Mad Max: Fury Road was both a commercial and critical hit upon its release in 2015, and is widely considered one of the finest action films in recent years. It earned a whopping 10 Oscar nominations with six wins, and its use of practical effects is a benchmark in the industry. However, the shoot was arduous, to say the least, largely due to the tension between stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron.
In the new book Blood, Sweat and Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road, the cast and crew of the film recounted their time making the massive film, and the different approaches that lead to clashes between Hardy and Theron on set. Vanity Fair released an excerpt documenting this struggle. "It was like two parents in the front of the car. We were either fighting or we were icing each other—I don't know which one is worse—and they had to deal with it in the back," Theron said about their disagreements and the effect that it had on the rest of the cast and crew. "It was horrible! We should not have done that; we should have been better. I can own up to that."
"I don't want to make excuses for bad behavior, but it was a tough shoot," Theron admitted. "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."
Soon the conflicts escalated to the boiling point with neither actor wanting to be the first to yield. "Because of my own fear, we were putting up walls to protect ourselves instead of saying to each other, 'F—, this is scary for you and it's scary for me, too. Let's be nice to each other,'" Theron shared. "We were functioning, in a weird way, like our characters: Everything was about survival."
A lot of their arguments were based on different approaches to the work and came to a head when Hardy was three hours late to set one day. This became a fight that was bad enough that Theron wanted a producer with her at all times to mitigate Hardy's aggressive behavior. "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," Theron said.
While the producer would check in, Theron said that she felt "felt pretty naked and alone" on set. Ultimately, Theron believes that the whole situation could have been handled better. "Looking back on where we are in the world now, given what happened between me and Tom, it would have been smart for us to bring a female producer in. You understand the needs of a director who wants to protect his set, but when push comes to shove and things get out of hand, you have to be able to think about that in a bigger sense," Theron concluded. "That's where we could have done better, if George [Miller] trusted that nobody was going to come and f— with his vision but was just going to come and help mediate situations. I think he didn't want any interference, and there were several weeks on that movie where I wouldn't know what was going to come my way, and that's not necessarily a nice thing to feel when you're on your job. It was a little bit like walking on thin ice."
As for Hardy, he hopes that he would behave differently today. "In hindsight, I was in over my head in many ways. The pressure on both of us was overwhelming at times," Hardy said. "What she needed was a better, perhaps more experienced partner in me. That's something that can't be faked. I'd like to think that now that I'm older and uglier, I could rise to that occasion."