Writer/director George Miller created a perfect onscreen hell with 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road—not to mention the perfect action movie. But it turns out that the adventures of Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) charging across the wasteland in search of the Green Place were only slightly more dangerous than dropping its two headstrong stars in the Namibian desert to film the thing.
According to writer Kyle Buchanan’s new oral history of the instant classic, Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road—excerpted in the latest issue of Vanity Fair—Theron and Hardy were constantly at each other’s throats. In fact, it got so bad at one point that Theron asked for someone to be assigned to her as “protection” from Hardy. Buchanan reports that Theron finally could not constrain her own fury when her co-star was late again for a shoot, and she let the tardy Hardy have it.
“The story is all about self-preservation,” Miller explained. “If it’s an advantage to you to kill another character, then you should do it and you don’t think twice about it. I think that crept into the actors.”
“It was a tense atmosphere at times,” said Nicholas Hoult, who played the side-switching War Boy, Nux. “It was kind of like you’re on your summer holidays and the adults in the front of the car are arguing.”
Theron agreed, telling Buchanan, “He’s right, it was like two parents in the front of the car. 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.”
On the day the pair were scheduled to shoot their first fight scene, Hardy showed up three hours late. Theron—a new mom with her baby at a local daycare—had been baking in the driver’s seat of Furiosa’s armored truck, the War Rig, all the while.
Cameraman Mark Goellnicht recalls, “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!’ She was right. Full rant. She screams it out. It’s so loud, it’s so windy—he might’ve heard some of it.”
“Fine the fucking cunt a hundred thousand dollars for every minute that he’s held up this crew”
It was then, Goellnicht reports, that Hardy uttered the words no one wants to hear from a muscle-bound Brit who’s been in the sun too long: “What did you say to me?”
“He was quite aggressive,” Goellnicht said. “She really felt threatened, and that was the turning point, because then she said, ‘I want someone as protection.’ She then had a producer that was assigned to be with her all the time.”
Although veteran producer Denise Di Novi eventually arrived in Namibia in an attempt to smooth things over between Theron and Hardy, it didn’t work.
“She was parked in the production office, and she was checking in with me and we would talk,” Theron said. “But when I was on set, I still felt pretty naked and alone.”
Like Theron, Hardy has come to regret his behavior on the project.
“In hindsight, I was in over my head in many ways,” he admitted. “The pressure on both of us was overwhelming at times. What she needed was a better, perhaps more experienced partner in me. That’s something that can’t be faked. I’d like to think that now that I’m older and uglier, I could rise to that occasion.”
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