The Mad Max Wiki

Mad Max is a 1979 Australian dystopian action film directed by George Miller and written by Miller and Byron Kennedy. The film, starring the then-little-known Mel Gibson, was released internationally in 1980. Its narrative based around the traditional western genre, Mad Max tells a story of breakdown of society, murder and vengeance. It became a top-grossing Australian film and has been credited for further opening up the global market to Australian New Wave films. The movie was also notable for being the first Australian film to be shot with a widescreen anamorphic lens.

It has had a lasting influence on apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction ever since. The film spawned three sequels, Mad Max 2 in 1981, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome in 1985 and Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015.


Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow. Reader's discretion advised.

The film opens "a few years from now" in Australia, in a dystopian future where fuel is scarce and law and order has begun to break down. Berserk motorcycle gang member Crawford "Nightrider" Montizano has broken police custody and - with a punk woman by his side - is attempting to flee from the Main Force Patrol, the Federal highway police unit, in a stolen MFP Pursuit Special. Though he manages to elude his initial pursuers, the Nightrider then encounters the MFP's "top pursuit man", leather-clad Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson). Max, the more skilled driver, pursues the Nightrider in a high-speed nerve-wracking chase which results in the death of the Nightrider and the woman in a fiery car crash.

Nightrider's Armalite motorcycle gang - led by the barbaric "Toecutter" (Hugh Keays-Bryne) and his lieutenant Bubba Zanetti (Geoff Parry) - is running roughshod over a country town, vandalizing property, stealing fuel and terrorising the local population. Max and his fellow officer Jim Goose (Steve Bisley) are able to arrest the Toecutter's young protege, a punk named Johnny the Boy (Tim Burns), when Johnny lingers at the scene of one of the gang’s crimes. However, when no witnesses show for his trial, the courts declare the case "no contest", and Johnny is released. A shocked Goose attacks Johnny and must be physically restrained; both Goose and Johnny shout threats of revenge at each other. After Bubba drags Johnny away, MFP Captain Fifi Macaffee frees his officers to pursue the gangs as they want, "so long as the paperwork's clean".

Shortly thereafter, Johnny sabotages The Goose's MFP motorcycle; the motorcycle locks up at high speed the next day, throwing Goose from the bike. He borrows a ute to haul his bike back to civilization. However, Johnny The Boy and the Toe Cutters Gang are waiting further up the highway in ambush. Johnny throws a drum brake at the Gooses windshield and causes him to run off the road and then - upon the Toecutter's insistence, and perhaps as a gang initiation - is instructed to throw a match at the Gooses ute which is leaking petrol from its ruptured fuel line. Johnny the Boy refuses and the Toe Cutter starts to abuse him and in the ensuing arguement the lit match is thrown at the wreckage of the ute.

The Goose survives, but after seeing his charred body in the hospital's burn ward, Max becomes angry and disillusioned with the police force. Worried of what may happen if he stays in the job, and fearing he may become as savage and brutal as the gang members, Max announces to Fifi that he is resigning from the MFP with no intention of returning. Fifi convinces him to take a holiday first before making his final decision about leaving.

While on holiday at the coast, Max's wife, Jessie, (Joanne Samuel) and their son run into Toecutter's gang, who attempt to molest her. She flees, and returns to Max (who is getting their tyre fixed) but the gang later manages to track them to the remote farm near the beach where she and Max are staying. While attempting to escape, Jessie and her son are run down and run over by the gang; their crushed bodies are left in the middle of the road. Max arrives too late to intervene.

Filled with obsessive rage, Max dons his police leathers and takes a supercharged black Pursuit Special to pursue the gang. After torturing a mechanic for information on the gang, Max methodically hunts down and kills the gang members: several gang members are forced off a bridge at high speed; Max shoots and kills Bubba at point blank range with his shotgun; the Toecutter is forced into the path of a speeding semi-trailer truck and crushed. In the last two road battles, Max has his arm crushed when it is run over by Bubba's motorbike, and earlier received a gunshot to his knee by Bubba as well, which he fixes with a makeshift splint to his leg. Driven further mad by the pain, and becoming even more relentless and ruthless, he searches for the final members of the gang. When Max finds Johnny the Boy taking the boots off a dead driver at the scene of a crash, he handcuffs Johnny's ankle to the wrecked vehicle and sets a crude time-delay fuse. Throwing Johnny a hacksaw, Max leaves him the choice of sawing through either the handcuffs (which will take 10 minutes) or his ankle (which will take 5 minutes). As Max drives away, the vehicle explodes; Max drives on further into the outback without turning back, his face emotionless.

Spoilers end here.


Max's Yellow Interceptor
Max's yellow Interceptor was a 1974 Ford Falcon XB sedan (previously, a Melbourne police car) with a 351ci Cleveland V8 engine and many other modifications.[1]
Big Bopper
The Big Bopper, driven by Roop and Charlie, was also a 1974 Ford Falcon XB sedan and former Victorian Police car, but was powered by a 302ci Cleveland V8.[2]
March Hare
The March Hare, driven by Sarse and Scuttle, was an in-line-six-powered 1972 Ford Falcon XA sedan (this car was formerly a Melbourne taxi cab).[3]
Pursuit Special
The most memorable car, Max's black Pursuit Special - More commonly known as "The Last of the V8 Interceptors" based on a mechanic's quote in Mad Max 2 - was a limited GT351 version of a 1973 Ford XB Falcon Hardtop (sold in Australia from December 1973 to August 1976) which was primarily modified by Murray Smith, Peter Arcadipane and Ray Beckerley.[4] After filming of the first movie was completed, the car was handed over to Murray Smith. When production of Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior) began the car was again purchased back by George Miller for use in the sequel. Once filming was over the car was left at a wrecking yard and was bought and restored by Bob Forsenko, and is currently on display in the Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in Cumbria, England.[5]
Nightrider Special
The Nightrider's vehicle, another Pursuit Special, was a 1972 Holden HQ LS Monaro coupe.[6]
Civilian Chevrolet
The car driven by the civilian couple that is destroyed by the bikers is a 1959 Chevrolet Impala sedan.[7]
Motorcycles & Other vehicles
Of the motorcycles that appear in the film, 10 were donated by Kawasaki and were driven by a local Victorian motorcycle gang, the Vigilantes, who appeared as members of Toecutter's gang.[8]

Conception and production[]

Original idea[]

George Miller was a medical doctor in Victoria, Austrlia, working in a hospital emergency room, where he saw many injuries and deaths of the types depicted in the movie. While in residency at a Melbourne hospital, he met amateur film maker Byron Kennedy at a summer film school in 1971. The duo produced the short film Violence in the Cinema, Part 1, which was screened at a number of film festivals and won several awards. That movie was taken up and distributed by Greater Union. The exposure the short movie had encouraged Byron Kennedy to convince George Miller about making a full feature film. This was about 1973-74. At that time increasing road casualties had become more and more prevalent and noticeable in Australia. George being a doctor and Byron as his driver had experienced this road carnage during long weekends where they would work three days straight going into remote parts of Australia to deal with all sorts of road injuries and casualties. They were quite disturbed by those occurrences but at the same time they had to grow accustomed to it. This cultural acceptance and desensitization to road violence entered Australian consciousness and it became some sort of basis for a feature film.

The original idea for Mad Max started out in tone of a documentary. One day George Miller had been hearing about a radio journalist that would follow around into places of car accidents to interview people about them. This resonated deeply with George Miller and his desensitization towards road accidents as a doctor. He then asked himself "what if that happened to you?". Max started as a journalist in contemporary Melbourne, someone who would be a little desensitized and brutalized by crime stories, violence and so on. The idea of Max as a journalist did not work out so Byron and George turned Max into a cop. Then the idea came to make Max experience the violence he'd seen on the roads by killing his family and friends. It took Miller and Kennedy about 5 years to change the story from the very fist idea into what ultimately became Mad Max.[9] It took about 8 months to turn the contemporary version of Mad Max into a dystopian version set 'A few years from now'.

The reasons for setting Mad Max in near future were both low budget which would allow for filming in abandoned locations as well as the story that became increasingly exagerated to the point it could not take place in a contemporary setting. Miller also did not like the contemporary look of the Melbourne police uniforms and cars. Setting Mad Max in the near future would give the authors a lot of creative freedom in making the cars and uniforms look more interesting.[10]


In order to fund the film Miller and Kennedy took up very intensive emergency medical services for three months. They had collected a lot of stories from that time as well as a portion of funds for the movie. Miller would have been working on the script, sometimes in the back of his Bongo van, but he would need help with the script. He teamed up with James McCausland who at the time was the finance editor for The Australian, based out of Melbourne (who appears in the film as the bearded man in an apron in front of the diner). James had the amazing ability to quote any movie, so Miller called him up and offered him a job on writing the movie. James and George would discuss the fact that they would remember specific parts of movies, pieces of dialogue which would stick after watching the movie and using those bits to make a complete movie. They decided to start the movie with a crescendo and build up to a crescendo at the end of the movie. James would write all of the dialogue, stories told by characters and he would check it with Miller's main beats in the movie. All the takes were meticulously described in the script because the budget would not allow for any kind of flexibility in that regard.

In a 2006 newspaper commentary on peak oil, James McCausland wrote the following in relation to Mad Max:

"In 1973, the Arab oil-producing nations convulsed most of the world by tightening the spigots on their wells and sharply reducing production. Corporations, and nations including Japan, went into crisis mode and many started to think of ways to lessen their reliance on petroleum products. As the after-shock waves began to subside and black gold started to flow again, most enterprises kicked petroleum replacement well down the agenda. 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 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."[11]

The script turned out to have 214 pages.


Miller would realize that raising funds for the movie from the government was not possible because most movies at that time were period pieces. In 1976 the movie was put up to Hexagon but Alan Finney (head of marketing) rejected the movie. This prompted the authors to raise the movie themselves, spreading the cost among a lot of different people, mainly Miller's and Kennedy's friends in Melbourne and Sydney. The movie turned out to be entirely privately financed. Ultimately it took Miller and Kennedy 18 months to raise AUD $350,000. The fact that the movie was privately financed gave the authors total control, and they were not accountable to anybody except for investors, who did not intervene with the production whatsoever.


Miller and Kennedy wanted complete unknowns for the main roles and even the people who were somewhat known had to change their appearance completely. Mitch Mathews was in charge of casting the movie. She found three really good graduating actors in the National Institute of Dramatic Art, two of them would be very good for the role and she specifically mentioned Mel Gibson and Steve Bisley.

According to Byron Kennedy:[12].

I remember when we started the casting sessions, casting agents would want us to look at this actor or that for Max, and they all would be so wrong. We were getting depressed because we couldn't find anyone in Australia that looked like what we had envisioned Max to be, someone who had the charisma of a Clint Eastwood or a Steve McQueen. Then one day another casting agent who was a friend of our director, George Miller took him to see a play that was being put on by students of the National Institute for the Dramatic Arts, a school which offered a three or four year acting course. Amazingly enough, both the Jim Goose character and the Mad Max character were right there in that play. The moment George saw them, he said, "That's it. They're perfect". They were good friends in real life and he just knew they'd be absolutely perfect for the parts. George took a videotape of the play and showed it to us. We thought it was tremendous, but there was one major problem. The play wasn't going to finish until two weeks into our shoot. I quickly rescheduled the whole first two weeks so that the minute these two guys finished with the play they were flown straight to Melbourne. And they were acting the very next morning.

– Byron Kennedy

Mel Gibson was found perfect for the main role, Steve Bisley loved the role of Goose because he loved bikes already and because the character had a short fuse. There is a popular rumor on how Mel Gibson and Steve Bisley were cast for the movie. According to Mel Gibson, he dropped off his friend Bisley to an audition for the part of Max. Gibson was reportedly in poor shape as the night before he had gotten into a drunken brawl with "half a rugby team" (his own words) which caught interest of the casting agents. They took pictures of Gibson saying that they "need freaks for this film, when you heal up, come see us". Gibson was desperate for a job so two weeks later he came back to the casting agency and initially they did not recognize him. Once he pointed at his less than flattering pictures on the wall, the casting agents recognized him and met him with George Miller who gave him the part of Max on the spot.[13]

Rosie Bailey was originally cast as Max's wife Jessie. Unfortunately her and Grant Page had accident on their way to the shooting location. Rosie had suffered a broken femur which excluded her from the picture. Joanne Samuel was hired to play Jessie instead.

The character of Fifi Macaffee was played by Roger Ward. George Miller required Roger to shave his head, despite having a full head of hair. Roger always wanted to do that and that's what won him over for the role of Fifi. Roop was played by Steve Millichamp and Charlie was played by John Ley. Both of those actors were dramatically different which made both of them play off each other really well. Essentially they were just looking for reasons to annoy themselves and play as such on camera.

Hugh Keays-Byrne was cast as Toecutter. He proved himself to be a very charismatic actor whose presence was very strong. He was an accomplished actor, very seasoned and a fabulous performer. Bubba Zanetti was played by Geoff Parry, who at first could not work out if Bubba Zanetti were two different characters. He locked down the character after he was given a woman's black top and a necklace. Tim Burns was cast as Johnny the Boy - a character whose mind is a mangled mess. Howard Eynon was playing Diabando, who mostly made animal noises despite having only a few actual lines. Paul Johnstone was cast as Cundalini, David Bracks as Mudguts. Both of their performances were mainly improvised. All the actors playing the gang members stayed in their roles even off camera, which made for very interesting interactions with other cast and crew.

Barry the mechanic was played by David Cameron. Originally this character was supposed to be a 'one armed mechanic'. Due to technical and financial limitations, George Miller directed Cameron to simply put one of his hands behind his back to simulate being one handed. Instead, David Cameron suggested that the mechanic would have both of his hands, but he would be walking with a limp and speaking with a stutter. The theme of a handicapped mechanic would later return in Mad Max 2.

The Grease Rat mechanic was played by Nico Lathouris. Nico would later return to the world of Mad Max and contribute by co-writing Mad Max: Fury Road.


Bryon Kennedy was the main force behind the cars of Mad Max. He's put the most work into the Black On Black - The V8 Interceptor. The vehicle was based on Byron's vision of a car he wanted to have ever since he was 15 years old. Byron's attention to vehicles went as far as to give each vehicle an individually tuned exhaust to give the vehicles their own personality.

Bertrand Cadard (playing Clunk) was originally hired as the bike designer. Along with Bill Miller (associate producer) and George Miller the three approached the Kawasaki distributor to convince them to provide bikes for the movie. Kawasaki agreed and delivered 10 brand new Kawasaki Z1000s. 9 of those bikes were modified and one left for spare parts. Mechanical engineer Jack Burger modified the bikes according to Bertrand's designs. All handle bars were replaced and a number of exhaust pipes were changed as well. Removing the mufflers made the bikes extremely loud. Tim Burns recalls that the neighbours were throwing sauce pans at the crew at 4:30 in the morning because of the noise. Each of the bikes had to have a different look, achievable within the budget constraints. For the Toecutter, Jimm Goose and Bubba Zinnetti bikes the full fairing with bottom section was used. For minor bikes, such as Clunk's a Ducati 900SS replica fairings were used. Toecutter's and Goose's bikes are practically identical. The bikes were not tested before filming due to time constraints, which was very risky for the builders, but no accidents happened because of the modifications. The bikes were ridden to and from locations by actors themselves to cut production costs. Some of the actors did not have any experience with bikes prior and yet rode bikes to the set each morning, sometimes at speeds exceeding 200km/h. Fortunately no accidents occurred. After the filming the bikes were deemed unroadworthy. The builders did not know that those bikes were meant to be sent back to Kawasaki in their original condition. Only 3 bikes were returned.


The shooting began on October 24th, 1977 and lasted over the period of 12 weeks until December 1977, in and around Melbourne. Many of the car-chase scenes for the original Mad Max were filmed near the town of Lara, just north of Geelong. The film crew did not have any police permissions to either stop the traffic nor film on highways. The shooting on the Geelong Freeway with Johnny the Boy making the call resulted in stopping the whole traffic on the highway. The crew was directed to stop the traffic so John Hipwell (Unit Manager) set up the cones on the road narrowing down the lanes to just one and at the very end of it there was a person with a STOP sign. It worked incredibly well, the traffic was stopped at 9:20 in the morning with about a thousand cars held up. The traffic they caused was mentioned on the news shortly after the crew wrapped up the filming of the scene. Most shots were filmed within 10 or 20 miles from Melbourne, and according to George Miller, it was very difficult to avoid trees because they needed to have a very stark landscape. In order to capture that on film, they had to find gaps in the horizon where there were no trees and then they could only shoot in that direction[14]. On the 4th day of filming the main stuntman Grant Page was in a bike accident (along with Rosie Bailey - the original Jessie Rockatansky). He was in a really bad shape. The glasses he was wearing at the time of the accident dislocated his nose on impact, broken ribs, leg and he had internal injuries as well. Grant Page was the main stuntman for the film which caused massive implications. Whole sequences had to be rescheduled. A new stunt coordinator was hired but after the first take he smashed the front end of the Black On Black when he turned the car around for the second take. George Miller was disappointed, and told Byron that the only person he trusts is Grant Page who was in the hospital. Miller was fearing for the safety of the cast and crew but also the movie had to be made so he decided to step down from his directorial duties and hire Brian Trenchard-Smith who's worked with a lot of stunts and was used to filming action. Miller would then take over as the producer. The cast upon finding this out threatened to leave if Miller didn't direct the movie. Shortly after George Miller resumed his work as the director of the picture.

David Bracks (who played Mudguts) visited Grant Page in hospital and was asked to take over the stunt duties. David did not have the experience but with the guidance of Grant he was able to perform stunts until Page would leave the hospital. Grant Page checked himself out of the hospital early, took off his leg cast, while still with his face mask and with broken ribs. He met with Miller and both resumed work the next day, Grant Page directing stunts from a wheel chair.

Miller hired a crew from Melbourne. The only crew he could afford were people who had worked in television - Crawford Productions. Miller required a new style of filming from a crew that worked mainly on TV before, this caused a lot of tension. The crew certainly did not know what Miller was doing and yet he was directing them to break the rules of filming they were accustomed to. Miller, however was confident that everything would come together because he had a vision in his head.

There really was no distinction between the cast and crew, everyone contributed as much as they could in whatever areas they felt confident enough. In one of the scenes the Toecutter was played by the director himself - George Miller, while it was filmed by Tim Burns on a car driven by Miller's brother. Many crew members held multiple positions simultaneously ranging from assistant directors to make up artists and stunt coordinators.

The style of filming was regarded as guerilla filmmaking. There was only one camera, five lenses, one crane on the back of a Ford F100. The movie was shot with a widescreen anamorphic lens, the first Australian film to use one. The widescreen lenses were bought cheaply from the production of The Getaway (1972). All the lenses were damaged from filming action sequences which caused problems for David Egby who struggled with them a lot to work those very cumbersome lenses that were always falling in and out of focus. The crew also had an easier to use 35mm wide angle lens that allowed the filmmakers to go down very low over the road to give the audience the great sense of speed. Mad Max was the only Australian film ever shot on the Todd-AO lens system. The filmmakers would often personally sit in front of the vehicles or on the back of bikes at high speed without any protection.

The filmmakers received a letter signed by Inspector Bloggs who was the head of the Victorian Police Department. This letter was essentially the approval of the filming and offering of any assistance from the Police if necessary. The crew called it the 'Get out of jail free card'. It became a reference in the movie when Goose gives one of the bikers a 'Get Out Of Jail Free' card.


  • The famous Bongo Van stunt has been many times quoted as using George Miller's very own Bongo Van in the crash sequence. In fact, Miller's Bongo Van was used only in one shot prior to the crash. For the crash a dummy Bongo Van from a wrecking yard was used. The vehicle did not have an engine and the transmission. On top of the vehicle there were supposed to be buckets of paint, but it would be too difficult to clean up so 200 gallons of milk were up top. When the MFP car hit the Bongo Van the car spun out from underneath the weight of the milk in a spectacular fashion.
  • For the caravan stunt the inside of the caravan was removed with all the structural parts that could make too much damage. The empty shell of the caravan had its left side removed since it would be invisible from the filming side. The ramp was makeshift from pieces of wood Grant Page could find. The inside of the caravan was filled with cornflakes, small items, some hung from a string so that they would hit the car in a specific matter. When the car smashed through the caravan the cornflakes gave the impression of pieces of wood flying in every direction along with items that made the caravan look full and complete inside.
  • The game of chicken stunt between Nightrider and Max. It was extremely difficult to perform because the shot was set up in such a way that none of the cars could have moved to the side of the road into a safer position. The camera was pointing directly through the center of the road so two cars had to appear to be going directly at eachother at 160km/h. In order for Max's car to swing around and do a handbrake turn the stunt driver had to briefly turn directly onto a head-on collision course with the Nightrider's car and then shift the weight of the car to perform the handbrake turn. The handbrake turn was difficult to perform because the car would not turn around completely and the road was narrow but it eventually turned out okay.
  • The Nightrider's crash stunt started with Byron's will to spectacularly run the car into the semi trailer. Chris Murray (Special Effects Supervisor) and Byron Kennedy were in a bar thinking about how they would make this stunt happen and Chris suggested putting a rocket in the car. This idea eventually turned into an exercise of getting an actual rocket. Byron had the audacity to approach the department of defense and ask them for a rocket and they agreed to it. Byron Kennedy acquired a rocket for free. The rocket was installed in the car, a steel cable was strung down the center of the road going through hooks underneath the Nightrider's Monaro and the cable itself was tired to steel posts on the side of the road. There were rubber pads near the trailer which would trigger the explosions once the car ran over them. Three cameras were set up, the crew cleared the road and the rocket in the Monaro was fired. The car instantly bolted onto the semi trailer, but nobody heard the crash. One of the NAVY officers present at the filming said that the car has gone airborne so the crew started looking up for the car. Turns out the car swerved around the semi trailer and continued rocketing down the road backwards past the camera car with the producer, the director and the rest of the camera crew. Rocket propelled Monaro started going straight at the crew. Everyone's lives flashed before their eyes as they started to run away, but shortly after the Monaro veered off and went into paddock and crashed into a fence. Since the stunt did not go exactly as planned, a pile of cars was prepared and the Monaro was pulled into it to cause a fiery explosion afterwards.
  • Goose's bike stunt was performed by Gerry Gauslaa and prepared by Grant Page. The landing was eyeballed and cardboard boxes were placed in an estimated place of the stuntman's landing. It was the longest air travel in a stunt at the time.
  • The crashing of the drum brake through the windshield of the red ute was done by Steve Bisley at the wheel without any protection whatsoever, whereas Grant Page was standing on the roof holding to a rope with a drum brake in his hand. The crew inside only had safety goggles and David Eggby was hiding behind the camera.
  • The ute rollover stunt was performed by Grant Page with George Miller behind one of the cameras. The car was supposed to go over a ramp and roll into the ditch but Grant didn't hit the ramp. The car was still going in the right direction at the camera but did not start to roll yet and once it started it was by accident and dangerously close to the camera.
  • The tanker assault stunt was enhanced by Grant Page with the idea of using a pole to get onto the tanker. Grant approached David Bracks to perform the stunt. David agreed and the stunt was performed excellently and safely with the truck going at only 10km/h.
  • The bridge head on collision. George Miller offered $1000 to Bertrand Cadard to perform the falling into the creek stunt but he refused seeing the height of the bridge. The stunt was one of the last ones on the list, by that time there were only a few working bikes left. It was performed by Grant Page and Chris Anderson. The most difficult part about the stunt was that the stunt drivers did not know where they were going up until they drove off the bridge into the creek. The second part of the stunt was to drop the bike to the ground and slide on asphalt. In such situations the bike rider should always stay behind the bike holding onto it. Sometimes, however the bike would bite into the ground and if the rider still holds onto the bike they will be ejected over and in front of the bike. This is what happened to Dale, the stuntman doubling for Starbuck, Nic Gazzana's character. The stuntman flew over the bike and in front of it. Dale was wearing Nic Gazzana's outfit complete with a helmet that was too big so once the other bike came in from behind and smacked him in the head, the helmet slid over Dale's head easily selling the impression of causing serious damage. Dale came out of the stunt unscathed.
  • Toecutter's death. Max chasing Toecutter down the road was particularly dangerous because the the bikes of that day were not suited well for driving around corners at speed and cars did a much better job at gripping onto the road at the same speed. Phil Brock (stunt driver) was only sticking with the bike which was going as fast as possible with limited grip almost constantly. Should the bike lose grip the car would have easily ran it over along with the biker. The collision with the truck was filmed with a static bike cobbled together from parts of other parts. The Toecutter dummy was a shop mannequin that was also wired together. Miller's only requirement was that the head of Toecutter does not fall off, otherwise it wouldn't sell the illusion. The truck was not required to go fast to do the damage, it was agreed to go 100km/h, but the driver did in fact go way faster that that straight into the bike. At one point the trailer went off the ground. The driver of the truck was a regular driver that was paid to perform the stunt, in order not to damage the front of the truck a metal plate with painted headlights and grille was installed. Unfortunately as the bike went under the truck it did a lot more damage than expected. The bike ripped the crossover lines off the fuel tanks of the prime mover and damaged the landing legs on the trailer.
  • Final explosion. There was only one take available for this shot. Just before the explosion one person came up to the crew members up the hill asking what's going on. The crew member said that they're filming a movie to which that person introduced themselves as the owner of the property down below. The owner explained that there was a film crew not long ago and they damaged his property. The crew member explained that there's nothing to be afraid of and everything will be fine as the mighty fireball emerged down the hill and the grass around it caught fire.


The editing process began at Peter Kamen's apartment. Miller and Kennedy started with an assumption that Australian films were too slow but there never was an Australian film that was too fast. Tony Paterson and George Miller started editing right after the filming with Tony working for about 5 months. After that George worked with Cliff Hayes for another 3 months editing the movie. Afterwards Miller and Kennedy came together to work on the rest of the film. Miller was cutting the picture in the kitchen and Byron was working on the sound in the lounge room. The movie was edited on a home-built editing machine that Kennedy's father, an engineer, had designed for them. Miller's editing philosophy was that the movie was supposed to work first as a silent movie, only then the sound would be added. It took for Byron about 5 months working just on the soundtrack because the movie was highly visual and the sound needed to catch up to it. The score was supposed to be very cinematic and Hollywood'esque but the filmmakers couldn't decide on what composer to use. It eventually settled on Brian May very early into the post production. Miller would bring in May to his studio to explain the movie showing him the rough cut and the score May came up with was perfect for the movie and glued it together. The sound was mixed with Roger Savage. The filmmakers wanted to experiment with the sound to give it much more power. It was the first ever film to be mixed to timecode. It has since become the industry standard practice.


After the film was finished and took on by the Roadshow they began to do the publicity. They did not like the title of the movie because it sounded like a comedy. The studio urged Miller to come up with another title for the movie. After coming up with about 100 different names Byron and George decided on the title "Heavy Metal". A memo went out into the Roadshow saying that the movie would then be called "Heavy Metal". Shortly before the movie came out Graham Burke who was the managing director of Roadshow called Miller and said that he'd been talking to the head of distribution at Greater Union and their gut feeling was that "Mad Max" was the appropriate movie. Miller did not have much faith in the movie at that point due to the difficult production process so he would have been happy with either title anyway. Allan Finney took care of the marketing of the movie. The movie premiered in Australia on April 12th, 1979, 18 months after final day of filming.

In the United States the film was released through AIP Pictures owned by Samuel Z. Arkoff. Arkoff understood the movie fully and was very excited for it. In the period between the buying the film and the release he sold the controlling stake of the company to a group called Filmways who made all the crucial decisions. At that point the filmmakers lost control over the movie. In result all the voices, including that of Mel Gibson's character, were dubbed by U.S. performers at the behest of the distributor, American International Pictures, for fear that audiences would not take warmly to actors speaking entirely with Australian accents. Much of the Australian slang and terminology was also replaced with American usages (examples: "See looks!" became "See what I see?", "windscreen" became "windshield", "very toey" became "super hot", and "premmie" became "rookie"). AIP also altered the operator's duty call on Jim Goose's bike in the beginning of the movie (it ended with "Come on, Goose, where are you?"). The only dubbing exceptions were the voice of the singer in the Sugartown Cabaret (played by Robina Chaffey), the voice of Charlie (played by John Ley) through the mechanical voice box, and Officer Jim Goose (played by Steve Bisley), singing as he drives a truck before being ambushed. Miller has never seen the dubbed version of the movie in its entirety and is still to this day most offended by overdubbing of Hugh Keys-Byrne's royal Shakespearean accent.

The original Australian dialogue track was finally released in the U.S. in 2000 in a limited theatrical reissue by MGM, the film's current rights holders (it has since been released in the U.S. on DVD with both the US and Australian soundtracks on separate tracks).

Since Mel Gibson was not well known to American audiences, trailers and TV spots in the USA emphasized the film's action content.


  • New Zealand: Mad Max was first classified on 9th of August 1979 and banned from cinemas in New Zealand. The ban was upheld again after review on March 23rd 1981. It was submitted yet again for classification on 15th of April 1983 and passed with an R18 rating which it holds to this day. Since the movie was classified after the release of Mad Max 2 the official release of Mad Max in New Zealand was titled "The Original Mad Max" on video tapes during the 1980's.[15] The movie was apparently banned due to Gooses' death scene which resembled a real-life gang incident in New Zealand.
  • Sweden: The movie was banned due to excessive violence. The ban was lifted in 2005.[16]

Critical reception[]

The movie was a great Australian box office success and was nothing like any Australian movie made before. The film initially received a mixed reaction from critics. Tom Buckley of the New York Times called it "ugly and incoherent",[17] though Variety magazine praised the directorial debut by Miller.[18] The film currently has a 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[19]

Though the film had a limited run in the United States and earned only $8 million there, it did very well elsewhere around the world and went on to earn $100 million worldwide.[20] Since it was independently financed with a reported budget of just $400,000 AUD, it was a major financial success. For twenty years, the movie held a record in Guinness Book of Records as the highest profit-to-cost ratio of a motion picture, conceding the record only in 2000 to Blair Witch Project.[21] The film was awarded three Australian Film Institute Awards in 1979 (for editing, sound, and musical score).[22]