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Mad Max: Fury Road was one of the best movies of 2015 — and possibly every year before and after that, too. The high-octane action film is a feat of filmmaking, with writer-director George Miller turning what is basically a two-hour-long car chase into a truly riveting cinematic study of classism, environmental degradation, misogyny, tyranny, alliances, grief, and the human condition. With wildly original characters, punishing landscapes, and deadly consequences at every turn, the movie makes use of every single second of its runtime and leaves audiences thirsty for more.
But according to lead actress Charlize Theron, who introduced the world to an ultimate new badass in her character Imperator Furiosa, fans almost did get more of the film. The version she originally saw was significantly longer. In fact, she told audiences at a 2020 drive-in screening of the film that the first cut she saw was about four hours long. Miller has since clarified in his 2020 New York Comic-Con panel appearance that most of the trimming was done merely to shave off extensions of scenes we actually did see in the film, but there are still some key scenes that were almost very different or completely edited out. Here’s a look at some of Mad Max: Fury Road scenes we never got to see.
A rousing political rally for Immortan Joe
One scene that never made it to the big screen but was fully filmed by Miller and his award-winning team was a massive pump rally featuring Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) and his gaggle of War Boys hyping each other up before the last big fight. Speaking to MTV’s Josh Horowitz for a New York Comic-Con virtual panel in 2020, Miller revealed that the scene was cut for time and story clarity at the suggestion of Fury Road‘s Oscar-winning editor, Margaret Sixel, who had the job of whittling more than 400 hours of footage down to size (although she ultimately refused to meet the studio’s demand of 100 minutes or less). The scene would have taken place around the time when Furiosa and Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) agreed to return to the Citadel instead of scattering amongst the Wasteland, when Immortan Joe and his minions were still in the desert, lying in wait.
"We had around there a scene where the Immortan Joe was having a sort of big rally with his War Boys, and they were basically [having] a political rally," Miller explained. "And he was there angry and with people … basically telling them to go out into the Wasteland and look for tracks." Miller said that Sixel justified removing the scene because it would have meant more "exposition," which had already been achieved in the first two acts of the film. While Miller was disappointed, he agreed with her call. "I was a little bit upset … because we shot it. I liked how we shot it," Miller said.
The War Rig on the move
There was another scene from that same section of the film that was also dropped by Sixel with Miller’s blessing. In the theatrical version of the movie, after Furiosa and Max decide to march the War Rig back to the Citadel, the film jumps from their handshake agreement straight to the shot of Immortan Joe singing while his War Boys rest, until one spots the War Rig on the move in the background and the final chase scene commences. However, Miller originally had another quick scene he planned to unfold before War Rig officially returned.
Miller told Horowitz at NYCC this would have entailed Furiosa, Max, Immortan Joe’s wives, Nux (Nicholas Hoult), and their allies from the Vuvalini bracing themselves for action onboard the War Rig. "We had a scene where the War Rig arrives up on top of a hill above the Wasteland, and we see that Max is there. He pops up through the roof [with] his binoculars and he sees what’s out there [and] he signals to Furiosa," Miller said. "You see the Vuvalini hanging off the vehicle like shotgun riders. You see them ride along and pull up alongside the character played by Megan Gale — the Valkyrie — she’s riding on the back of a motor bike, and they all look at each other, ready for battle."
In the end, though, Miller agreed with Sixel’s decision to axe the scene, saying that the end result of cutting this scene and the rally scene was "way better than it would have been."
Too cute to make the cut
The intense on-set feud that erupted between Hardy and Theron throughout the grueling production of Mad Max: Fury Road is already legendary, but apparently Hardy’s creative rifts did not end with his co-star. Even Sixel took issue with his performance throughout the post-production process. Sixel spoke to The New York Times as part of its extensive oral history of the film in 2020 and revealed that she had to work hard to piece together footage of his takes for the final cut because she thought his entire approach to certain key scenes was off.
As detailed in an unpublished (but later tweeted) excerpt from the interview, Sixel said that while she can now appreciate Hardy’s work in the portions of the pic that made it to screen, audiences didn’t get to see "some really out-there things" that she had to deal with in the dailies. "He was sort of erratic in a way, so there was a big range in the performance. Charlize was much more consistent and easier to put together," Sixel said. "Tom was a bit all over the place. Even in the end chase, he was trying comedy, and we had to cut all that out and make it more serious. And the scene when he starts grabbing all the guns and girls, that was torture to cut."
Luckily, Sixel had a handle on the desired mood for the movie and managed to cobble together the takes that actually worked. And you certainly can’t argue with the results.
More backstory for Max
Fans of Imperator Furiosa have a lot to look forward to when Miller takes us back in time to find out how she became such a fierce foe to Immortan Joe in the first place with the forthcoming Mad Max: Fury Road prequel. Though Fury Road gave us some clues about her past — chiefly, that she was stolen from her people in the Green Place when she was a child — we got to see a lot more about Max’s past than hers throughout the film. And apparently, we almost saw even more of his dark, twisted history before Sixel got into the editing booth.
Speaking to Pro Video Coalition in 2016, Sixel explained that early test audiences for the movie wanted to know more about why Max had such a terrible disposition at the start of the film, which is what prompted her to add the opening sequence with his voiceover and those scattered glimpses of a little girl he failed to rescue before the events of Fury Road. Sixel said, however, that only a handful of the shots she tried out for the film actually made it in.
"We experimented with flash or subliminal cuts to hint at past trauma. I tried many different ones. A few survived, including the lava shots when Max wakes up after the storm," Sixel explained. Her choice to cut in those blasts from the past was deliberate, as she also said it was her way of resisting pressures to incorporate a recap of the first three films in the series, which starred Mel Gibson in the title role.
Talk about cutting to the chase
Sixel also revealed that part of the process of making a "tighter and more muscular" movie out of Mad Max: Fury Road involved cutting out certain extraneous scenes that preceded a big battle sequence. For example, she revealed to Pro Video Coalition that she decided to cut some additional scenes that had been filmed with Immortan Joe and the saboteur Miss Giddy (Jennifer Hagan) because they were "long-winded and repetitive." She also revealed that Max almost spent a lot more time in his blood bag mask than what we saw in the final cut.
"In early versions even the pre-storm sequence where we intercut the approaching War Party, the Doof Warrior, Furiosa, her henchman Ace and Nux the War Boy, had many more loops," Sixel said. However, Sixel said she decided to ax those extra scenes in favor of getting to the de-masking moment sooner than later. "We couldn’t keep our main character bound and gagged for too long," she explained of the decision.
A bittersweet ending
There is very little love lost between Max and Imperator Furiosa when they decide to go their separate ways after she kills off Immortan Joe and takes over the Citadel. Though they have become allies, and he even saved her life with his roadside surgery skills, there’s nothing romantic about their bond. However, there is one subplot that involves former enemies finding something like love on the broken road: Capable (Riley Keough) develops an unlikely bond with Nux, and, after discovering him hiding out on the War Rig, manages to recruit him as an essential ally for Furiosa and Max.
In the end, it is Nux’s fondness for Capable that convinces him to sacrifice himself to close off the pass to Immortan Joe’s minions. But in the original footage for the film, fans would have seen some more of Nux and Capable’s impact on the film’s grand finale. Sixel told Pro Video Coalition of the scene when Max and Furiosa decide to return to the Citadel, saying, "The first cuts of the scene gave more weight to Capable and Nux and not enough to Max. With some careful rewriting and editing I managed to shift the focus back to Max. This was done without reshoots, only audio rerecords." In other words, there is a version of this scene gathering dust in an editing bay closet which would’ve shown Nux and Capable being the real tragic heroes in the end.
The unshot epilogue
One scene that has not yet been committed to celluloid is what exactly happens after the movie’s ending, when Furiosa seemingly ascends to the top of the Citadel and shares its watery bounty with the desperate people below. It remains to be seen if that question will be answered in the still-in-the-works sequel, but Miller has given audiences some hints about what he thinks is ahead for her — and it might not be the happy ending fans are hoping for.
Miller said during his panel at New York Comic-Con, "There’s two ways to go. One is the utopian [route], which is not an interesting story, really." The second, he explained, hearkens back to a memorable quote from famed mythologist Joseph Campbell, who wrote: "The hero of yesterday becomes the tyrant of tomorrow, unless he crucifies himself today." Miller said that he suspects Immortan Joe was himself an "agent of change" once and that Furiosa could fall into the same trap of tyranny.
However, a scene in Miller’s mind indicates that she may not. "Part of me would love if she puts the world to a more equitable world," Miller said. "I think she’s too smart … She’s already seen it happen with Immortan Joe." Whether he’ll ever show us how he sees it all playing out for Furiosa after Mad Max: Fury Road remains to be seen.