The dog used in the film, named simply "Dog", was obtained from a local dog pound and trained to perform in the film. Because the sound of the engines upset him (and in one incident, caused him to relieve himself in the car), he was fitted with special earplugs. After filming was complete, he was adopted by one of the camera operators.
The tanker roll stunt at the end of the chase was deemed so dangerous, that the stunt driver was not allowed to eat any food twelve hours before they shot, in the likely event that he could be rushed into surgery.
One of the factors which led to using the location, was the prediction by rainfall charts, that there would be virtually no rainfall during the shoot. But during the shoot, it did rain, for the first time in over four years. Production was shut down for over a week.
According to trivia book "Movie Mavericks" by Jon Sandys, one of the more spectacular stunts in the film was actually a serious accident. One of the motorcycle-riding raiders hits a car, flies off the bike, smashes his legs against the car, and cartwheels through the air towards the camera. This was a real, genuine accident: the stuntman was supposed to just fly over the car without hitting it. But the nearly fatal incident looked so dramatic, that it was kept in the movie. The stuntman broke his leg badly, but survived. (If you look at the stuntman's body frame-by-frame through his cartwheels, you can see that one of his legs is bending at a slightly unnatural angle around the knee.
Renamed "The Road Warrior" for North American distribution because at the time, the original Mad Max (1979) had only been released there on a limited basis, so "Mad Max 2" (the title used outside North America) could have confused viewers.
After Mad Max (1979) was finished, and before that film's release, all of the cars were supposed to be destroyed, including the black Interceptor, but someone thought the Interceptor was too good to lose, so they saved it from the crusher. When the sequel was in its planning stage, someone found out the Interceptor had somehow survived, so they tracked it down, and bought it back.
Reasons for Max's strange and mismatched outfit: Right arm of jacket missing - arm was run over by a bike in Mad Max (1979), and medics would have cut the sleeve off, rather than pull it over a damaged limb. Squeaky leg brace - kneecap shot through in the previous movie. Harness with spanners and other objects dangling off it - for running repairs on his Interceptor. First two fingers of each driving glove missing - easier insertion and retrieval of shotgun shells from his sawed-off shotgun.
Max's dog was saved from being euthanized by the filmmakers. One day before he was to be put to sleep, members of the crew visited his shelter looking for a pet to cast for the film. He was picked out from several other dogs, due to him picking up a rock off the ground and playing with it like a toy. The crew members realized the dog could have a real presence on film, and had the potential to be trained. This movie ended up being the only film, in which he appeared.
According to Cinematographer Dean Semler, the camera rig used to get medium close-ups of Max driving, required him and an assistant cameraman to stand on a small platform mounted to the driver's side of the car. They found out during one sequence that they miscalculated the lift, because whenever they went up or down a hill, the platform would actually scrape the ground, sending out a shower of sparks. (Initially alarming all involved, they just shrugged and kept shooting without cutting.)
Although it might not look it, the location was actually extremely cold. Mel Gibson would spend his time in between takes huddled under blankets, despite being dressed in a leather outfit, while the marauders suffered in particular with their costumes, which deliberately exposed their buttocks.
According to George Miller, it was Mel Gibson's idea to make Max look as rough and ragged as he did. Before filming began, he cut his own hair and eyebrows, cut the sleeve off his leather jacket, and tore up his gloves.
According to Vernon Wells, Wez's partner (Golden Boy) wasn't actually a sexual partner. Wells says there was a deleted scene, which explained that Wez rescued Golden Boy as a child, and became a sort of surrogate father to him. However, there is no evidence of this, aside from this statement.
The opening scene was originally shot with Max driving past a farm that Wez and others were ransacking, while the bodies of the owners that they killed were hanging dead from a tree. During the massacre, the sound of a high-powered V8 approaching is heard by Wez. In the distance, he sees the Interceptor with its large fuel tanks drive past. Wez jumps on his bike, and he and the others make chase. The camera then pans out of the car's charger to signify a short passage of time, and then the scene is as we know it, with just Wez and two cars still in pursuit, due to the Interceptor's power.
Only two original Interceptors were used in the Mad Max movies. The one that was used in Mad Max (1979), was modified and re-used in all of the interior and close-up car shots in this movie. 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 England. 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 logo on the tank truck is "7 Sisters Oil", a reference to a conspiracy theory, popular before OPEC-conspiracy theories took over, that Standard Oil, and six other companies controlled the world oil market, and bought up, and suppressed, a one hundred mile-per-gallon carburetor and so on, to keep oil prices up.
The picture of the nude woman on the vertical stabilizer of the gyro is Karen Price, Playboy's January 1981 centerfold (she is most noticeable when Max first approaches the machine, while the Gyro Captain is hiding under the sand).
This movie, and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), contain quotes from former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam (1972 - 1975). These are the lines "We"re going to either crash, or crash through." from this movie, and "One day cock of the walk, next a feather duster." from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).
During the scene after Max has been forced off the road and left for dead by Wez, Max is seen dragging himself along the ground due to his injuries as Brian May's music is heard. This scene reflects another scene from Mad Max (1979), after Max has been ambushed by The Toecutter and Bubba Zanetti, and left for dead as he drags himself to his car to give pursuit. For the sequel, Composer Brian May re-uses the same score of the scene mentioned in the original film. Only now, it is composed with a much slower tempo, and with a more melancholy feel to it.
When Max comes back to the tractor to retrieve it, a squealing sound is heard as the engine is turning over. This sound is caused by the AIR starter, as opposed to an electrical starter. Max attempts to start the Mack tractor three times, each time you can hear the air starter go from fast to slow, as the air pressure drops. It would not be possible to repressurize the starter's compressed air tank that quickly. On the third attempt, the truck starts, accompanied with a cloud of dust from the starter and smoke from the exhaust stacks. The first two starts are sound effects, only the third is actually starting the engine.
The black Interceptor, driven by Mel Gibson, is a 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT Coupe, a car exclusive to Australia. A limited number of these cars were exported by Ford to New Zealand, South Africa (badged as a Fairmont, which was the upscale model of the Falcon since 1965 in Australia - which has no relation to the 1978-83 U.S. model, which was the first Ford FOX platform automobile (which yielded the third and fourth generation Mustangs), Thailand, and the United Kingdom, but never to North America (Australian Ford vehicles were not marketed in the U.S., since they were right hand drive). The Falcon XB (and previous XA model introduced in March 1972) had styling cues similar to the U.S. market 1971-73 Mustang and 1970-71 Torino, which was a clean sheet design unique to Australia, since the Falcon nameplate was phased out in the U.S. in 1970 (last used as part of the Fairlane 500 and Torino series, right after the final U.S. Falcons were phased out). Since only 949 of that particular model Falcon were ever produced, they have become highly sought after by car collectors on six continents. There are over one hundred of them that have been brought over to the United States, so far, since 1998 (the U.S. Department of Transportation amended its importation policy, where import automobiles 25 model years old, or older, are eligible for import into the U.S. regardless of compliance with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards), primarily by importing and replica car companies like www.madmaxcars.com (The largest importer and builder of mad max replicas in the U.S.) along with several Interceptor replicas assembled from "non-GT" and "GT" Falcon coupes.
The set for the refinery compound was blown up on July 22, 1981. The shot of marauders in the compound, just before the explosion, was filmed soon after dawn, with a waning gibbous moon visible in one shot.
In the opening scene, Max stands near a roadside sign that says "Mundi Mundi Look Out", where the movie was shot. The other locations on the sign are One Tree Hill 50, Los Angeles 3500, Casablanca 3500, London 4500.
The Warrior Woman was also designed to be attractive to Max in a specific way. Byron Kennedy had especially put emphasis on Warrior Woman's large scar across her cheek as a kind of physical paradox that would render her attractive to Max. "Otherwise Max would be too shy and too ethical to get involved with her".
During production, co-Screenwriter Brian Hannant was drawn to a rock formation at Wilpena in South Australia, which inspired him to write a screenplay for a science fiction film about a soldier from a dark post apocalyptic future, who arrives in twentieth century Australia to prepare for the arrival of a city, that has the ability to travel across time and space, that is pursued by evil robots. That film was The Time Guardian (1987).
Mel Gibson called Vernon Wells "Barometer Bum" because of the outfit he was wearing for the role of Wez. When Wells butt cheeks went purple on set, they'd sent everyone into the bus so they could warm up.
The Japanese manga and animé series Fist of the North Star (1984), was heavily influenced by this movie. You can see the same setting, and the same aesthetics, dresses, and looks for the characters. The similarities don't end there, in the first episode of Fist of the North Star (1984), the main character Kenshiro stumbles upon a fortified village inhabited by good people hassled by outlaws. Furthermore, the first main villain in Fist of the North Star (1984), resembles the Mad Max 2 character Zetta, and is even called "Zeta".
In the night torture sequence, Humungus is seen giving a passionate yet incomprehensible speech. He is actually reciting a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe entitled "Der Erlkönig". It depicts the death of a child assailed by a supernatural being, the Erlking or "Erlkönig", king of the elves.
Originally The Golden Youth was supposed to be female. The writers decided to change the sex of the character (much like The Warrior Woman whom was originally written as a male) to show how gender roles became interchangeable in Mad Max universe.
Lord Humungus wears a Cooper HM6 hockey mask,The mask was originally white plastic but was painted silver and detailed with black paint to look like steel with dingy patina. Wire mesh was attached underneath the holes in the mask. The original straps were replaced with what appear to be leather straps fastened together with copper rivets.
For several of the car crash scenes the crew placed remote controlled cameras in reinforced metal housings nick-named Ned Kellys. This is a reference to the famous 19th century Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, who wore a suit of homemade metal armor during a gun battle with police.
George Miller said that the character of the Gyro Captain was written in part so that the studio would have to pay for a helicopter for the shoot. Aerial shots were quite expensive. But they were necessary to show the point of view of the Captain in his gyrocopter.
When Max leaves the compound in his car we see the chase begin between him and the bad guys, and the film appears sped up a bit. Miller says he dropped it to 12 frames per second because the terrain prevented the cars from actually going as fast as he wanted them to.
The V8 Interceptor received numerous changes between films although only one occurs on screen the smashing of the front during the opening chase, other modifications include, the removal of the front bumper, the removal and subsequent installation of the two Large Barrels in the boot, the passenger seat has been removed and a new seat installed to the door for Max's Dog, a new Gas Metre and flashing light have been added to the dashboard, the scoop has been changed from the Weiand model from the first film to the one scene in this film.
Original UK video release in mono from Warner Home Video in 1983 had the original on-screen title of Mad Max 2 as intended. However, when a hi-fi stereo release was brought out on VHS in the 80s, the American print with The Road Warrior title was used. This was possibly due to a stereo master not being available of the Mad Max 2 print as Warner Home VIdeo had chosen not to make this a stereo release in the linear era (despite it being recorded as such). DVD and Blu ray has since reverted back to the original intended title of Mad Max 2.
Max, Papagallo, Zetta, Humungus, Wez, Big Rebecca, Nathan and a few uncredited compound members (including when Papagallo calls for Timbo and Derek) are the only people referred to by name in the film. Everyone else is credited by their role. While the other films in the series do this for some characters, it is most prominent in this film.
According to cinematographer Dean Semler, when the crew was preparing to shoot the final chase scene they were interrupted by a mail carrier. The production had closed a section of highway for the scene, but the mailman insisted on being let through the roadblock. He told the crew, "The mail must go through."
For as much as the film is known for its vehicular action, Semler says they simulated a lot of travel too. "If you can see the road moving behind, we're moving. If you don't see anything moving behind, we're not moving."
Many of the extras were initially embarrassed by their apocalyptic haircuts and would wear beanies between takes to cover them. They eventually grew more comfortable and learned to embrace their appearances.
David Slingsby was a stage actor cast here as the "quiet man," but he hesitated on accepting the role as he was concerned about the scene where the rabbit was killed. Miller respected his principles and promised to shoot the scene in such a way that a rabbit wouldn't actually be harmed or killed. Miller adds though that the rabbits are vermin who've ruined the Australian desert with their burrowing and eating and rabbiting.
Miller made the sequel in part to "overcome all my frustrations on the first Mad Max because that was such a low budget and such a tough movie that I had all this sort of pent up energy for the story and the filmmaking."
Miller says it only took one year from the point where he began writing the screenplay to its theatrical release. As a fun point of contrast the initial script that became Fury Road was written in 2003, the film was greenlit in late 2010 and is finally due to open this week.
Miller recalled meeting Joe Dante years later, and having the Gremlins director tell him he could tell The Road Warrior was low budget because of how frequently it moves between sunrise, sunset and everything in between all during the same scene. "You certainly can't wait for your light," Miller says, "you just have to keep shooting."
The scene where the guys in the buggy attach a grappling hook to the basket at the back of the tanker trunk initially had Miller thinking the stunt driver had fallen out of the tumbling car. He called "cut" in a panic before realizing it was actually just the dummy passenger.
Miller embedded himself into the chase for much of it including as a passenger on one of the buggies. He was in costume and tasked with turning the car-mounted camera on and off. "On the first take instead of turning the camera on at the right time I actually turned the camera off when I called action. And then when I said cut I turned the camera on." Semler removed Miller from the buggy seat and replaced him with an actual camera operator.
"Where did the Humungus come from?" asks Semler. Sweden is the answer. His name is Kjell Nilsson, and he was an ex-Mr. Sweden. They attached a "throbbing vein" prosthetic to the back of his head, but it broke partway into filming.
Miller loved the bit with the mechanic in the swing is evaluating the truck and the engine and the blond guy repeating it much louder. It wasn't planned, and the pair just started doing it on their own. "This is nice," says Semler. Miller agrees saying it's one of the lighter moments in the movie.
Miller says the "top cinematographers" in Australia were busy so he met with Semler and one other guy. The interview included him asking Semler who his favorite cinematographers were, but Semler blanked and couldn't think of any. Luckily, Miller watched his work in the short "A Steam Train Passes" shortly afterward and realized Semler had severely undersold his talents at the meeting.
Miller points out an early crane shot ("cherry-picker") during the introduction of Bruce Spence's character. "I use it most films where I can get away with it," he says. "It's just such a great way to keep the tension going."
Both men express their love for first assistant director Pat Clayton. Miller recalls how at the end of each day, while the rest of the crew were dusty and dirty Clayton always looked impeccable in his cravat and cap.
The ground-facing shot of Max on the gyro copter being flown to safety after his accident was done with Gibson lying on a plank secured out the door of a Jet Ranger helicopter. "That'd be a green screen if you did it again today," says Semler. Miller agrees, saying that these days they wouldn't have gotten dirty because digital work means they wouldn't have been in the middle of the action.
The only thing that Mel Gibson complained about during production, (or at least the only thing that gets mentioned at conventions he attends) was the fake blood he had on his face for much of the third act of the movie, it was made from coffee and cochineal. Miller didn't get the issue until he applied some to his neck and went through a day with the irritating mixture drying on his skin.
The big chase at the end required a section of road be blocked off from traffic, but a mail truck ignored the production assistant's blockade and drove in anyway. They stopped him, but he was insistent that "the mail must go through."
The insert shot of Max starting to pull out the machete hidden beneath the rear bumper is actually producer Byron Kennedy's hand. Similarly, the hand seen when the Gyro Captain (Spence) tries to take the food away from the dog actually belongs to the key grip, Graeme Mardell.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Humungus was originally supposed to be Max's partner Jim Goose. The production decided against this, but left a few hints, such as horrible burns behind Humungus' goalie mask, his raider's use of police vehicles, and his own use of a similar weapon to the MFP's standard sidearm.
Contributing to the cost of production, was the most expensive set ever constructed for an Australian film: the desert compound built in the desert of Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia. The production also boasted the largest explosion ever created for an Australian film, which destroyed the above set.
Originally, this was the conclusion of the "Mad Max" story, which Max's fate would never had been revealed, and George Miller, Terry Hayes, and Byron Kennedy had no intentions of making a third installment. However, George Miller had planned to make a post-apocalyptic "Lord of the Flies" film, about a tribe of children living in the wild, who are found by an adult. When Miller was suggested that Mad Max is the adult who finds the children, it became Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).
The original cut of the movie was lot bloodier and more violent, but it was cut down heavily by Australian censors. When it was submitted to the MPAA, two additional scenes (Wez graphically pulling an arrow out of his arm, and a close-up shot of him pulling the boomerang out of his dead boyfriend's head) were cut down. Although there is a version that includes MPAA cuts, there never was any fully uncut version with pre-MPAA cuts included.
The purpose of the narration and footage from Mad Max (1979) at the beginning of the film, was to reintroduce the character of Max and to connect the world of this film with Mad Max (1979), and to explain the backstory of why gasoline supplies were low, why crime was out of control, and why the nuclear war, which happened a couple of weeks after Mad Max (1979) happened, and the story was told from The Feral Kid's point of view, which is why he is the narrator.
Most of the final action sequences (including Pappagallo's death by trident machete, Wez's final attempt to kill the Feral Kid, then the collision between Max's truck and Humungus' hot rod) were filmed on July 24, 1981. The collision caused more damage to the truck than expected, so the truck's turnover (scheduled for the same day) had to be postponed. The truck was repaired, then crashed the following day.
It was rumored and speculated that the Tom Hardy incarnation of Mad Max in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) is The Feral Kid. However, a four-issue Vertigo comic series, co-written by George Miller, establishes that Hardy's Max is the same character as Mel Gibson's Max.
Although set in the post-apocalyptic Australian Outback, this film is generally considered by film scholars to fit the "western" (that is, American Old West) archetype. The film's tale of a community of settlers moved to defend themselves against a roving band of marauders, follows a western frontier movie motif, as does Max's role as a hardened man, who rediscovers his humanity when he decides to help the settlers. The costuming is even similar to a traditional western, as the "good guys" wear conservative, mostly white clothing, while the "bad guys" wear more aggressive black costumes; the main exceptions to this are Max (the anti-hero, who wears most of his black police leathers from the first film), the gyro-pilot (who wears mostly yellow, to indicate his status as a cowardly character through most of the film), and the Feral Kid (who wears skins and furs, indicating his feral nature).
In the narrative behind the narration that The Narrator (who is revealed, at the end of the movie, to be The Feral Kid) provides, The Feral Kid is now, obviously, a dying old man, and he is telling his story about Mad Max as he is lying in bed, and is dying of old age. Hence his opening statement, which begins, "My life fades. A vision dims. All that remains are memories," and his closing statement, "He lives now...only in my memories." He apparently dies after he finishes telling the story.
Two stunt performers were injured during the filming of the climatic highway battle. Stunts didn't go according to plan, went wrong, and George Miller, an experienced doctor, examined the injured stunt performers.