“Mad Max: Fury Road” is full of memorable explosions and non-stop action beats, but the most iconic moment has nothing to do with fighting or driving. After learning from the remaining Mothers that her home (the Green Place) no longer exists, Charlize Theron’s Furiosa walks alone out into the desert and, overcome with despair and agony, drops to her knees and screams. It’s the most vulnerable moment in “Fury Road,” and George Miller looks back on creating it in a new conversation with Entertainment Weekly.
The first noticeable creative choice in the scene is when Miller overlaps the voices of the Mothers once Furiosa hears about the devastating fate of the Green Place. Miller’s camera stays locked in a close-up of Furiosa’s face as the Mother’s voices become tangled in her head.
“When anybody receives really devastating news it gets a little fragmented,” Miller said of his intentions with the overlapped dialogue. “You’re picking up enough of the story so you understand something bad had happened without giving an environmental report on the place, and it was played on her face.”
Miller storyboarded the entirety of “Fury Road,” so none of this scene was scripted beforehand. Miller told EW that all he knew he wanted out of the moment was for Furiosa to take a moment for herself and to shoot that moment from a distance. The wind in the African desert proved troublesome during the day of filming, and it was so strong it threatened to ruin every take. Miller knew better than to get frustrated, so he decided to use the wind to his advantage.
“When making movies you got to ‘surf the problems,’ as it were,” Miller said. “So instead of cursing the wind, I looked behind us and saw the sand dunes had this wind blowing sand across it. And the sun was getting low in the sky. And I thought, ‘She could walk across the bridge of the dune and into the sun and just respond however she would, having now have completely lost all hope.’”
Miller mobilized the crew for the shot and only directed Theron to remove Furiosa’s prosthetic arm while walking away from the camera so that the character could appear more vulnerable. Theron only needed one take to get the job done.
“I learned this with Jack Nicholson, a very wise man, that actors are like elite athletes — they have to nail the performance right there in the moment regardless of what’s happening,” Miller said. “Great performance artists have all the skills of an athlete but also need those emotional human skills they have to convey.”
“I knew in an action film like this Charlize had all those attributes,” he continued. “Charlize is very precise, having been a very fine ballet dancer she understands space and how to move in space, and it was basically us watching her do it. I thank the movie gods all the elements were in place. We were lucky to get the wind, but there wasn’t any luck in getting the performance.”
The scene would go on to become the emotional lynchpin of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Head over to Entertainment Weekly to read Miller’s interview in its entirety.