With stunts by Guy Norris and Grant Page

BY TARA MARYNOWSKY

The Mad Max franchise is fuelled by action and a huge part of its appeal are the insane, death-defying sequences performed by talented stunt performers.

'Like going to war'

From Mad Max (1979) to Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), the Mad Max films have evolved with bigger budgets and greater access to technology. However, director George Miller has never relied excessively on computer-generated imagery to drive the action, even when it was available for Fury Road. Instead, the extraordinary stunts and action scenes are performed by real-life stunt performers. 

Stuntman Guy Norris seated inside a car.

Guy Norris in The Making of Mad Max 2: Stunts, 1981

On Fury Road, Australian Guy Norris supervised an army of 150 stunt people across 300 sequences on location in the Namibian desert. Norris told Rolling Stone, 'We wanted to make it real: real vehicles, real locations, real movement and real stunts' and likened the shoot as 'like going to war'. 

Norris was also the stunt coordinator for Mad Max 2 (AKA The Road Warrior, 1981). With that film's much smaller budget he performed multiple roles, from Mel Gibson's driving double to playing Bearclaw Mohawk, one of the Marauders.

Norris told WIRED, 'Essentially every character that jumped onto the tanker was me. I'd put on a different wardrobe, jump. Then put on different wardrobe and jump again from a different position.' Unfortunately Norris broke his leg performing the famous cannonball stunt, a scene so spectacular it remained in the film and is documented in this five-minute making-of clip about the movie:

This authorised making-of film (above) also features the ‘moat jump’ stunt that injured stunt double Max Aspin. 

'Make it look as dangerous as possible'

Veteran stunt performer Grant Page was a part of the very first Mad Max (1979) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985). Previously, Page had spent his formative years training with the Commandos where he honed his ‘safety first’ skills. He mastered abseiling and parachuting before finding himself on film sets where his daredevil skills were a great asset and constantly marvelled at.

Car smashes through a caravan

Grant Page drives a car through a caravan in Mad Max, 1979. NFSA title: 763283

In the 1970s he was director Brian Trenchard-Smith’s go-to guy and together they invented brilliant stunts for Ozploitation classics like The Man from Hong Kong (1975). Page even effectively played himself, as an Australian stunt performer who accepts a job in Hollywood in Stunt Rock (1978).

Page also famously jumped backwards off a 25-metre cliff while on fire in Mad Dog Morgan (1976), all for Dennis Hopper’s Mad Dog nightmare sequence.

Riding to the set of Mad Max, Page was in a road accident and broke his leg, however he still managed to perform some of the most impressive stunts in the film, including one in which he jumps the Interceptor car through a caravan (see main image and pictured also at right). 

He told The Movie Show (SBS) in 2002 that, 'The essence of stunts is to make it look as dangerous as possible and make damn sure it’s not'.

Page was honoured by Screen NSW in 2016 with its inaugural annual Screen NSW Award, which he accepted from George Miller. Said the director:

'Working under fierce and extraordinary circumstances, on the first Mad Max, I came to know the calibre of Grant Page. A masterful and innovative stuntman, he has a deep and elegant intelligence. He taught me a lot about filmmaking but even more about life. Inspirations which have sustained me ever since. Grant is heroic in every sense of the word.'

Throughout this month, we're celebrating #MadMay. Follow the More to Explore links below to see rare clips and behind-the-scenes materials from Mad Max, Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Mad Max: Fury Road. You can also read about George Miller's Mad Max influences and Brian May's music scores for Mad Max and Mad Max 2.