Mad Max: Fury Road might be one of the most acclaimed action movies in recent history, but the journey sure didn’t come easy. George Miller’s 2015 masterpiece spent years in development limbo before it finally came to life, meaning the director had time to consider hundreds of casting options. Apparently, even Eminem and Rihanna weren’t out of the question.
Pop culture reporter Kyle Buchanan goes long on the behind-the-scenes drama of Fury Road in his new book, Blood, Sweat & Chrome. In an excerpt of the book published in Vulture, Miller revealed his surprising idea to cast Eminem as Max.
“[Eminem had] done 8 Mile, and I found that really interesting — I thought, ‘He’s got that quality,'” Miller said. “We’d done the first Happy Feet with the late Brittany Murphy, and she had done 8 Mile, so I asked her what he was like and would this be something really interesting for him? She had no reservations about saying what a wonderful talent he is.”
Ultimately, Slim Shady had reservations about shooting in Australia, so he declined to audition. While Michael Fassbender, Jeremy Renner, Armie Hammer, and Sam Worthington were all considered for Max (Miller also had a years-long vision of casting Heath Ledger before his death), the role went to a then-relatively new star named Tom Hardy, who was finally getting American recognition with Inception.
Casting the five wives with whom Furiosa escapes in her War Rig proved to be a whole other challenge. Miller and casting director Ronna Kress saw hundreds of women, including newcomers like Jennifer Lawrence and Margot Robbie. Rihanna was also in the bunch.
“Usually, actors turn up dressed very casually, but boy, Rihanna looked spectacular when she walked in,” Miller said. “I’m not sure she was even aware of the content of the movie, so she dressed up as Rihanna, which was the right thing to do.” Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, and Courtney Eaton were the wives who made the cut.
As for Furiosa, Jessica Chastain, English actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Ethiopian-Irish TV star Ruth Negga all read for the part — as did future Wonder Woman Gal Gadot, who gave an “incredible” audition.
But unsurprisingly, Charlize Theron — who said she grew up watching the first Mad Max films — was a shoo-in for Furiosa. “Charlize was the only person we cast who did not audition,” Kress added. “You just couldn’t beat it. It was the perfect moment for her and the perfect piece of casting in that role.”
Now, Theron is passing the Furiosa torch on to Anya Taylor-Joy, who will portray the heroine in a 2023 Fury Road prequel. See where Furiosa lands in Consequence’s staff ranking of Theron’s top performances here.