How a Crisis Inspired a MovieMay 28, 2014

Before George Miller won an Academy Award for Best Animated Picture for "Happy Feet", he was a medical student at the University of New South Wales. Completing his degree was his top priority, while doing short films on the side, which was a hobby back then. While attending a film workshop at the Melbourne University, he met (fellow student) Byron Kennedy. The two would be good mates and business partners; "Mad Max", their first collaboration, was an experimental picture. It polarized moviegoers, but it would make a huge impact on Australia's New Wave.

Set in the dystopian future, the titular character was Max Rockatansky, a Main Force Patrol (MFP) police officer who became disillusioned after witnessing the inability of the MFP to curb the violence in his area. There was one motorcycle gang whom MFP tried to arrest, but without success. Max had no idea of the consequence, one of which was seeing the gang killed his family. The cop turned vigilante, his rage borne out of grief and hopelessness

Miller and James McCausland, who both wrote on the screenplay, based their story from the effects of the 1973 oil crisis on Australian motorists.

"Yet there were further signs of the desperate measures individuals would take to ensure mobility. A couple of oil strikes that hit many pumps revealed the ferocity with which Australians would defend their right to fill a tank. Long queues formed at the stations with petrol - and anyone who tried to sneak ahead in the queue met raw violence ... George and I wrote the [Mad Max] script based on the thesis that people would do almost anything to keep vehicles moving and the assumption that nations would not consider the huge costs of providing infrastructure for alternative energy until it was too late," said McCausland.

This peak oil prompted the duo to think of the distant future when the Earth's supplies were exhausted, leading to the breakdown of law. The result was a series of images more violent than they would imagine, which didn't please everyone. But Miller and Kennedy have nothing to lose, as this was their first. Many scenes would be considered as iconic, redone countless times by future filmmakers. Their experimental approach would be noticed by everyone in Australia - and the rest of the world. Mel Gibson portrayed Max Rockatansky, an upcoming actor back then. He would be noticed for that certain star quality that Hollywood actors from the studio era possessed.

The movie would be followed with a sequel and more. Miller and Gibson would find themselves working in Hollywood soon. (Miller would direct “Babe”, another Oscar-winning feature, while Gibson would star in blockbusters like “Lethal Weapon”.)

As for "Mad Max", the movie would fascinate succeeding generations of directors and movie enthusiasts. After all, there weren't many movies back then that were raw and edgy, both of which gave the film a hypnotic effect. Miller had no idea that his first would be a classic.

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