Correct casting is one of the first and most important parts of the filmmaking process. 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road was no different, with director George Miller starting the hunt for his new Road Warrior way back in 2009. After Aussie actor Mel Gibson starred in the first three beloved films, following an exhaustive search British star Tom Hardy took over the part. The results were both critical and commercial acclaim, but casting nearly went very differently. Miller was set on Eminem at one stage, but he was just the tip of the iceberg.
Mad Max: Fury Road could have been a very different movie if director George Miller’s original hopes for Eminem came to pass. Despite the legendary rapper being primarily known for his music, he did dabble in acting for the film Mile 8 in 2002.
His performance caught the eye of the director, with Miller calling for a meeting between the pair soon after he saw Mile 8. However, his hopes were soon dashed when he realised Eminem was unwilling to make the extraordinary commute to work.
In a new interview with Vulture, Mark Sexton, the lead storyboard artist on Fury road, said: “This is something I don’t hear about very much and that George never admits, but I have a very, very, very strong memory of George talking about Eminem for Max.”
Production and development executive, Patrina Hull, added: “That is true! See, that’s one of those wild-card things: There were always these people that George would see in popular culture, and he’d want to know more about this person.”
Miller explained: “He’d done 8 Mile, and I found that really interesting — I thought, He’s got that quality. We’d done the first Happy Feet with the late Brittany Murphy, and she had done 8 Mile, so I asked her what he was like and would this be something really interesting for him? She had no reservations about saying what a wonderful talent he is.”
He continued: “We did get in touch with him, though that’s as far as it went because we were going to shoot it in Australia at that point, and he simply didn’t want to leave home. I think he had the impression that if he could do it out of his home state, then he’d be up for it.”
However, he wasn’t the first choice for the role.
Superstar Michael Fassbinder was one of the earliest names attached to the project. At the time, he was still a relatively unknown actor, only making smaller appearances in films or leading indie hits. In 2008 he starred in director Steve McQueen’s brutally honest portrayal of the 1981 hunger strikes in Northern Ireland – Hunger, leading to some awards buzz.
Despite having a sporadic role in Zack Snyder’s 2006 hit 300, it wasn’t until 2009’s Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino that he started to become a household name. Featuring prominently in a standout scene of a game of cards-gone-wrong, from there he went strength to strength.
Megan Gale, Fury Road’s The Valkyrie star, said: “I did a workshop in L.A. with Michael Fassbender, who they were considering for Max. He wasn’t as big a star as he is now, but he was on the rise, so it was a wee bit intimidating for me.”
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Soon after, the list of names started to increase, casting director Ronna Kress explained: “For Max, we looked at Michael Fassbender, Jeremy Renner, Armie Hammer — and these are the people we didn’t cast. Joel Kinnaman didn’t even have an American agent at the time; he was just out of Scandinavia.” In another strange moment, Hardy even spat on Hammer during a joint audition.
However, the search for Max wasn’t the only difficult one, as Furiosa was equally important for getting the film right. As the (literal) driving force behind the film’s plot, finding the correct star was essential.
Names such as Margot Robbie and Jennifer Lawrence were considered, and Miller even met with mega-musician Rihanna at one point. The director said: “Usually, actors turn up dressed very casually, but boy, Rihanna looked spectacular when she walked in. I’m not sure she was even aware of the content of the movie, so she dressed up as Rihanna, which was the right thing to do.”
The list doesn’t end there, as hundreds of stars were considered for the part, both up-and-comers and relative unknowns. Zero Dark Thirty’s Jessica Chastain, Belle’s Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Ad Astra’s Ruth Negga all read for the part, along with some unnamed French actresses.
Kress said: “We had really thrown a net around the world and narrowed it down to a handful of people. Gal Gadot read for it, and she gave an incredible audition. Incredible!” Gadot added: “I was the runner-up for Mad Max with Charlize. I had so many almosts for big, great things, but I was never big enough of a name.”
Furiosa is now getting her own spin-off prequel film, with Miller returning to direct. Set for a 2024 release, the film has been in development for almost the same length of time Fury Road went through.
However, Charlize Theron is not returning to her beloved role.
As this is a prequel concerning the earlier years of Furiosa’s life, a younger actress is taking on the role. None other than The Witch and Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy is attached to the project as the titular character.
Little is known about the film, but according to the lore established in Fury Road, it will likely see the collapse of the “Green Place” and Furiosa’s capture by Immortan Joe. Chris Hemsworth is also attached to the film in an unspecified role.
As for the return of the Road Warrior himself, Miller confirmed he is in the early stages of developing a sequel. Tentatively titled The Wasteland, it will likely see Tom Hardy fill up last of the V8s with guzzolene and get reluctantly thrown into another battle for survival.