In an environment where Hollywood can make literally anything happen, and look real, thanks to digital effects, Mad Max: Fury Road became something of an outlier when it made a commitment to doing many of their effects practically. There is a downside to actually make cars crash into each other however. It’s that there are actual people in those cars.
Doug Mitchell is a longtime collaborator with Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller. As a producer on Fury Road, Mitchell was closely involved in many aspects of production, including all of those great practical effects. He tells The Hollywood Reporter that right from the start he realized the seriousness of their plan. He was worried about the stunt man in the film’s very first stunt.
The one that stood out for me was the very first one, in which Guy Norris, the additional unit director and stunt coordinator — who is also a performer — put himself in Max’s vehicle. The stunt was prepared very carefully, and the guy is very well trained, but it’s still him in the car strapped in. When he ignites this explosion that throws the car off a ramp, into the roll, and you start seeing this vehicle careening toward the cameras — and you know a friend is inside — you think, ‘Fuck, what are we doing?’
For what it’s worth, Mad Max: Fury Road is seeing the benefits of all their hard work. It’s been nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including one for Best Visual Effects. While Fury Road doesn’t shy away from using digital effects, a great deal of what you see involved actual vehicles, which were driven by actual people. While stuntmen are professionals and know how to protect themselves, accidents are real and can result in serious injuries, or even death. It’s not hard to see why this would have been a concern on the set of Mad Max: Fury Road. Just take a look at some of this insanity.
The possibility of accidents is only one of the reasons that using digital effects has become a preferred method of doing things. It tends to make things safer for the actors and stunt people involved, and that, in turn, keeps insurance costs down.
How much do you think the use of practical effects improved Mad Max: Fury Road? Would the movie have looked the same had the effects been done inside a computer?