Mad Max, feminist?
In the days leading up to the Thursday Cannes premiere (and subsequent worldwide release) of George Miller‘s rebooted action franchise, “Mad Max: Fury Road,” much has been made of how the new installment set in Miller’s futuristic, dystopian world is “feminist propaganda,” according to online murmurs that one assumes must be at least partly tongue-in-cheek.
Director George Miller and his stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron tackled the subject at their Cannes press conference on Thursday, a few minutes after a raucously-received early morning screening of the film in the Grand Theatre Lumiere.
At that screening, the audience broke into applause at the end of a couple of action sequences, and greeted the film warmly. Although Hardy’s character, originally played by Mel Gibson in the first three movies, has his name in the title, “Mad Max: Fury Road” is as much about Charlize Theron’s character, Furiosa, who Max reluctantly helps steal the five wives of the leader of a corrupt future society in a world starved for oil and water and mired in near-chaos.
At the press conference, the first question asked of Hardy was blunt: “When you were reading the script, did you ever think, Why are all these women in here, I thought this was supposed to be a man’s movie?”
Hardy’s answer was even blunter: “No. Not for one minute.” (He then added that there was no real script to read.)
“Initially, there was no feminist agenda,” added Miller. “The idea was simply for there to be an extended chase, and the thing that people were chasing was human, the five wives. It couldn’t be a man taking wives from another man — that’s a different story. So once you build the architecture around that, that stuff pops out.”
Added Theron, “I saw great potential in this right from the beginning. I had heard loose talk about it, a lot of talk about a female character who would stand alongside Max. And for an actress, that’s really good.”
Still, she said, she wondered if Miller could pull off such an enormous project, shooting for seven months in forbidding terrain in Africa and trying to put across character moments in the midst of frantic action sequences.
“But George never disappointed,” she said. “It was incredible to get to play in this sandbox, literally, and be a woman, not a man, and celebrate everything there is about being a woman. Being surrounded by other women who were real, on a story that was informed and real.”
And if people might wonder how real Miller’s futuristic vision of a dog-eat-dog world scarce on resources could be, Theron insisted that it rings true to her.
“All of the ‘Mad Max’ films feel very grounded in things that we’ve talked about – global warming, the drought, our leadership being completely out of control,” she said. “For me, this felt like it was grounded in so much truth.
“It’s not that far off, if we don’t pull it together.”