George Miller talks about “Furiosa” and his new Cannes film

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Miller wrote the screenplay with his daughter, Augusta Gore; his wife, Margaret Sixel, edited the film. She edited several of his other films, winning an Oscar for “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Miller clearly enjoys creating in a family setting and has worked with select members of the crew on several occasions, including cinematographer John Seale, who shot “Three Thousand Years” and “Fury Road.” Miller has been with one of his collaborators, Guy Norris, for 41 years; Norris was the stunt coordinator on “The Road Warrior” (aka “Mad Max 2”) and is the second unit director on “Furiosa.”

Norris holds a special place in the story of “Mad Max” due to an accident he had while driving a stunt for “The Road Warrior.” One of the signatures of the “Mad Max” series is the elegantly choreographed, seemingly gravity-defying practical stunts, and this one involved Norris driving into two other vehicles and then into a ditch. It didn’t go as planned and he flew through the air the wrong way, missing his high-tech padding (a stack of cardboard boxes) and seriously injuring himself – Ouch. In the video of the crash (it’s available online), you can see that Miller was among the first to race alongside Norris. That’s to be expected of any decent person, except in this case the visibly worried filmmaker was also a doctor.

Miller, who grew up in a small town in Queensland, Australia, attended medical school with his fraternal brother, John. (They have two other brothers.) A movie buff since childhood, Miller made his first film, a short, while in school. By the time he made his first feature film, a low-budget wonder called “Mad Max,” he was a doctor. His day job came in handy, he explained, because whenever the production ran out of money, he worked as an ER doctor to earn some cash. He practiced for about a decade, only finally giving up when he did “Road Warrior.” Cinema, he thought, “was a really interesting thing to do, but there was no real career”.

He and his former producing partner Byron Kennedy (who died in 1983) had created “Mad Max” out of what Miller describes as “pure curiosity”. As Miller speaks, it’s clear that curiosity remains a driving force for him. One particularly beautiful story he shares is based on a talk at school given by architect and designer Buckminster Fuller. “He synthesized so many things that were vaguely rumbling in my mind,” said Miller, who was struck by Fuller’s remark that “I’m not a noun, I seem to be a verb.” Suddenly Miller was no longer a medical student, he was just studying medicine – which set him free.

Miller has been shooting and moving ever since. He too is a verb, I think, not a noun, and shows no signs of stopping. Listening to him spin story after story, I suddenly thought I knew why he didn’t read fiction – or at least I thought I did, so I asked if his imagination was taking over his head, leaving no room for other people’s stories. “Certainly,” he said. “If I walk down the street, there’s a story or something that comes to mind. As I’ve often told my family, “If I’m the guy sitting in a nursing home in a wheelchair staring at the ceiling, there’s probably some kind of story going on.”

For now, however, it’s just Go on! Go on! Go on.

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