The blue van that was wrecked in the film's opening chase, had the engine removed, and was pushed into the path of the oncoming cars by off-camera assistants. The lack of the engine's weight caused the van to spin uncontrollably, adding to the spectacular crash. The buckets atop the roof were filled with milk.
The "get-out-of-jail-free card" that Goose gives the triker was an on-set joke. Because of the limited budget, the biker gang was an actual biker gang (the Vigilantes), and they had to ride to the set each day in-costume; often with their prop weapons displayed. Since the production company expected them to be pulled over by the local police, each was given a letter explaining the film's peculiar requirements, and asking for law-enforcement's understanding and cooperation.
Mel Gibson didn't go to the audition for this film to read for a part, he actually went along with his sister, who was auditioning. But because he had been in a bar fight the night before, and his head looked like "a black and blue pumpkin" (his words), he was told he could come back and audition in three week's time because, "we need freaks!" He did return in three weeks' time, wasn't recognized (because his injuries had healed well), and was asked to read for a part.
George Miller paid a truck driver fifty dollars to run over the bike at the final scene. However, the truck driver didn't want to damage his rig; thus the crew had to install a shield painted to look like the front of the rig.
The van that is smashed in the opening chase, was long reported to be George Miller's own vehicle, as the production was running out of money. However, only the first shot of the vehicle (driving) was actually Miller's Bongo. The van that was smashed, was a wreck from a scrapyard. About twenty percent of the chase scenes scheduled, were not shot, due to lack of money.
Because of the tight budget, actual decommissioned police cars were used in the film. Only Steve Bisley (Goose) was wearing real leathers. All the other police officers were wearing vinyl costumes. The motorcycles, all late model demonstration units, were donated by Kawasaki. Many of the bikers kept them after the shooting was completed.
The first scene shot, was that of Johnny breaking the chain on the overpass phone. He appears hurried, not only because of the storyline, but also because the film company didn't have permission to shoot on that overpass.
DIRECTOR TRADEMARK (George Miller): (doctor): Miller's past as a doctor is referenced in St. George's hospital, which features in the film. Mad Max Rockatansky is named for nineteenth century pathologist Carl von Rokitansky, originator of the Rokitansky procedure, the most common method for removal of the internal organs in an autopsy.
The Nightrider's spectacular crash, was the result of a military booster rocket being installed in the back of the car. It went out of control, missed the target fuel tanker, and veered off into the field where it chased the film crew for 1/4 mile. The on-camera explosion was a later re-creation using a safer towed car.
Before the film was released in the United States, distributor American International Pictures overdubbed the actors' speaking voices. The 2002 Special Edition DVD release was the first U.S. DVD to feature the original Australian language track.
In a 2015 interview with The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith podcast, George Miller said that it was not the intention when the script was written, to set it in a post-apocalyptic world. This was done because they didn't have the money for extras and properly maintained buildings. In order to cover for this production value limitation, the title card was added to the beginning, explaining the story was set after a world war. This also accounts for why there is generally more of an established society in this film, then any of the sequels.
At the time of the film's release, the American audience had virtually no experience with, and therefore very great difficulty understanding, dialogue with an Australian accent. That's why Mel Gibson's voice was overdubbed by another actor - to prevent otherwise-certain commercial failure of Mad Max in the U.S., due to Americans' rejection of "unintelligible" characters.
The car that Max drives (a black "Pursuit Special"; the phrase "the last of the V8s" was used once, and later as "the last of the V8 interceptors" was used until The Road Warrior (1981)) is a production car, the Ford "XB Falcon Coupe", sold in Australia from December 1973 until August 1976. The car in the film had a standard 351 cubic inch (5.7 liter) V8 engine.
In The Madness of Max (2015), it was revealed the actors who played the bikers were sometimes treated like they were actual delinquents. Geoff Parry (Bubba Zanetti) walked into a bank with bleached hair to cash a check and they refused him service. David Bracks (Mudguts) walked into a restaurant in his gear and was told to leave because they "didn't serve his kind."
George Miller described the whole experience as "guerrilla filmmaking", where the crew would close roads without filming permits, not use walkie-talkies because their frequency coincided with the police radio, and after filming was done Miller and Byron Kennedy would even sweep down the roads. Still, as filming progressed the Victoria Police became interested in the production, helping the crew by closing down roads and escorting the vehicles.
Only two original Interceptors were used in the Mad Max movies. The one that was used in this film was modified and reused in all of the interior and close-up car shots in The Road Warrior (1981). After filming was over, this Interceptor was bought and restored by Bob Fursenko, and was on display in the "Cars of the Stars Motor Museum" in England. The Cars of the Stars Motor Museum was in the English town of Keswick, Cumbria, and included a collection of celebrity television and film vehicles. On May 8, 2011, the attraction closed, with a message on the museum website stating "...check the website for details of the relocation of the vehicles to a new location shortly..." As of December 2011, all the cars have been sold, except for the original Only Fools and Horses.... (1981) Reliant van. Another car was built for the chase scenes in the second movie, but that one was destroyed when the script required it to be pushed off the road and blown up. The wreckage used to be viewable at Broken Hill, Australia, but due to thefts it can't be found there any longer. The Planet Hollywood Interceptor is a replica and was never used in any of the films.
The film's post-production was done at Producer Byron Kennedy's house, with Director George Miller and Kennedy editing the film, in Kennedy's bedroom, on a home-built editing machine, that Kennedy's father, an engineer, had designed for them. Miller and Kennedy also edited the sound there.
The knees of the vinyl MFP trousers were a weak point. In various shots, characters can be seen with trouser legs split horizontally at the knee. For example, Roop atop the bunker; Max's left knee during the fight with Johnny; and Max's right knee after he gets shot. In the opening scene, a shot of Charlie shows that his knee has been mended.
Screenwriter James McCausland drew heavily from his observations of the 1973 oil crisis' effects on Australian motorists: "Yet there were further signs of the desperate measures individuals would take to ensure mobility. A couple of oil strikes that hit many pumps revealed the ferocity with which Australians would defend their right to fill a tank. Long queues formed at the stations with petrol-and anyone who tried to sneak ahead in the queue met raw violence. George and I wrote the script based on the thesis that people would do almost anything to keep vehicles moving, and the assumption that nations would not consider the huge costs of providing infrastructure for alternative energy, until it was too late."
Goose's motorcycle is a 1977 Kawasaki Z1000, but the metal "Kawasaki" badge has been removed from the gas tank and replaced with a decal that reads "Kwaka" - clearly visible on the Blu-ray version at 0:40:50.
Although it is now referred to as an (or "the") Interceptor, Max's black car is technically a Pursuit Special. It was referred to as "the last of the V8 interceptors" in The Road Warrior (1981), but never actually named in "Mad Max". The MFP dispatcher says over the radio, after Max takes the car, "Code unspecified. We have a 'query/locate' on a black Pursuit Special: Unauthorized use by a Main Force officer. This is designated as a potential Code 3 Red Alert."
George Miller got the idea to make this movie when seeing hospital patients suffer many motorcycle and automobile accidents when working as an emergency room doctor. Most of the injuries he saw were put into the movie.
Often credited as the movie that opened up the global market for Australian movies. On it's shoestring budget, it managed to gross one hundred million dollars worldwide - setting a new record for most profitable independent film of all time. It held that Guinness World record until it was out-grossed by The Blair Witch Project (1999).
Originally, filming was scheduled to take ten weeks-six weeks of first unit, and four weeks on stunt and chase sequences. However, four days into shooting, Rosie Bailey, who was originally cast as Jessie, was injured in a bike accident. Production was halted, and Bailey was replaced by Joanne Samuel, causing a two-week delay.
This was one of the first Australian films to be shot with a widescreen anamorphic lens, although The Cars That Ate Paris (1974) was shot in anamorphic four years earlier. George Miller's desire to shoot in anamorphic made him seek a set of Todd-AO wide angle lenses used by Sam Peckinpah to film The Getaway (1972), which were damaged enough in that shoot to get discarded in Australia. The only one which worked properly was a 35mm lens which was employed in the whole of the film.
Frankie J. Holden stated in an interview, that he auditioned for the role of Jim Goose, while he was an unknown actor, but thinks that he did not get the role because George Miller did not take too kindly to Holden's criticism of the script when they chatted after his audition.
Byron Kennedy and George Miller first took the film to Graham Burke of Roadshow, who was enthusiastic. The producers felt they would be unable to raise money from the government bodies "because Australian producers were making art films, and the corporations and commissions seemed to endorse them whole-heartedly", according to Kennedy. They designed a forty-page presentation, circulated it widely, and eventually raised the money. Kennedy and Miller also contributed funds themselves, by doing three months of emergency medical calls, with Kennedy driving the car while Miller did the doctoring.
George Miller's first choice for the role of Max, was the Irish-born James Healey, who at the time worked at a Melbourne abattoir and was seeking a new acting job. Upon reading the script, Healey declined, finding the meager, terse dialogue too unappealing.
Most of the biker gang extras were members of actual Australian outlaw motorcycle clubs and rode their own motorcycles in the film. They were even forced to ride the motorcycles from their residence in Sydney to the shooting locations in Melbourne because the budget did not allow for aerial transport.
Tony Paterson edited the film for four months, then had to leave because he was contracted to make Dimboola (1979). George Miller took over editing with Cliff Hayes, and they worked on it for three months. Miller and Byron Kennedy did the final cut, in a process Miller described as "he would cut sound in the lounge room, and I'd cut picture in the kitchen."
The stolen interceptor driven by the Nightrider in the opening scenes is another production vehicle. It is an "HQ Holden Monaro", which was sold in Australia in the early '70s with a variety of motors including large capacity V8s. Also, the other police vehicles in the movie, were sedan versions of the XB, although one was the previous model XA..They also had 351 cubic inch engines, and are a common car on Australian roads.
Scenes cut from the film: . Jessie shaving Max after the Nightrider chase. . After The Toecutter and his gang come into town to pick up The Nightrider's body, they wander around the town and meet the locals. . Max and Goose drag racing each other for fun, with Max riding a bike and Goose driving a car. . Max arming himself for his quest, including sawing off his shotgun. . During Max's pursuit of the bikers, the engine in the interceptor cuts out. . Prior to finding Johnny Boy, Max tends to his wounds. This scene appears in the trailer and in the opening montage of The Road Warrior (1981).
According to George Miller, his interest while writing the film was "a silent movie with sound", employing highly kinetic images reminiscent of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, while the narrative itself was basic and simple. Miller believed that audiences would find his violent story more believable, if set in a bleak dystopian future.
Sound Engineer Roger Savage would perform the sound mixing in the studio. He worked after finishing his work with The Little River Band, and employed timecoding techniques that were unseen in Australian cinema.
Max's yellow Interceptor was a 1974 Ford Falcon XB sedan (previously, a Melbourne police car) with a 351 cubic inch (5.7 liter) Cleveland V8 engine, and many other modifications. The Big Bopper, driven by Roop and Charlie, was also a 1974 Ford Falcon XB sedan, but was powered by a 302 cubic inch (5.0 liter) V8. The March Hare, driven by Sarse and Scuttle, was an in-line-six-powered 1972 Ford Falcon XA sedan (this car was formerly a Melbourne taxi cab). The most memorable car, Max's black Pursuit Special - frequently designated an "Interceptor", based on a mechanic's quote in The Road Warrior (1981) - was a limited GT351 version of a 1973 Ford XB Falcon Hardtop (sold in Australia from December 1973 to August 1976), which was primarily modified by Murray Smith, Peter Arcadipane, and Ray Beckerley. After filming was over, this Interceptor was bought and restored by Bob Forsenko, and is currently on display in the Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in Cumbria, England. The Nightrider's vehicle, another Pursuit Special, was a 1972 Holden HQ LS Monaro coupe. The car driven by the couple, that is destroyed by the bikers, was a 1959 Chevrolet Impala sedan. Of the motorcycles that appear in the film, fourteen were donated by Kawasaki, and were driven by a local Victorian motorcycle gang, the Vigilantes, who appeared as members of Toecutter's gang. By the end of filming, fourteen vehicles had been destroyed in the chase and crash scenes, including George Miller's personal Mazda Bongo.
The white 1961 Ford Falcon station wagon seen at the diner, and outside Goose's apartment (where Johnny the Boy was hiding) was privately owned by one of the production crew, who later sold the car after the film's release.
For the lead role, George Miller had considered an American actor to "get the film seen as widely as possible" and even travelled to Los Angeles, but eventually opted to not do so as "the whole budget would be taken up by a so-called American name." So instead the cast would deliberately feature lesser known actors, so they did not carry past associations with them.
For one shot, Cinematographer David Eggby held the camera while he was a passenger on a motorcycle. LAFautoater, he realized he'd been going 110 miles per hour. "I knew we were risking our lives out there."
It has been speculated that the Marvel comic book "The Punisher", which was first published in 1974, was a possible major influence behind Mad Max. Like Max Rockatansky, the comic's main protagonist, Frank Castle, becomes the vigilante known as "The Punisher", after his family is murdered by the Mafia.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
This movie was banned in New Zealand for the scene when Goose is burned alive inside of his vehicle. It mirrored an incident with a real gang not long before the film came out. It was later shown in New Zealand in 1983, after the huge success of the sequel The Road Warrior (1981), but only as long as it had an R18 certificate.
Only film in the franchise where Max's Pursuit Special (later named in the sequels as the "Last of the V8 Interceptors.") survives to the end of the film. The car is destroyed in The Road Warrior (1981), when the Toadie tries to take the car's gas, and then crashes twice in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). The Interceptor does not appear in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).
Though asked by Max, but never elaborated on as to its meaning, the Toecutter gang has a small tattoo on the majority of each member located near or around their face ("Night Rider" right cheek. "Toecutter" right temple. "Bubba Zanetti" left cheek and so on) in the shape of the Greek symbol/letter "F", which is represented by a small circle with a vertical line running through its middle. This symbol, however, is not present on Johnny the Boy in the film, who is seen as the novice member of the gang, who is still being "taught" as it were. It is not until after he is responsible, and partakes in the death of MFP officer Jim Goose, is Johnny the Boy seen brandishing the gang tattoo on the left side of his neck at the end of the film, when Max handcuffs him to the back of the crashed vehicle he was looting. This would be a strong indication that the tattoo the Toecutter's gang wear is a symbol of their commitment by participating in the murder of a "Bronze" officer, as it is mentioned that Night Rider, who bares this mark as well, is a referred to as a "Cop Killer" at the films beginning, indicating that the Toecutter gang have been involved in the deaths of members of the Main Force Patrol. Given George Miller's Greek heritage, that is hinted at throughout the film and its sequels, and that Johnny the Boy is seen to be marked with the tattoo after he has committed murder, the symbol is more than likely to represent the first letter of the Greek word (foniás) which means "Killer".
The speech Max gives to Fifi, "Any longer out on that road, I am one of them. A terminal crazy. I wear the bronze badge to show them that I'm one of the good guys." foreshadows what is going to happen to Max, and sums up the character.