Mad Max: Fury Road is already one of the highest rated summer blockbusters of 2015, and it has earned every bit of that praise. I’d compare it to a roller coaster ride, but even that doesn’t do the film justice. Read why so many people are going mad for Mad Max: Fury Road. We got to talk to the production designer for the film, Colin Gibson. If you know anything about the film it’s that it is 90% production design, and easily one of the many reasons the film works as well as it did.
Jon Espino: As a production designer, you have one of the most important jobs for the film because you essentially have to create the entire Mad Max world. What inspiration did you draw from aside from the previous films?
Colin Gibson: Well, we watched lots of Adam Sandler movies and decided to do it nothing like that.
JE: That’s probably the smartest response I’ve ever heard.
CG: Yeah, I’m with you. Thankfully it was like all production design and all jobs. You read the script, talk to the director, and if you still haven’t got an idea by that stage, then it’s probably time to give the job to someone else.
JE: Were there any elements from the previous trilogy that you know you did or didn’t want to incorporate into your concepts for Fury Road?
CG: No, we knew that, especially when it was decided that we had a different Max, that Tom Hardy was the new Mad Max, it became even more of an imperative that we begin the film with the Max’s car, the Interceptor. We wanted to make a four-wheel version of the legend just so that we could hand off the mythology in a nice, neat piece of history. So George [Miller] very cleverly opens the movie with the car from Mad Max’s original outings, and then has Max roll it and get captured in the opening moments. That’s a bit of a hand-off, a nod to mythology, and the beginning of a brave, new world.
JE: What would you say was the hardest part of bringing Fury Road to life?
CG: Just the fear of fucking it up. Mad Max is a part of Australian culture, I don’t know about the rest of the world.
JE: It’s pretty iconic for use as well.
CG: Well, there’s a fair bit of pressure in trying to make it neither a parody of itself or a pastiche. You don’t want to try to do the same thing again, but instead to make people look at it again and realize that it’s regenerated and renewed.
JE: You’re no stranger to the desert settings, both being from Australian and from doing the art direction for The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert one of my favorite films with and about drag queens.
CG: It’s funny you mention it because they did have a lot in common, those two films [Mad Max: Fury Road & The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert].
JE: So how would you compare the two experiences?
CG: Like all experiences in the business, they were fantastic, and like most deserts, which just give you a sort of perspective and a sense of yourself and your place in history. That’s exactly what those two movies were all about as well. About giving new perspective a man and his place in the world. One drag queen discovers he can be a father, or Tom Hardy discovers that he can be a myth that remembers how to be a man. Both of them are about man in extreme conditions, and both of them happen in the desert. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t get a better backdrop for a movie.
JE: So did Priscilla prepare you to take on the desert again?
CG: Well, it helped me in many ways. Surprisingly in having built the bus for Priscilla come day one out in the middle of buttfuck nowhere and discovering that one out of three drag queens actually knew how to drive. We immediately had to come up with a mechanical version of off-setting the driving platforms so that they could appear to be driving the bus, and either myself or my mechanic would really be driving it. So I end up sitting at the stairwell next to their feet hoping that nothing was coming that we couldn’t see. So we developed a lot of the same ideas into driving parts for the Gigahorse and the War Rig and some of the bigger vehicles on Fury Road.
JE: Were there any set pieces or designs that you wanted in the film that didn’t make the cut?
CG: No. I think George wanted so many vehicles that even the ones he didn’t like, and I know there were a couple, but I’ll never tell you which ones they were, still made it. You know, in the dirty dozen there’s always at least two you can never remember the name of, but they’re really just there to get blown up early.
JE: So that ends up working out then. Is there anything you’re most excited for audiences to see in the film?
CG: I think just to go along for the ride. Like I said, I’ve been in China for the last four or five months, and I haven’t seen this last incarnation, cut or the music track, so I’m looking forward to enjoying it myself. Hopefully it’s as wild, arresting and spectacular as we were aiming for, and hopefully we also not just defied gravity, but made gravity real. Unlike some, all credit to them, but a different flavor to what I like, sort of movie like Fast and Furious, where there are no real physics, and cars can drive sideways at great speeds.
JE: And they can fly, among other things.
CG: And they can fly! And can drag around two-ton steel safes, that are heavy, around corners, without changing their angle or velocity. All that sort of stuff annoys me, so hopefully I kept out physics as real as possible, guaranteeing that the cars and the people on the cars could actually do what they were being asked to do. Hopefully the hair on everybody’s neck stands up just a little straighter and a little realer.
JE: Any upcoming projects you’re working on? I know you mentioned being in China.
CG: Yeah, I’m in China intermittently working on with a Chinese director, Zhang Yimou, on a Legendary East film called The Great Wall. I’m just one of the art directors on that, and I’m working with another great designer called John Myhre and great Chinese director Zhang Yimou.
JE: Is it a narrative film or more of a documentary?
CG: Yeah, it’s an American funded narrative film from Legendary about the Great Wall with Matt Damon. I think it’s going to turn out fantastic!
Mad Max: Fury Road is out in theaters today. Make sure to bring your own seatbelt because you’re in for quite the ride!