Turns out, “Mad Max: Fury Road” is paved with tension.
George Miller‘s 2015 prequel film was years in the making before landing co-leads Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron to portray young Mad Max and Furiosa, respectively. Yet once production started, the real issues seemed to begin.
“It seemed to implode in preproduction. We weren’t even shooting and there seemed to be this animosity,” first assistant director P.J. Voeten told New York Times writer Kyle Buchanan for his new book, “Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road,'” excerpted in Vanity Fair.
Open Road Entertainment editor J. Houston Yang noted, “It was clear that those two people hated each other. They didn’t want to touch each other, they didn’t want to look at each other, they wouldn’t face each other if the camera wasn’t actively rolling.”
Theron and Hardy’s off-the-charts chemistry, coupled with their admittedly different approaches to acting, led to one particularly explosive argument on set.
“I remember vividly the day,” camera operator Mark Goellnicht said. “The call on set was eight o’clock. Charlize got there right at eight o’clock, sat in the War Rig, knowing that Tom’s never going to be there at eight even though they made a special request for him to be there on time. He was notorious for never being on time in the morning. If the call time was in the morning, forget it — he didn’t show up.”
Hardy arrived three hours later, which first assistant camera person Ricky Schamburg speculated could have been “some kind of power play” but felt “deliberately provocative” regardless. Theron, meanwhile, waited in the War Rig in full costume and makeup.
“If you ask me, he kind of knew that it was really pissing Charlize off, because she’s professional and she turns up really early,” Schamburg said.
Once Hardy finally arrived on set, Theron reportedly confronted the “Dark Knight Rises” alum.
“She jumps out of the War Rig, and she starts swearing her head off at him, saying, ‘Fine the fucking cunt a hundred thousand dollars for every minute that he’s held up this crew,’ and ‘How disrespectful you are!’” Goellnicht explained. “She was right. Full rant. She screams it out. It’s so loud, it’s so windy — he might’ve heard some of it, but he charged up to her and went, ‘What did you say to me?'”
Goellnicht added, “He was quite aggressive. She really felt threatened, and that was the turning point.”
Theron reflected on the situation, saying, “I don’t want to make excuses for bad behavior, but it was a tough shoot. Now, I have a very clear perspective on what went down. I don’t think I had that clarity when we were making the movie. I was in survival mode; I was really scared shitless.”
The Oscar winner added, “Because of my own fear, we were putting up walls to protect ourselves instead of saying to each other, ‘Fuck, this is scary for you and it’s scary for me, too. Let’s be nice to each other.’ We were functioning, in a weird way, like our characters: Everything was about survival.”
Theron revealed about Hardy, “I don’t want to rehash things, but it came out of a really bad moment where things kind of came to blows between me and Tom…We were either fighting or we were icing each other — I don’t know which one is worse — and they had to deal with it in the back. It was horrible! We should not have done that; we should have been better. I can own up to that.”
Hardy looked back on the situation years later:
“In hindsight, I was in over my head in many ways,” Hardy said. “The pressure on both of us was overwhelming at times. What she needed was a better, perhaps more experienced partner in me…I’d like to think that now that I’m older and uglier, I could rise to that occasion.”
As Hardy’s friend, screenwriter Kelly Marcel, summed up, “Tom is very physical and all over the place and would try very different things. Charlize is cerebral and very consistent in the way that she approaches a character. They’re both powerhouses, but in their very different ways of working. Which, weirdly, is why the film works: It’s all pouring out on the screen.”