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'Mad Max' director considered de-aging Charlize Theron for 'Furiosa,' but the technology was 'never persuasive'

79-year-old director George Miller added that one of the things that has interested him the most about cinema is all of the new effects tools.
Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy pointing guns in a scene from the movie
Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron in "Mad Max: Fury Road" in 2015.Jasin Boland / Warner Bros. via Everett Collection file
/ Source: Variety

“Mad Max” mastermind George Miller considered using de-aging technology so that Charlize Theron could star in his “Fury Road” prequel “Furiosa,” but says “it would have been difficult” to pull off. Instead, he opted to cast someone new in the role of Imperator Furiosa: Anya Taylor-Joy.

In a Variety cover story on Taylor-Joy and “Furiosa,” which premieres on Wednesday night at Cannes Film Festival, Miller said he had observed de-aging used in movies like Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” and Ang Lee’s “Gemini Man” starring Will Smith.

“Both of them were masterful directors, but it was never persuasive,” Miller said of the technology. “I thought all people would be watching is Charlize looking young and knowing it’s an effect. And as time went on and we got into litigation with Warner Bros, we had to find someone younger.” (In 2017, Miller sued the studio over a $7 million bonus he claimed he was owed for “Fury Road.”)

The 79-year-old director added that one of the things that has interested him the most about cinema today is all of the new effects tools.

“It’s a world of difference between the analog celluloid days and the digital era,” he said. “I’ve been lucky enough to get into that quite early, particularly with the ‘Babe’ films and ‘Happy Feet.’” 

But the tools weren’t good enough here. “I mean basically, we’re following someone from the age of 10 to 26, 28, something like that,” Miller continued. “It would have been difficult.”

Luckily, Taylor-Joy — who rose to prominence as the lead in Netflix’s hit series “The Queen’s Gambit” — was up for the challenge of taking on a character already made famous by Theron. Miller first saw her abilities when fellow director Edgar Wright took him to a screening of his film “Last Night in Soho,” in which Taylor-Joy starred. Miller then hopped on a Zoom with her, and she auditioned with the “mad as hell” monologue from Sidney Lumet’s 1977 film “Network.”

“She had, in that physical sense, all the makings of that character — someone who has a lot of natural skills and abilities and someone who could survive in the wasteland, which is a pretty uncompromising world. She embodied all that,” Miller said. “Ultimately, it’s an intuitive decision working with someone until you make that leap … I’m really proud of that work and the way the whole cast worked together.”

The “Furiosa” set was certainly different than that of “Fury Road,” on which Theron and co-star Tom Hardy had a notorious feud. “The well-documented problems between Tom and Charlize, that kind of made things more complicated,” Miller said. But on “Furiosa,” there was “none of that. So all of our energy could be spent on the work.”

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” opens in theaters on May 24 from Warner Bros.