Gibson sits next to Mad Max director during screening

Surprise hit Mad Max: Fury Road landed 10 Oscar nominations.
Surprise hit Mad Max: Fury Road landed 10 Oscar nominations.PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES

NEW YORK• One of the surprise hits in the awards race has been Mad Max: Fury Road, which landed 10 Oscar nominations last Thursday, including Best Picture and Best Director.

The film's momentum was one of the many unexpected turns of this season: A sequel to a sequel to a sequel, Fury Road seemed too much a genre flick, and for a good while, Oscar watchers didn't consider it a contender.

A few weeks ago, the film's fashionable Aussie director, George Miller - that hair! those glasses! - talked about why the Furiosa character had to be a woman, his mild alarm about the proliferation of Mad Max tattoos and Mel Gibson.

The film is doing so well with awards. Who would have thunk it?Perfectly put. Who would have thunk it?

Seriously, the film was like last year, May, and I did not imagine I'd be back here talking about it, which is fine, you know. When you're in these award seasons and people have responded to the film in a positive way, then you say, "Okay. I'll enjoy the party as long as it lasts."

Should the film have been called Mad Max: Furiosa Road, given how Charlize Theron's Furiosa is the main character?

That's good, yeah. Well, the very first sort of germinating idea of the story was to be a continuous chase and to see how much we could pick up on that. The so-called McGuffin, the thing that everyone is struggling over, came down to five wives who were basically the breeding stock, as it were, to a decaying warlord. They needed a road warrior. It had to be female.

It had to be female?

It had to be female because if it was male, it's a male stealing the wives of another male. That's a different story. What I didn't expect was how Charlize was able to take it and bring all she had to it, such that people, you know, are getting tattoos of her character. It's kind of scary as a storyteller. I've been stopped in the streets where people say, 'Can I show you my tattoo?' And these are young people and they've got tattoos of characters.

Has Mel Gibson seen the film?

The first time I saw it publicly, it was the premiere in Los Angeles in May and Mel was sitting next to me during the screening.

Were you expecting that?

I didn't expect that. We sat together... as the movie went on, I realised he was enjoying it and paid the film a lot of respect; it was great.

Did he wish he was in it?

No, I think that moment had gone long, long before. We were going to be doing it back in the early 2000s and then nothing went right there and then he hit all the turbulence in his life.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2016, with the headline 'Gibson sits next to Mad Max director during screening'. Print Edition | Subscribe