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George Miller at the National Board of Review Awards | Paula Schwartz Photo
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Mad Max Fury Road 9One of the big surprises this awards season is all the nods for the adrenaline charged action film, “Mad Max: Fury Road” directed by George Miller. The 70-year-old director began the franchise 36 years ago with “Mad Max” starring Mel Gibson, and it’s been 31 years since the one before “Fury Road,” which was “Beyond Thunderdome.”

At the beginning of the awards season, few critics thought “Mad Max: Fury Road” had any shot at awards glory, but that was before all the nominations rolled in from the critics groups and guilds, including the Producers Guild, Bafta and the Golden Globes.

Last month, the National Board of Review was the first group to signal that “Mad Max” was more than just a hugely success action thriller after they named it the best movie of the year. At their gala last week at Cipriani 42d Street, I spoke with the director on the red carpet. The film’s critical success caught him by surprise he told me. And of course, he was thrilled by the box office, which is nearly $363 million according to Box Office Mojo.

“And this kind of triggered it in a way, the National Board of Review,” Miller told me about the film’s award prospects. “I never expected that to be the case. It’s nice.” Just a day earlier, the Producers Guild of America, whose choices usually dovetail with that of the Oscars, put “Mad Max” on their list of best picture nominees.

I asked Miller what inspired “Fury Road” and especially what motivated him to create a strong female lead character in the form of Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a highly intelligent woman who is an extraordinary driver and expert in wasteland survival.

“The initial idea was that it was to be a continuous chase and you were to pick up as much story and the backstory of the characters on the run. Also, the thing that people were in conflict over was the human dimension of the story,” Miller told me.

“Initially it was seven wives, but it came down to five wives and they needed a road warrior and the road warrior couldn’t be a man because it would have been a different story. It couldn’t be a man stealing five wives from the tyrant, so it had to be a female, so hence Furiosa. That triggered the story and all that resulted from that, and the idea was that Max reluctantly was to be swept up into their struggle. That was the basic idea.”

When I asked about a possible sequel, he said, “There’s conversations about it, but I want to do something small and quick next.”

At the Golden Globes, where “Mad Max” received a nomination for best film and for the director, Miller seems to have changed his mind. He told Cindy Adams of the New York Post, “I’ve shot in Australia in a field of wild flowers and flat red earth when it rained heavily forever. We had to wait 18 months, and every return to the U.S. was 27 hours. Those ‘Mad Maxes’ take forever. I won’t do those anymore.”

Let’s hope this was a reaction to the Golden Globes snub and that when the Oscar nominations are announced Thursday — if “Mad Max: Fury Road” is on list — Miller might change his mind.

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