Miller, George: Three Thousand Years of Longing (Cannes Fest 2022)

The Oscar winner also teases what to expect from Furiosa and if we’ll see Tom Hardy as ‘Mad Max’

George Miller Variety Credit Dan Doperalski
Photo: Dan Doperalski 

Three Thousand Years of Longing, the fantasy love story from director George Miller, is set to hit theaters August 31.

Miller is a true believer in cinema to be seen in movie theaters. “It would be very painful to know that your movie will be first seen on streaming,” he says.

“There’s a commitment that they can’t change. MGM will release it at the end of August in 2,000 cinemas. There’s been no deal that MGM has made to stream the movie. At this moment, it will be a theatrical release. Seeing it in that cinema, at the Palais, with that sound, that group of people, and knowing every little bit of work that we put into it, will be available to the audiences.”

The movie is adapted by Miller and first-time screenwriter Augusta Goran from the short story “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” by A. S. Byatt.

It tells the story of Alithea (played by Tilda Swinton), a scholar that encounters a djinn (played by Idris Elba) who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom.

The COVID-19 pandemic took heavy toll on movie theaters, with many forced to shut their doors, even after the vaccine was released. However, Miller isn’t worried about the future of cinema. “I think congregations of people telling each other stories has evolved since early man,” he says. “Cinema just has to adapt to it.”

It was five years ago when George Miller was sitting at a table with Tilda Swinton at the 70th Cannes Fest and the two conversed for hours when it dawned on the Australian filmmaker that she would be perfect to play Alithea in the long-gestating project. “She’s a bit of a chameleon.”

It wasn’t until he cast Swinton, that he knew Elba was the only person who could play the djinn. “You can’t just cast anybody. It’s the yin to the yang.”

Working with two of the most versatile stars today, Miller refers to his two leading stars as “filmmaking actors,” which he explains: “They are there for much more than just to provide for the character. They’re there to come up with strategies and the best way to make the film.”

The 77-year-old director is an Oscar winner for best animated feature for “Happy Feet” (2005).

He has also garnered nominations for “Lorenzo’s Oil” (1992) in original screenplay, “Babe” (1996) for best picture and adapted screenplay, and “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015) for picture and directing.

“Fury Road” was another long-gestation and was supposed to begin production in 2001 with Mel Gibson set to reprise his role. However, after the 9/11 attacks, it was difficult to get the production insured according to Miller. By the time the film was ready, Gibson had faced an avalanche of bad press and scrutiny for his anti-Semitic remarks and he was no longer able to be in the film.

When discussing his passion for cinema, Miller can recall the actual day that he fell in love with the art form. His eyes gaze out to the wall behind me, and you can see himself transporting back to when he was attending university and studying medicine. He was walking to class when he saw a poster: “there were a woman’s legs, and two fingers giving the peace sign,” he describes. He’s talking about Robert Altman’s “M*A*S*H” (1972), which was like nothing he had ever seen before. “I walked out, into the sunlight, came back straightaway and watched it a second time.”

After emerging from the movie house — it was now dark — he was high on the potential of cinema and what it could be. As he walked home, he passed an arthouse cinema where they were playing “The Battle of Algiers” (1966). He went in and the war film gave a completely different experience. He was hooked.

His next project will be the highly-anticipated Furiosa, a spin-off from “Fury Road” that will star Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth, which he’ll return to shooting in Australia on May 24, after already filming a major sequence.

He calls the sequel “a saga,” which will unspool over 15-year period, differing from its predecessor, which spanned only 3 days in its timeframe.