Mad Max: Fury Road–New Characters and Actors

“Mad Max: Fury Road” is set 45 years after the fall of the world.  There is no rule of law, no power grids, no water, and no mercy.  Civilization is a memory, and only to a few.

Nux (Nicholas Hoult)

Nicholas Hoult is Nux, who has achieved the ultimate for a War Boy in his short, failing life—the vaunted position of driver, with his own personalized hot rod and a V-8 engine block scarified on his chest.

“Everyone in this story is a commodity, and yet, in Nux, we see the rambunctiousness of youth,” says Miller.  “Even though he’s leading a fairly miserable existence, and knows he hasn’t got long, he’s actually capable of great joy, and Nick has that energy inherently.  He’s a wonderful actor, extremely disciplined, strong and also tremendous fun.  Nick just exudes that youthful exuberance that really tells you who this character is.”

Long before production began, Miller set up a secure website loaded with videos of costume fittings, stunt tests, and reference materials for the actors to learn the backstories of the characters, which was a goldmine for Hoult.  “It gave some insight into how Nux could always be trying his best to be optimistic,” the actor notes.  “He doesn’t know much about the world; all he knows is that he’s only got a half-life.  He’s got these tumors on his neck called Larry and Barry, who are kind of his pals, but are also killing him.  His relative innocence and enthusiasm are what set Nux onto the path he takes in this film.”

All the War Boys sport bald heads, tattoos, scarification, and full body-paint in Immortan’s signature white, so Hoult shaved his head and sat in the make-up trailer for two hours each day before cameras rolled. “When your appearance changes so much, it helps you tap into different parts of your personality,” he says.

Though he enjoyed the process, he admits he envied how Charlize Theron worked it.  “Charlize walks in, greases her forehead and out she goes.  I was like, ‘Hang on a minute…’”

Theron confirms, “For me, it was just, ‘Where’s the grease?  OK, let’s go.’”  Since the actor spent so much time in Furiosa’s War Rig, she kept a make-up bag and compact mirror inside the cab to do touch-ups on the fly.

When Furiosa detours her rig and her convoy off their scheduled run to Gas Town, it becomes clear she’s got a different agenda, and Immortan’s kingdom erupts into bedlam.  What enrages him is not losing his Imperator, or even the War Rig…it’s the cargo she carries.  The vault where he keeps his prized breeders is empty save for Miss Giddy (Jennifer Hagan), their mother-figure and teacher, and on the wall, they’ve scrawled a simple message:  “We are not things.”

Theron doesn’t see Furiosa’s act as heroic, or even motivated by compassion.  “She is an anti-hero in the classic sense,” Theron asserts.  “She’s driven by these very human flaws.  For me, what sets her off is that she has had enough of feeling worthless as a woman in a world where women are only good for one thing, and that’s procreating.  And she’s going to take what matters most to the Immortan because he took the most valuable thing away from her when he stole her away from her mother and then discarded her.  To me, this is about not letting the bastards get away with it, and I love that about her.”

Lathouris notes that the parallels between Furiosa and Max are not incidental.  “She is of the same ilk as Max.  Her story is not unlike his.  She too has suffered great losses in her life, and she, too, turned from grief to vengeance.”

When the war drums sound, Nux is in the Blood Bank, where the Organic Mechanic (Angus Sampson) is fixing him up with a shot of “high octane crazy blood” from the Citadel’s newest universal donor—Max, now shorn, masked, branded, and shackled upside down, his blood draining into Nux via intravenous tube.  “The only reason they keep Max alive is because his blood is viable rather than cancerous,” explains McCarthy.  “Blood plays an important part in this film, and it’s almost a satirical twist on the whole notion of ‘fill ‘er up.’  You’re filling cars up with ‘guzzoline,’ as it’s called in the ‘Mad Max’ canon, and you’re filling War Boys up with blood.”

Nux knows he doesn’t have long and Furiosa’s rebellion is his last chance to die in an historic fashion, with Max as his lifeline.  Says Hardy, “Nux wants to go out there and lead that glorious pursuit, and in order for him to do that, he has to take his ‘Blood Bag’ with him.”

Hoult adds, “Nux needs Max, but he is also having fun with him.  Max is terrified and miserable, and that’s sort of hilarious to Nux.  He’s having the time of his life.”

Max blazes into the Road War strapped to the hood of a speeding car, bleeding out with each heartbeat as tons of rolling metal collide inches from his face.  The Citadel armada, along with gangs led by the Gas Town boss (Richard Carter) and the Bullet Farmer (John Howard), storm across the sand to converge on the War Rig and attack from every side.  Thumping through the ferocious din, the Doof Warrior (iOTA) rallies the death squads with hardcore rock n’ roll shrieking full-blast across the Plains.

The armada is not the only menace confronting the War Rig in the Wasteland:  every crack, hole, canyon and bog is loaded with threat, whether from the carrion horror of the underground Buzzard tribe or the Rock Riders lurking with infinite stealth in a treacherous canyon the rebels must pass.  Even the sky above bears down on them in the form of a churning tornado of dust and fire—the toxic storm.

In its aftermath, Max finds himself alive but still chained to the War Boy, and dropped into the same patch of sand as Furiosa and the Wives.  They are beautiful and pristine against the filth and fallout that surrounds him, but he only has eyes for the War Rig—his sole chance of escape.  He’ll just have to get through Furiosa first.

Following an epic face-off, with the two warriors leveraging every weapon and asset they can get their hands on—including Nux and all Five Wives—they fight each other to a draw.  “Max and Furiosa start out as adversaries who really want to kill each other,” McCarthy states.  “They’re like two primal animals that are at the top of their game, and they’re matched in every way.”

Recognizing that the odds of survival increase together rather than alone, Max and Furiosa forge an uneasy peace, and even Nux becomes swept up with his quarry.  “Nux sets out to kill Furiosa and bring the girls back, but he never succeeds,” Hoult says.  “Once he kind of gives up on ever serving his purpose, they become this little troupe, all working together, and bring him back to life.”

Immortan’s Five Wives

To find the Immortan’s Five Wives, Miller worked with U.S. casting director Ronna Kress and Nikki Barret in Australia cast a wide international net across all levels of acting experience.

He saw the Wives as a melody, and wanted an ensemble of individuals who would each bring her own note to it.  “The Five Wives are the classic MacGuffin in this film, the object everyone is after,” Miller notes.  “You have to be able to instantly grab onto each one in the middle of this wild chase through the Wasteland.”

For The Splendid Angharad, the ad-hoc leader of the wives, they cast model-turned-actress Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, with Riley Keogh playing her second-in-command, Capable.  Zoë Kravitz is the tough and brainy Toast the Knowing; Courtney Eaton plays the sheltered Cheedo the Fragile; and Abbey Lee became The Dag.

All five traveled to Sydney for three weeks of rehearsals, costume fittings, movement work with Australian choreographer Meryl Tankard, and exploring their characters in workshops with Nico Lathouris.  As part of their research, they also spent time with feminist playwright Eve Ensler, who has worked in the Congo with women struggling with issues of rape.

That was particularly illuminating for Huntington-Whiteley, the only one of the Wives whose rape has resulted in conception.  “Eve Ensler was brilliant and made everything very real for us,” she notes.  “Splendid is the leader and an extremely strong character.  She takes a maternal approach over all her sisters, but has conflicted emotions about her pregnancy.  I did a lot of research on my own and had many conversations with Eve and George about how truly conflicted she would be about the child she’s carrying.  She shows a lot of courage, but is often reckless, and I see that as an expression of the pain over what Immortan did to her and the possibility that she could still love the child.”

Keogh’s Capable also has a tender and compassionate side that emerges when she finds Nux stowed away in the War Rig in the wake of a failed attempt to die stopping it.  Keogh says, “Because the Wives have seen the Immortan when he’s vulnerable, Capable knows he’s not this god-like thing that Nux believes he is.  She feels empathy and finds a new purpose when she meets Nux.  They really come to care for each other.”

Hoult adds, “Nux has grown up in a rough world, so to have Capable listen to him and care for him is something that he almost doesn’t understand.  He’s a bit like a puppy.  From that moment on, he’s just all in for her.  She is the one person who sees the possibility that he can change this life and opens his mind to something outside of what he’s always known.”


On the other end of the spectrum is Toast, who aspires to be a warrior like Furiosa.  Kravitz comments, “These girls have never had to do anything for themselves, and now they’re in this race for their lives.  Suddenly they have to protect themselves and load weapons for Furiosa, and Toast is the one who is ready to step up to the plate and fight.  There’s no time to think too hard or second-guess anything; there’s always someone coming for you.”

Lee, a model making her film debut, caught Miller’s attention for The Dag during the casting process.  In an effort to get a sense of the actors, he asked prospective Wives to read a scene from a film or television property rather than lines from the script.  “If someone wanted to take on a very rhythmic piece of writing from ‘Network’ or something as comedic as the parrot scene from Monty Python…which one they chose told me a lot about who they might be as actors,” Miller reveals.

Lee was the only one who picked Monty Python, and fittingly became the “class clown” of the group.  “The Dag is a bit of comic relief,” says Lee, who, as an Australian, grew up steeped in “Mad Max” culture.  “There’s a darkness to her, and that’s where the comedy comes from; it’s her coping mechanism.  Her name is derived from the term ‘daggy,’ which is an endearing term for someone who is a little bit left of center, someone awkward.  She has a flightiness about her that can be mistaken for nervousness, but really it comes from having a heightened sense of awareness of what’s going on around her.”

Life imitated art on set as Lee had something of a panic attack upon seeing Keays-Byrne rumble towards the War Rig in his full Immortan Joe regalia.  Miller recalls, “She said that seeing Hugh in character for the first time brought up the most terrible feelings.  And that’s Hugh; he’s a very sweet guy, but he can really stare you down with those eyes behind a mask that looks pretty wild.”

Eaton, who was just 16 years-old during filming, plays Fragile, the youngest and most naïve of the Wives.  “Fragile wasn’t born in the outside world,” Eaton describes.  “She was born in the Citadel, and doesn’t know anything other than that life.  So being out there affects her. She wants to go back to something safe and stable, where she has food and water and knows she’s not going to die.  She’s a little like the abused spouse, who will always go back to her abuser.”

Miller offers, “All the women are vulnerable because they’ve never been out there in the Wasteland, and, as Furiosa says, ‘It hurts out here.’  Of all them, Fragile is the most vulnerable, but she finds her own strength in the story.”

Fragile is the least motivated to find the Green Place, a lush oasis Furiosa remembers from her childhood, where she believes the Wives will find a better life for themselves and Splendid’s unborn child.  “Furiosa has not descended into despair like Max,” Miller remarks.  “She’s burnt out, but still has one last shot to escape across the Wasteland, not for herself but for these young women who still have hope.  She’s trying to get them to the Green Place to find some meaning in her own life.”

Like Max, Furiosa doesn’t give trust easily, but—through circumstance, function and necessity—a certain trust is earned.  “Furiosa’s journey is derailed when she runs into Max,” Theron observes.  “All of a sudden, they’re stuck with each other on this journey of hope, in a place where there really is no hope.”

“Max and Furiosa are very similar characters, and they develop an unspoken understanding of kindred spirits,” Hardy notes.  “Caring about anything or anyone is a dangerous thing, and they do.  This is not a love story, but they bring out something in one another that makes it essential that they connect and help each other move forward.”

As Immortan unleashes hell to retrieve his property, Max throws himself into a counter-offensive to keep the War Rig moving and the Warlord at bay.  “Within this small group, Max observes a bond and a unity amongst people who are clearly doing something which is important, and that allows him to be outside of his head for the first time in a long time,” Hardy says.  “In a world where survival is everything and there’s nothing to hold on to, moments of humanity are exceptionally profound.”

Lathouris points out that the humanity Max witnesses moves him from being “apart from” to being “a part of,” noting, “Max has been running away from his better self, but on the War Rig, his better self catches up to him, and that’s Furiosa.  They start out wanting to kill each other, and end with Max willing to sacrifice his life for her and her cause.  What’s broken in Max can only be healed by love.”

“We see his evolution into a nobler, more reliable man,” Miller reflects.  “We see what his better self could be.  It’s where Furiosa already is.  She’s fierce in her determination.  Her heart gets pretty close to being crushed on this journey they take, but together, they find some way to stand against the chaos of the world and find some sort of redemption.”