New York Times awards columnist Kyle Buchanan’s new book Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road is being hailed as the definitive oral history behind George Miller’s unlikely 2015 Oscar winner and fan favorite-reboot of the filmmaker’s Mel Gibson-starring trilogy.
But there’s one section in particular that’s raising eyebrows from here to the furthest reaches of desert wastelands: the volatile on-set relationship depicted between stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron.
Theron and multiple crew members tell Buchanan that Hardy’s persistent lateness to the film’s Namibia desert set led to a tense exchange between the actors, leaving Theron shook to the point where she requested protection from her co-star.
“I remember vividly the day,” camera operator Mark Goellnicht recalled in an excerpt posted on Vanity Fair. “The call on set was eight o’clock. Charlize got there right at eight o’clock, sat in the War Rig, knowing that Tom’s never going to be there at eight even though they made a special request for him to be there on time. He was notorious for never being on time in the morning. If the call time was in the morning, forget it — he didn’t show up.”
Theron sat in the War Rig in full makeup and costume, and waited. And waited. And waited. “She didn’t go to the bathroom, didn’t do anything,” Goellnicht added.
Hardy, who played post-apocalyptic survivor Max Rockatansky, finally arrived — three hours late — much to the chagrin of Theron, who co-starred as revolting war captain Furiosa and was a new mother whose baby was looked after at a nearby childcare center.
“She jumps out of the War Rig, and she starts swearing her head off at him, saying, ‘Fine the f***ing c*** a hundred thousand dollars for every minute that he’s held up this crew,’ and ‘How disrespectful you are!’” Goellnicht said. “She was right. Full rant. She screams it out. It’s so loud, it’s so windy — he might’ve heard some of it, but he charged up to her and went, ‘What did you say to me?’”
“He was quite aggressive. She really felt threatened,” Goellnicht explained. “That was the turning point, because then she said, ‘I want someone as protection.’”
Said Theron: “It got to a place where it was kind of out of hand, and there was a sense that maybe sending a woman producer down could maybe equalize some of it, because I didn’t feel safe.”
Veteran producer Denise Di Novi was eventually dispatched to Namibia to mediate the conflict, Buchanan writes. But while Di Novi regularly checked in with Theron, she mostly stayed in the production offices, leaving the actress feeling “naked and alone” on set.
“I don’t want to make excuses for bad behavior, but it was a tough shoot. Now, I have a very clear perspective on what went down. I don’t think I had that clarity when we were making the movie. I was in survival mode; I was really scared s***less.”
“Boy f***ing howdy, was it clear that those two people hated each other,” editor J. Houston Yang told Buchanan. “They didn’t want to touch each other, they didn’t want to look at each other, they wouldn’t face each other if the camera wasn’t actively rolling.”
“It was a tense atmosphere at times. It was kind of like you’re on your summer holidays and the adults in the front of the car are arguing,” co-star Nicholas Hoult said more diplomatically.
Said Miller: “There are things that I feel disappointment with about the process. Looking back, if I had to do it again, I would probably be more mindful.”
Hardy responded to Buchanan by email.
“In hindsight, I was in over my head in many ways,” the actor said. “The pressure on both of us was overwhelming at times. What she needed was a better, perhaps more experienced partner in me… I’d like to think that now that I’m older and uglier, I could rise to that occasion.”