George Miller on Why His Mad Max Action Is So Incredible

George Miller on Why His Mad Max Action Is So Incredible

George Miller has been directing pulse-pounding action sequences for almost 50 years. It started in the late 1970s with his first film, Mad Max, and continued through the decades, reaching a whole new level of awesome in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road. Next week, he takes things to yet another new level with Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, and io9 had the pleasure of chatting with the legendary filmmaker about his philosophy when making and editing action set pieces.

“Well, I think the best analogy is music,” Miller told io9 in Los Angeles last week. “It’s kind of visual music.” Read more below. 

If you prefer to read about it, here’s what Miller said. “Well, I think the best analogy is music. It’s kind of visual music. What it’s got in common with music is that it’s time-based and therefore rhythm-based. There’s an unfolding in it. So in the same way that music, the more I get to understand it, is almost mathematical in its structure. There has to be a causal relationship between one note and the next, one chord to the next. Otherwise there’s no progression or flow to it. It’s exactly the same with film. There has to be a causal relationship between one bit of choreography, one shot, and the next thing. So they make up, if you like, a full passage, a full sentence.”

Miller went on to talk about working with composers throughout his career and one in particular that really impressed him. “I’ve been lucky enough to with some really great composers and one of the things they’re doing is picking up a kind of cadence in the performance, in the verbal performance and the rhythm in the way that dance between what’s being filmed and the camera,” Miller said. “All of that has an intrinsic rhythm and there are certain beats that they pick up very quickly in order to sort of write the music.”

Miller with Taylor-Joy

“Way back in the ‘80s, I did a film The Witches of Eastwick which John Williams scored,” Miller continued. “Then it was celluloid on a flatbed.
Now, you can see all the music digitally … but he was picking it up just sitting there listening to it. And he said, ‘Oh, you know I see the beats and whatever’ very quickly. And I realize now that’s what [composers] are doing all the time. So there’s definitely a rhythm to it that’s very, very important in the way that you put it together.”

However, in addition to the flow, Miller also revealed one more thing that is crucial in his action scenes. “Most of all, with action, I would say the scenes are really driven by the story, which is driven by the characters, and their wants and intentions and the way they come into conflict with each other,” he said, “And it has to be a rising conflict. So an action scene is all about the character. It’s another way for characters to interact. And unless you have that, then it becomes sort of empty calories, watching all this movement and noise just to pass the time, rather than somehow have it have deeper meanings.”

See those rhythms and characters in full effect when Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga opens May 24.

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