Anderson, who was rushed to hospital immediately afterwards and pumped full of pethidine. The final climactic chase scene in Beyond Thunderdome takes place around one of the more extravagant inventions in production designer Grace Walker’s outlandish armada: a hybrid train-locomotive.

Essentially it is a Mack truck with train wheels on it, which rides along a railway line.

After a gnarly collision Anderson’s character, Ironbar, is scooped up by the cowcatcher at the front of it. He then climbs onto the side, hissing like a possessed cat, and grabs onto a long pipe. The pipe swings out to the right, horizontally aligned with the ground. Ironbar hangs on for dear life as the Frankensteinian train–truck thing soars down the railway line.

George Miller wanted the pipe to emit steam, as if it were escaping where it was supposed to be attached to the engine. The problem, in the intense heat of Coober Pedy, was that any steam would evaporate instantly. To counter this, the special effects department decided to run a garden hose carrying dry ice inside the pipe. The dry ice would escape through a couple of nipples towards the end of the pipe.

The team practised a few times at slow pace then built up speed. By the time the cameras started rolling Anderson was hanging on, for real, while the vehicle moved at about 60 kilometres an hour. Unfortunately for him, during practice rounds the garden hose, frozen by the dry ice, had become brittle. It ruptured midway through one take, dry ice spilling into the metal pipe and scorching him – burning the whole palm of his hand, from the wrist down.

“My hand looked like a baseball glove. The blisters stood up on my hands and fingers half an inch, full of fluid,” Anderson recalls.

“I was swinging, hanging onto this body harness which was underneath my armour, and I’m screaming my head off. Grant (Page) who was in the camera car with George (Miller) realised something had gone wrong and ran to me.

“I’m holding my hand out for him to see. He told me later that all I was doing was yelling, ‘Cut it off, cut it off!’.”

Like Grant Page, Phil Brock – Mel Gibson’s stunt driver in the original Mad Max – returned to the Road Warrior’s universe to work on Beyond Thunderdome. The veteran stunt and precision driver laughs off the idea that a hugely increased budget might have brought about greater safety measures.

“One of the problems we had is that the vehicles were all built by an art department, for looks,” Brock recalls. “They didn’t give a f… as long as these things looked good. They’d say, ‘Come on, it’s your car, you’ll be right’.”

Grace Walker, whose team built the cars, adds: “I loved all those vehicles. But yes, they were death traps. The stunt drivers really hated me for it. They’d say, ‘How could you give us this sort of thing to drive?’ They weren’t made with any kind of safety concerns in mind. Some days they wouldn’t even start. Other days they run but not very well. They were shit boxes. Engines that were just about completely rooted. You’d be mad to drive them. But if someone arced up about it, I’d say, ‘Come on, you’re a stunt driver, shut the f… up’.”

The strange Mack truck–train hybrid was easier to drive than the rest, for the simple reason that it was attached to train tracks capable of only two directions: forwards or backwards. Given it was a Mack truck, and thus had a complicated gear system, a legend of the Mad Max universe was brought back to operate it: Dennis Williams, the truckie who performed the spectacular tanker roll at the end of The Road Warrior.

This time around it was a cakewalk for Williams. Not only did he not have to roll the thing, he didn’t even have to (and couldn’t if he wanted to) steer it.

The railway line where these scenes were filmed is known as The Ghan. The line might have been in the middle of nowhere, but a particularly busy spot was used for Beyond Thunderdome. “That’s the one line, up there in the centre of Australia, of course, so there was an enormous number of trains going,” George Miller said later.

“We’d get ready for a shot often, waiting for the right light, waiting for the right conditions and the right circumstances, and suddenly we’d have to avoid the shot because suddenly we heard the train was coming.”

If the stunts and vehicles posed some difficulty while making Beyond Thunderdome, they were nothing compared to the antics of the animals. Those delightful straw-seduced pigs of Underworld had behaved well, even if their arrival had summoned a rather stressful court case. The same cannot be said of Rodney the camel.

He is visible in the very first shot of the film, the first of six camels pulling along a rust bucket on wheels being driven by Max. Rodney was, by all accounts, a creature of foul temperament and unreasonable work ethic. George Ogilvie, who co-directed Beyond Thunderdome with George Miller, was known for his calm, gentle and Zen demeanour. But even Ogilvie was pushed past breaking point by Rodney.

“I never thought I’d hate a creature on this earth but Rodney, I did get to hate Rodney,” he later observed. “He was the largest camel, the lead camel, and very much a will of his own. Never again. I’ll never, never work with camels again, even if I’m offered the great camel trek of the world.”

For the filming of the opening scene, featuring the hump-backed prima donna, Rodney’s trainers desperately tried to bring him in line. Literally: he needed to lead the rest of the group in a straight line across the desert. Rodney – face in a constant furious furrow, mouth agape, roaring while stomping around in circles, minders helplessly pulling at ropes attached to his neck to try and contain him – was the worst kind of performer. Footage captured in the “making of” documentary reveals his shocking true colours, known to anyone at the time within a radius of several miles. He spat; he stormed at people; he let out furious screams.

A slightly better-mannered but still erratic cast member was a crab-eating macaque monkey named Sally-Anne. She is introduced when Max is stranded in the desert and about to discover the children at Crack in the Earth. The problem with Sally-Anne was not that she had no idea how film sets worked, but the opposite: she developed an understanding of what was going on then intentionally, strategically violated protocol.

“Sally picked up fairly quickly the whole routine of filmmaking and would be quite well behaved,” co-writer Terry Hayes later recalled, “before the first assistant director said ‘turnover’ – the signal to begin rolling camera and audio.”

As soon as the first said ‘turnover’, Sally refused to do what was required. Sally’s version of acting was to jump up and down on the spot. Endlessly. A freshly formed monkey unit “had to stand there and film Sally, until Sally by good fortune did something that would cut into the film”.

The situation was complicated by a rocky relationship between Mel Gibson and the monkey. Sally-Anne was one of few (if any) cast members to have disliked the star. Karan Monkhouse, who spent a lot of time with the animals (including Rodney and the pigs) remembers when the two met.

“The little monkey did not like Mel from the first day. He was wearing sunglasses – reflective sunglasses – so all the monkey could see when she met Mel was herself. She thought there was another monkey there. She was putting her little monkey hands out and grabbing his jacket, then she bit down on him as hard as she could. That was the start of a very unhappy relationship.”

The chaos that engulfed the making of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome – guns, drugs, burns, explosions, police, scorching costumes, wonky cars, grouchy animals, dust storms and so forth – also included two kinds of aviation concerns.

The first came about because of stunt coordinator Grant Page’s fondness for piloting ultra-light aircraft.

Throughout the shoot he would fly from the set to his hotel, landing and pulling up on the road outside. Page still has a letter sent to the production office from the local council at Coober Pedy. It reads: “Would you please ask Mr. Page to stop landing in the main street? He’s disturbing the tourist buses.”

The other aviation incident involved one of the sets built by the construction supervisor, Dennis Smith.

Near where the children live at the Crack in the Earth is a Boeing 747, which they cling to as evidence of a wider world. In lieu of an actual partly submerged 747, Smith and his team built a fake one in Kurnell, 21km south of Sydney’s CBD, on the international flight path for Sydney Airport. It looked so real it caused an influx of calls to the airport control tower.

For George Miller, making his first film without creative partner Byron Kennedy must have felt like madness in every direction. It would be nice to say the final result was a triumphant success. That would’ve been a Hollywood-style happy ending. Mad Max has never been very Hollywood.

Image ... 2daa928938

I'm wondering if the book delves into the convoluted history of Fury Road.
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Re: New biography "Miller and Max" on bookshelves June 1

Postby Copwatch » Fri May 26, 2017 9:52 pm

Pretty certain it does. There's an extended preview on Amazon for it, which includes the Chapter Index - there's a good four or five chapters dedicated to it, it looks like.
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Re: New biography "Miller and Max" on bookshelves June 1

Postby RobThom » Sun May 28, 2017 2:49 am

I'm only really into his first two movies, but I'd be completely fascinated to hear as much behind the scenes info about those two and how something so special and unreproducible happened as can be collected and made available

Its harder to get info on Australian stuff compared to hollywood endlessly self promoting its own junk that I never wanted to know so much about in the first place

"the convoluted history of Fury Road."

And I may not be crazy about Fury Road, but I would be interested in learning more about how did that happen/what was he thinking also

Looks like a good book
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Re: New biography "Miller and Max" on bookshelves June 1

Postby LukeBuckmaster » Fri Jun 02, 2017 1:08 am

Hi everybody

Luke Buckmaster here, the author of Miller and Max.

The e-book of Miller and Max is now available to purchase anywhere in the world. Here's a link:

If you live in Australia or NZ, the paperback is in book shops now. If you're in the US or the UK, it'll come to you in a couple of months. But like I said, the e-book is available right now worldwide.

Writing it has been a labour of love. I interviewed 79 people in total. I cover the making of all four Mad Max films, in detail. Among other things the book marks the first detailed account of the life and legacy of Byron Kennedy, his wonderful family supporting me throughout this journey.

Many of the stories in the book have never been published before. Some of them will surprise and shock you; others will make you laugh. I know you guys know a hell of a lot about Mad Max. Nevertheless, I guarantee that if you read my book you will learn things about Mad Max you never knew before.

If you have any questions about the writing of Miller and Max, I am happy to answer them. I would prefer not to go into too much detail about the contents of the actual book - simply because I would like you to read it for yourselves.

But if you have any questions about the writing, the research, or anything else, fire away! Also, I hope you enjoy it! Please let me know what you think.

Thank you
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Re: New biography "Miller and Max" on bookshelves June 1

Postby Nightwalker » Fri Jun 02, 2017 1:55 am

Is there a way to buy a paperback copy by someone outside the English speaking territories like the wasteland called The Netherlands?
Would love to have one (and read it ;) )
"UNDERSTEER" is when you hit the fence with the front of the car.
"OVERSTEER" is when you hit the fence with the rear of the car.
"HORSEPOWER" is how fast you hit the fence.
"TORQUE" is how far you take the fence with you.
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Re: New biography "Miller and Max" on bookshelves June 1

Postby LukeBuckmaster » Fri Jun 02, 2017 4:22 am

Hi Nightwalker

Thanks for your interest. I will ask my publisher and get back to you.

I suspect you might have to wait a little bit to get it in your territory/wasteland.

However, if you want to read it, maybe buy the e-book first, and get the paperback later? Sorry I can't be more specific at this point in time.
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Re: New biography "Miller and Max" on bookshelves June 1

Postby Nightwalker » Fri Jun 02, 2017 12:51 pm

Don't worry, I'll wait for the paperback.
I don't like e-books. I can't read books from a screen. Just give me the feeling of real paper in my hands. (and a paper book still functions after an apocalypse :lol: )
"UNDERSTEER" is when you hit the fence with the front of the car.
"OVERSTEER" is when you hit the fence with the rear of the car.
"HORSEPOWER" is how fast you hit the fence.
"TORQUE" is how far you take the fence with you.
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Posts: 1282
Joined: Tue Aug 16, 2005 9:43 am
Location: In a country that's 26% below sea level.

Re: New biography "Miller and Max" on bookshelves June 1

Postby Trundlefish » Fri Jun 02, 2017 1:46 pm

Hey Luke,

Your book looks great and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading some of the excerpts on here.

I was all set to buy a copy from Amazon U.K. (as it was listed as being published on the 4th June, 2017), but now it has jumped to 2nd November, 2017!!!

Is this a mistake or was the original release date wrong for the U.K.?

Best of luck with the book and I hope it's a success...because it should be, as Mad Max reading material is scarce!
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