There’s one Mad Max who has been before and that’s really Mad Max. Everybody knows Mel, and he’s fucking Mad Max. Tommy Hardy from East Sheen turns up: “OK you’re Mad Max now.” You inherit a costume that belongs to an icon. If it wasn’t [writer-director] George Miller who chose me, I would feel really uncomfortable right now. Because it’s George’s character, and I just do as George tells me.
Mad Max is not a superhero in a rubber hat, he’s not got a cape; when he jumps across from one rooftop to another, he might actually fall and die. There’s a cost. If you’re looking to be involved in a big motion picture you want someone you can invest in, who’s exciting, who’s interesting, who’s not computer-generated. Someone you be proud of.
Although he likes to keep himself to himself, Max gets drawn into other people’s problems despite his better self knowing it’s probably not going to end well. Where there’s no humanity around, Max is a character who has humanity within him still, despite the hopelessness of his environment. He’s like a big wild dog who doesn’t really wants to be tamed. You always wonder: why doesn’t he just top himself?
Not only is Mad Max a character – the cars are characters. We’ve got about 50 vehicles and they’re huge. They had to construct an entire armada of vehicles. We had a stunt team of between 50 and 300 people – I had three stunt doubles. Filming was properly hairy. All due diligence was taken but we had a lot of accidents. Luckily nobody died. We’d lose half a vehicle in sand and have to dig it out. It was constant. To get that kind of operation off the ground, in the middle of the Namibian desert, it’s like a military campaign.
George made the first Mad Max in 1979. Cut it in his kitchen. He gave birth to the car crash movie. The post-Apocalyptic imagery you see in computer games is largely borrowed from Mad Max. That was George’s seminal creation. That’s what seminal means, right? Just to have that come from one man’s mind: it’s unbelievable.
There’s a mythology underneath Mad Max. There are pages and pages of documents fully fleshing out the world. George has spent 30 years meditating on it. George didn’t come with a script – George came with a comic book. Every frame of the movie. It was 350-something pages of individual storyboards, and every single image of the storyboard is on the screen. It was micro-managed to the pixel. I may have something like six, seven, 10 lines in the whole film, but the discussions that went on were akin to working at the National or the Royal Court. It was theatre. This is not just a fucking action movie.
I had a dog called Max. Mad Max. I was seventeen years old when I got him. What a great dog. I don’t have brothers and sisters so he was very important to me. He got very ill, and he would have kept going, he would have kept going through it all because he wasn’t going to leave, so we had to kill him. He died the year that I did Mad Max actually.
The first Mad Max was out when I was born; I’m 38 now, and it’s back, and I’m playing him, and I can’t really believe that. When I got it I was not tested, not a name. Now I’m attached to an entire world. I didn’t realise how big the world was until I got there.
Mad Max: Fury Road is out now