Furiosa wasn't just 45-years in the making for action auteur George Miller — who kicked off his post-apocalyptic road warrior saga in 1979 with the original Mad Max — but for Chris Hemsworth too, despite the actor being only 40 years old.

"I grew up watching Mad Max films, like a lot of Australians," the actor, who was born in Melbourne and raised in the Outback, said following an Academy-hosted screening of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. "I remember watching the films with my dad, and he actually knew a lot of the stunt riders from the very first film. He was almost going to be one of the stunt performers in that first film! Funnily enough, George had a handful of photos of him kicking around with the cast and crew 45 years ago."

Furiosa is a full-circle moment twice over: Not only does Hemsworth star as the villainous Dementus, but his father, Craig, appears in the movie too. "It was in the stars somewhere," Hemsworth says. (His wife, Elsa Pataky, also plays two roles in Furiosa, officially making it a family affair.) For Hemsworth, playing Dementus was also one of the most challenging and, ultimately, satisfying experiences of his entire career.

"Playing the villain was very creatively refreshing and quite a departure from what I'd been doing. I love playing in the superhero space, but it has to be fairly predictable. You know, there are the rules you have to stick to," says the Thor actor. "This felt boundless." So boundless, in fact, that, "It wasn't until about two weeks before we started that I felt like I understood him."

Director George Miller (center) on the set of 'Furiosa' with Tom Burke, Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth.

Miller's journey into the Wasteland may have begun nearly half a century ago, but his work on Furiosa began in earnest more than a decade ago, even before the character was introduced in 2015's Oscar-winning Mad Max: Fury Road. In that film, Charlize Theron originated the role of Imperator Furiosa; in order to capture his vision, Miller provided her with extensive backstory for Furiosa, revealing how she went from a young girl kidnapped from The Green Place to the imposing warrior we meet in Fury Road. That became the screenplay for Furiosa.

"It definitely changed, but not at its core. The essential structure was the same," the filmmaker reflects. "Of course, what we learned on Fury Road and what we learned about the characters and so on were things that were able to reflect themselves in this film." (Though Dementus has been kicking around his mind for many years, Miller admits that he "had no idea who could play him.")

Fury Road was nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, and went on to six: Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. To say expectations for Furiosa were outsized would be as big an understatement as saying The War Rig is a cool car. But any pressure Miller felt, he was not deterred.

"The truth is, I find myself still intensely curious about the process," Miller says. "To be able to do a film like this, it tests all that I think I know about filmmaking. Particularly when you work with a great crew and a great cast and everyone's like-minded, it's very, very satisfying if it hits a sweet spot, as they say."

Watch the below Academy Conversation to hear more from Hemsworth and Miller about finding inspiration for Dementus in Roman emperors and circus entertainers and casting a prison theater group to help inhabit the Wasteland.


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