George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” is widely considered one of the greatest action movies ever made (the film ranked ninth on IndieWire’s list of the 100 best films of the 2010s), and a big reason why is Imperator Furiosa. It didn’t take long for the character to join Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley from the “Alien” franchise or Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor from “The Terminator” films as one of cinema’s most definitive action heroines. IndieWire named Charlize Theron’s performance as Furiosa the ninth best of the decade.
“Furiosa is the real hero of the story, armed with not only intelligence and grit, but serious skill behind the wheel of a war rig,” IndieWire’s Kate Erbland wrote of the character. “Initially unyielding in her toughness, steady revelations finally let Max — and the audience — into her deep emotional reserves, with Theron marrying Furiosa’s toughness and smarts with an unshakable sense of nostalgia and destiny.”
The future of “Mad Max” looked bright after “Fury Road” thanks to Theron and Furiosa, but Miller is choosing instead to continue the franchise by rewinding the clock for a prequel about everyone’s favorite Imperator. Production won’t start until next year, but there’s a lot to get excited about right now in regards to “Furiosa.” Our rundown below includes every detail we know about “Furiosa” so far. IndieWire will continue to update the list as breaking news around the project is announced.
Cinematographer John Seale Made the “Hardest” Decision to Pass on the Film
Cinematographer John Seale was out of semi-retirement since “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography. Seale also shot Miller’s magical “Three Thousand Years of Longing,” starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton,” but declined to work on “Furiosa.”
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Seale told Variety about turning down the “Fury Road” prequel. “George said, ‘Well, I’m not going to ask you to do it.’ I thought to myself, ‘Ah great, now I don’t have to go through it all.’ Then he said, ‘I’m going to invite you.’ That one word — ‘invite’ — changed the whole thing and made it even harder.”
But overall, Seale said Miller was “very lovely” but ultimately decided to decline the film. “We’ve got some beautiful grandchildren. I want to spend time with them,” Seale said. “I didn’t have much time with my children because I was always overseas; I regret that in a way. I’m nearly 80! It’s time to move over and let the young blokes in. Let them have a beer and go make a movie.”
The Road to “Furiosa”
Furiosa made her debut as one of the main characters in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” where she’s played by Charlize Theron. Viewers meet Furiosa as a war captain serving the villainous Immortan Joe, but she turns against him on a mission to free his female breeders. The character’s backstory is teased throughout the film but never fully explored, but Miller came up with Furiosa’s elaborate history and worked with Theron to flesh out the character.
As The New York Times reported in 2020 on the “Furiosa” script: “Miller sought to answer questions about what the character’s life was like in the idyllic ‘Green Place,’ why she was plucked from the group of woman warriors known as the Vuvalini, and how she became the hardened warrior we meet by the time ‘Fury Road’ begins.”
Anya Taylor-Joy Is the New Furiosa
Warner Bros. confirmed October 13, 2020 that Anya Taylor-Joy would be stepping into the role of Furiosa for the “Mad Max” prequel movie. Reports surfaced in March 2020 that Miller was interviewing several potential actresses for the role over video chat during the pandemic, including Taylor-Joy and “Killing Eve” Emmy winner Jodie Comer. Taylor-Joy had her breakout role in Robert Eggers’ “The Witch” and went on to star in Cory Finley’s “Thoroughbreds,” Autumn de Wilde’s “Emma,” and M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split” and “Glass.” The actress is best known worldwide for playing Beth Harmon in Netflix’s record-breaking limited series “The Queen’s Gambit,” for which Taylor-Joy won prizes at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards. Upcoming roles for Taylor-Joy include Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho,” Eggers’ “The Northman,” and David O. Russell’s new movie.
The Supporting Cast
Joining Anya Taylor-Joy in the “Furiosa” cast are Chris Hemsworth and Tom Burke, who has replaced Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who parted ways with the project due to a scheduling conflict. Burke starred as Orson Welles in David Fincher’s “Mank,” and as a drug addict in Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir.”
Hemsworth is no stranger to action movies or major Hollywood tentpoles after starring as Marvel’s Thor and in Netflix’s “Extraction.”
Hemsworth said at a press conference for “Furiosa” earlier this year, “[Working on ‘Furiosa’] is the biggest pinch-myself moment, because I’ve grown up watching it [‘Mad Max’] and it’s so iconic. It is a huge honor. A lot of pressure, but exciting pressure that is certainly motivating.”
George Miller Ruled Out Using De-Aging VFX on Charlize Theron
Furiosa will always be associated with Charlize Theron, which is why George Miller originally looked into using de-aging visual effects technology so that the “Monster” Oscar winner could reprise the role and appear age appropriate for the story. Miller explored the same de-aging VFX that Martin Scorsese utilized on “The Irishman,” where Robert De Niro played a character across several decades, but he ultimately decided the technology is not what it needs to be to pull off his vision convincingly.
“For the longest time, I thought we could just use CG de-aging on Charlize, but I don’t think we’re nearly there yet,” Miller said in a 2020 interview. “Despite the valiant attempts on ‘The Irishman,’ I think there’s still an uncanny valley. Everyone is on the verge of solving it, particularly Japanese video-game designers, but there’s still a pretty wide valley, I believe.”
Anya Taylor-Joy Already Knows Matching Charlize Theron Is Impossible
A few days after her casting was confirmed, Anya Taylor-Joy gave her first interview about “Furiosa.” The actress was in Belfast shooting Robert Eggers’ “The Northman” at the time and noted, “I was here when I saw ‘Fury Road’ for the first time. I walked past the cinema where I first was amazed by this incredible mind of George Miller. It’s difficult to put into words. I feel so humbled and grateful. I think the first thing I thought was ‘I am so excited to work so hard.’ The level of commitment that has been shown by those who came before me, I endeavor to match that. That makes me really excited. I have so much respect for the originators of this crazy world and this collection of characters. I am excited to work really hard.”
As hard as Taylor-Joy will work, she knows attempting to match Charlize Theron’s performance as Furiosa will be a losing battle. “I fell in love with Furiosa because of the way Charlize presented her,” the actress said. “She did such an incredible job. It was so beautiful. I can’t even think about trying to step into her shoes. It has to be something different because it just can’t be done.”
Taylor-Joy continued, “I’ve already started dreaming about [Furiosa] and she’s coming in very strong. I’m so committed to working as hard as possible as I can. I always said that I wanted a role that I would have to give everything to, it wouldn’t just be my mind but my body, what I’m doing with myself when I’m not on set. I’m so excited for that and to push myself past the limits of what my brain thought was possible.”
Charlize Theron’s Thoughts on Giving Up Furiosa
Because “Furiosa” is a prequel movie and Miller ruled out de-aging VFX, Charlize Theron is sitting the movie out. “It’s a tough one to swallow,” Theron told THR in July 2020 about giving up the role to Taylor-Joy. “Listen, I fully respect George, if not more so in the aftermath of making that film with him. He’s a master, and I wish him nothing but the best.”
Theron added, “Yeah, it’s a little heartbreaking, for sure. I really love that character, and I’m so grateful that I had a small part in creating her. She will forever be someone I think of and reflect on fondly. Obviously, I would love to see that story continue, and if he feels like he has to go about it this way, then I trust him in that manner. We get so hung up on the smaller details that we forget the thing that we emotionally tap into has nothing to do with that minute thing that we’re focusing on.”
The ”Furiosa” Plot Takes Place Over Many Years
George Miller isn’t letting any plot details about “Furiosa” slip, although fans are already speculating the movie will explore the character losing her arm, her childhood in the Green Place, and her relationship to the Vulvalini. All of these plot points came up in “Fury Road,” but there’s lots of backstory to fill in on each topic. The only thing Miller has confirmed about the “Furiosa” storyline is that it will span years. “Whereas ‘Fury Road’ essentially happened over three days and two nights, this happens over many years,” Miller said at a press conference for the film this year. ”You try to make films that are uniquely familiar…This will be familiar to those people who know ‘Mad Max,’ and in particular ‘Fury Road,’ but also it will be unique.”
“Furiosa” Will Be the Biggest Film Production in Australia’s History
New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced in April 2021 that “Furiosa” will become the biggest movie ever made in Australia. The Warner Bros.-backed action tentpole is set to begin filming in New South Wales in 2022. According to Berejiklian, “Furiosa” will pump at least $350M AUD into the local economy and create 850 new jobs. Miller told The Sydney Morning Herald that his “Mad Max” team was gearing up to shoot a “Furiosa” action scene in 2021 due to a proposed decrease in the Aussie state’s tax incentive. The team built cars and prepared stunts in preparation for the scene, but government reps now say the tax rebate will remain at 40 percent moving forward, which means Miller does not have to rush production and all of the film can shoot in 2022.
Editor Margaret Sixel Returns
One of the key members of the “Fury Road” crafts team returning for “Furiosa” is editor Margaret Sixel (pictured middle above), who also happens to be married to George Miller. Sixel won the Oscar and the BAFTA Film Award for Best Film Editing thanks to her work on “Fury Road.” Here’s hoping editing “Furiosa” goes smoother for Sixel than editing “Fury Road,” which turned into a battle against Warner Bros. over the final cut’s runtime.
“There was this constant thing from the studio: ‘How much shorter is it?’ That’s all they wanted to know,” Sixel told The New York Times in May 2020. “I just got so sick of it. They were just obsessed with getting the film under 100 minutes, which I knew was impossible. It was an incredibly painful film to cut. I think the studio didn’t believe in it, so it was really difficult to keep going. Eventually George and I decided, ‘We’re just going to make the film we want to make, and if no one else likes it, that’s fine.’ And that last four months is when the film really came together.”
Production Designer Colin Gibson Is Back, Too
It’s not a George Miller movie without production designer Colin Gibson, whose credits include Miller’s “Babe,” “Babe 2: Pig in the City,” “Happy Feet,” “Happy Feet Two,” and “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Gibson’s work on “Fury Road” earned him the Academy Award for Best Production Design, plus the AACTA Award and the Critics Choice Award in the same category. Gibson was also nominated at the BAFTA Film Awards for Best Production Design. Gibson told The New York Times in summer 2020 that 135 vehicles were made for “Fury Road” and that he’s already eyeing more cars for ”Furiosa.”
The Bulk of the Crafts Team Is Made Up of “Fury Road” Veterans
“Fury Road” sound mixer Ben Osmo and makeup designer Lesley Vanderwalt (pictured right above) are back for “Furiosa.” Also joining the crafts team are “Fury Road” first assistant director PJ Voeten and “Fury Road” second unit director and stunt coordinator Guy Norris. In other words, Miller is stacking his “Furiosa” production team with the talent that made “Fury Road” such a monumental action movie. Vanderwalt won the Oscar for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling thanks to “Fury Road” (she shared the prize with Elka Wardega and Damian Martin), while Osmo won the Oscar for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing (he shared the prize with Chris Jenkins and Gregg Rudloff).
The Lawsuit That Almost Prevented More “Mad Max” Movies
“Furiosa” will shoot in 2022, six years after the release of “Fury Road.” Why such a long wait? The delay had to do with a legal battle that brewed between Warner Bros. and George Miller’s production company, Kennedy Miller Mitchell. Miller’s company accused Warner Bros. of acting in a “high-handed, insulting or reprehensible” manner and “destroying” its relationship with Kennedy Miller Mitchell by refusing to pay the production company a bonus fee for delivering the movie under budget. Kennedy Miller Mitchell claimed it was eligible for $9 million after it delivered “Fury Road” under the agreed budget of $157 million. The production company said “Fury Road’s” final budget was $154.6 million, although Warner Bros. claimed the film went way over budget and cost $185.1 million.
In a cross-lawsuit filed by Warner Bros., the studio accused Kennedy Miller Mitchell of breaking contract over the film’s intended runtime and rating. Warner Bros. said Miller’s production company signed a contract to deliver a 100-minute movie with a PG-13 rating. “Fury Road” ended up running 120 minutes and earned an R rating from the MPAA. The two parties settled their differences, paving the way for “Furiosa.” Click here for more details about the legal battle.
Production Begins After “Three Thousand Years of Longing”
With the lawsuit preventing Miller from making any “Mad Max” movies in the years directly following “Fury Road,” the filmmaker moved on to mount his long-gestating romance epic “Three Thousand Years of Longing.” The $60 million production shot for 62 days starting in December 2020 and is eyeing a release in the fall, which means a world premiere at a major fall film festival is not out of the question. MGM is behind the movie, which stars Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba. In a 2019 interview with IndieWire’s Anne Thompson, Miller teased “Thousand Years of Longing” as “a Darwinian struggle of survival of the fittest.” That’s all the director would say about the movie’s storyline, but he did add the project had long been at the top of his list of stories he’s wanted to tell on the big screen. Miller estimated he spent 10 years conceptualizing and developing the movie. Production on “Furiosa” will wait for 2022, well after Miller’s publicity and potential awards tour for “Three Thousand Years of Longing” ends.
The Release Date
Warner Bros. has set a theatrical “Furiosa” release date for June 23, 2023. The summer movie season is also where the studio decided to launch “Mad Max: Fury Road.” That film opened May 15, 2015 and grossed $375 million worldwide. Warner Bros. debuted “Fury Road” at the Cannes Film Festival in an out-of-competition slot, which is not out of the question for “Furiosa” given its July 2023 release date. One thing fans know for sure is that “Furiosa” will launch in theaters only and not have a simultaneous release on streaming platform HBO Max. Only Warner Bros. films in 2021 are being given the hybrid release model, which means “Furiosa” is safe for theaters only in 2023.
Furiosa’s Origin Story Is Revealed
The official synopsis for “Furiosa” was unveiled in June 2022, with Anya Taylor-Joy’s titular character set to voyage back to her homeland during the apocalypse.
“As the world fell, young Furiosa is snatched from the Green Place of Many Mothers and falls into the hands of a great Biker Horde led by the Warlord Dementus,” the description reads. “Sweeping through the Wasteland they come across the Citadel presided over by The Immortan Joe. While the two Tyrants war for dominance, Furiosa must survive many trials as she puts together the means to find her way home.”
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