George Miller: Mad Max mythology

George Miller: Mad Max mythology
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Director George Miller reflects on the various cultural interpretations of Mad Max (1979) and how they influenced his preparation of Mad Max 2 (1981).

In Japan, Mad Max was considered a Samurai film; in France, it was a 'western on wheels'; in Scandinavia, Max was thought of as a Viking.

Miller's newfound awareness of the hero myth changed his approach to storytelling and the Max of the sequel and later movies is a more consciously mythological figure than in the first film.

Paul Byrnes interviewed George Miller for australianscreen online in 2006.

Paul Byrnes
George Miller

There was a big shift on the second film in this way: when I, when Mad Max (1979) did come out and, to my honest surprise and relief, that it was successful. I watched the film go round the world and become a hit virtually in every culture other than the United States. This is the first film.

In Japan they called it a samurai movie and said, 'You must know Kurosawa’. I’d never heard of Kurosawa. In – in France they said, 'Oh it’s a western on wheels’. In Scandinavia they said 'He’s a Viking’. And basically I began to realise that somehow there was something else going on there and that was the realisation that there is a collective unconsciousness going on. That there’s a mythology out there and basically Mad Max (1979) was a kind of a weird Australian version of that. A kind of road warrior. And so that led us to Joseph Campbell and once you, once Campbell opened those doors of perception into storytelling I suddenly became … forgot about cinema all together and basically became a storyteller. I’ve been trying to figure out those mysteries ever since.

So Mad Max 2 (1981) was very influenced by that. Suddenly you saw that he was much more than just a character. That he was indeed a mythological figure, you know, a mini-version of one. He’s not – he’s not a great hero but he has that, something like that is nascent in him. And it was … so it was a little bit more self-conscious in Mad Max 2 (1981). Not following it, you know, religiously – the hero myth. But it was an understanding that that was what was at foot.