I grew up in the 1970s.
A time when guzzoline* was cheap and the vehicles were heavy steel.
My mother drove a 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle. He was metallic green with a black vinyl roof.
I would sit in him alone on the coldest New Jersey mornings and warm him up for my family.
I remember touching the key to the ignition with the greatest of reverence for the power contained from the simple turn of my wrist.
It was a sacred time.
In 1982, a movie was released in the USA titled “The Road Warrior.”
It was filled with an apocalyptic vision that has all but come true today: politicians at a standstill mouthing words devoid of true power, global wars for gasoline, human life carrying little to no meaning save for one tribe which held the most fragile and yet most powerful of resources — hope.
I was too young to be allowed to see the greatest film ever made and so I waited for years. In the mid 1980s, I eventually found in my small-town library a worn and battered VHS copy on their shelves.
I remember standing at the desk waiting to check it out with the hope of a child that the librarian would not notice the restricted “R” logo burned into the rear of the box.
And he did not!
Secretly I went up to our attic TV room, not wanting my family to know I was watching such a film. My only memories of that first viewing are images tied tightly to my emotional core.
I remember the reddest of deserts racing past.
I remember a man whose only companion was his dog.
I remember a woman being brutally attacked (an image I turned away from as it was too painful for me to understand).
But most of all, I remember the greatest motion picture image I had and still have ever seen.
The screen is pitch black.
There is the sound of a jet engine.
We reveal the most powerful, frightening, and wonderful thing in the world: The Interceptor.
We fade out.
I begin working on films with the single-minded vision to work on only one in particular if it should ever happen. “Mad Max.”
Close to two decades have passed since I first saw “The Road Warrior.” I find myself in a parking lot on a cold December night in Santa Monica.
I am sitting in the first car I have ever bought.
A 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle who would later tell me her name is Grace.
I sit there holding my key to the ignition as I had done as a boy.
I introduce myself.
And then with the simple turn of my wrist, I open a new chapter as the power returns into my life.
I start my own tribe. A tribe of hope like the one seen in “The Road Warrior.” They are called The French Toast & Hugs Gang (FTX). We set up in public places around the world and offer all passersby free and unconditional love in the form of french toast and hugs.
I am working in New York City and have been awarded the nickname of “Toast” by the crew. The name sticks, as most people now know me by that rather than my birth name. I am fine with that.
I learn that a fourth “Mad Max” is to be made by the same man who made all the others — George Miller.
I am told it will shoot in the desert of Australia, but so removed that the crew will have to live off of generators for power and in tents for the duration of the shoot. There will be little to no communication with the outside world.
I couldn’t be happier.
I call George Miller’s production company in Australia and ask the receptionist for a production email so I can enclose my resume.
January 3, 2010
I write the story of renting “The Road Warrior” from my library as a child. I attach a photo of Grace in the California desert. And almost as an afterthought, I attach my resume.
My goal is to wish them well on their journey, knowing that my odds of being hired on this film are slim as most of the crew are to be Australian so that the money can go back into the economy of the country that created these masterpieces.
Eleven days later, they hire me!
The production is pushed, delayed, and slowed down due to many reasons. Eventually it resumes, but it has been decided we will shoot in Namibia rather than Australia for the extreme barrenness of their African deserts.
Buckle up, because events start to happen quickly now.
June 1, 2012
I fly to Namibia with my Coleman stove and a handful of bread knives in my suitcase with the hope to create FTX Namibia (French Toast & Hugs).
July 9, 2012
The first day of shooting.
The cars are massive.
The sounds are deafening.
The smell of fuel is overwhelming.
Coma, the Doof warrior with the flamethrower guitar, is playing a cacophony of speed metal noise over all of this.
I feel more alive than I ever have in my life.
As I race around tires that are almost twice as tall as me trying to get prepared for the first shot, I hear someone call my name.
It is George Miller!
“Toast, I need to talk to you.”
I get nervous, what did he need to talk to me about? Was I being fired?
“Last night I was having dinner with Zoe…” he continues. Meaning he was having dinner with Zoe Kravitz, one of the actresses in the film.
“Last night I was having dinner with Zoe and I was telling her about your French Toast Gang.”
My mind goes blank.
How the hell does George know about FTX?! How the hell does George know me!?
“And Zoe LOVES the idea of your gang. And I told her about you and how you are called Toast. And she asked me, because her character is the only one without a name yet, if she could name her character Toast after you. And so we’re going to change the script and name her Toast.”
I just stand there.
George repeats the story to me and asks if I get it.
I finally wake up and say, “Are you trying to tell me that one of the characters is named after me!?” To which he smiles, winks and says, “Yes.” And then is on his way to line up the shot.
September 30, 2012
After four months of prep, FTX Namibia finally touches down.
It’s not enough that I make lifelong friends with the crew of the film.
It’s not enough that my lovely Brandy flies out for the event.
It’s not enough that we get to feed 300 orphans who most likely have never tasted a single strawberry, let alone bowls of them with homemade gelato-covered french toast.
No, it’s not enough.
Because the producers of “Fury Road” decide I need to have Mad Max’s Interceptor at my event revving its engine the entire time.
This is the Interceptor I first saw close to 30 years before.
This is the seed that was planted in my imagination when I was a young boy that set me on my course. A black seed made of Australian steel.
December 12, 2012
I return home filled with memories of legend. My three-decade journey is complete.
We fade out.
Or so I thought.
May 7, 2015
The Los Angeles red carpet premiere of “Fury Road” takes place at the Mann Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Someone of my job title is never asked to attend one of these premieres. And with that I have no issue.
But the same cannot be said for George and the people that run his company. Because they respond to passion. They respond to heart. They respond to dreams.
And so tonight my lady Brandy and myself will be there. I’ll be wearing the same battered and beaten cowboy hat I wore those many months in the Namibian desert three years ago.
But before I get there I will sit in Grace, key held before ignition, I will turn my wrist for power and we will drive into history.
I end this with the last dialogue from the “The Road Warrior” as I feel they were words meant for me…
“As for me, I grew to manhood and in the fullness of time I became the leader, the Chief of the Great Northern Tribe. And the Road Warrior? That was the last we ever saw of him. He lives now only in my memories.”
*Editor’s Note: ‘Guzzoline’ is “Mad Max”-speak for gasoline; it’s also the spelling Miller used in his scripts.