Wow, I thought as I read Kyle Buchanan’s oral history of the making of Mad Max: Fury Road, Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy really did not like each other.
I have to admit that I feel a little bit bad that my main reaction to Blood, Sweat, & Chrome centered around the most “gossipy” part of the book, the chapter in which everyone interviewed talked about how Theron and Hardy simply did not get along during filming. That, of course, is also the part of the book that got the most media attention when it first came out. Overall, it’s really a very small part of the overall story. The books deals with much more than just Charlize and Tom. It discusses how the stunts were achieved. It documents just how much time George Miller spent planning Fury Road and also how the project was changed by Mel Gibson’s very public fall from grace. There’s a very touching chapter that deals with Hugh Keays-Bryne, the Australian actor who played memorable villains in both the first and, to date, the last of the Mad Max films. There’s a lot of good stuff in Blood, Sweat & Chrome but it’s the chapter about Hardy and Theron that will probably capture the attention of most readers. They’re movie stars, after all. We’re all fascinated by stars, especially when they don’t get along.
As for why Theron and Hardy didn’t get along, the people interviewed for the book all have their theories. Some say that Hardy was not only feeling pressure over stepping into Mel Gibson’s shoes but that he was also miffed to realize that he was primarily going to be a supporting player in his own movie. Others say that it was a conflict in working styles, with Theron going out of her way to always be professional and on time while Hardy was a bit more relaxed when he would show up on the set. Nicholas Hoult (who comes across as being both a professional and a gentleman) says that being on set with them often felt like being in the back seat of a car while your parents are fighting up front. Whatever the reason, Hardy and Theron did not enjoy either’s company while filming. Shouting matches were followed by meetings with George Miller, who Theron observes was not necessarily always on her side when it came to her conflict with Tom Hardy. And while actors arguing during filming is hardly a unique event, what stands out about Theron and Hardy is that they both appeared to continue to dislike each other even after filming ended. Even with the success of the film, one gets the feeling that the two of them will never voluntarily star opposite each other again. Or, at the very least, they’ll get a lot of money before agreeing to do so.
What’s interesting though is that Hardy and Theron’s dislike for each other was probably a major factor in Mad Max: Fury Road‘s success. One reason why Fury Road stands out is because neither Furiosa nor Max end up having the type of relationship that you might otherwise expect. Though they eventually work together, they never become a couple. Neither surrenders to the other. Furiosa never stops fighting and Max never stops wandering. Even when they become allies, there’s still that tension there. Neither one really trusts the other. As was so often the case with the production of Mad Max: Fury Road, Theron and Hardy’s contentious relationship, something that should have led to disaster, actually served to make the film better.
Reading Buchanan’s book, one comes away with the impression that, for all the difficulties that were encountered during filming, Mad Max: Fury Road was almost a blessed production. Everything that went wrong only served to make the final product better. George Miller’s struggles to get the film into production gave him the time he needed to create a film that had a good deal more thematic depth than the average action sequel. The harsh working conditions were the perfect backdrop for the film’s equally harsh world. Mel Gibson’s troubles allowed Miller to rethink the character of Max and also gave Miller room to make Furiosa an equally important character. That few people were expecting much from Mad Max: Fury Road allowed Miller to take the world by surprise. Even the fact that many were surprised when Fury Road won Best Picture from the National Board of Review allowed the film to enter the Oscar season as an appealing underdog. Of course, while Mad Max: Fury Road did win the most Oscars that year, it did not win Best Picture. But I can promise you that, as you sit here reading this, more people are currently watching Mad Max: Fury Road than are watching Spotlight.
Mad Max: Fury Road is a great film and Blood, Sweat, & Chrome provides an in-depth look at how that happened. It’s hard not to be inspired by George Miller and he refusal to give up on the project. Much like Furiosa, Miller never stopped fighting. Neither Furiosa nor Miller found what they were initially expecting at the end of their journey. Instead, they discovered something better and, as a result, their stories will never be forgotten.