Charlize Theron & Tom Hardy talk beefs in the NYT’s ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ oral history

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As I looked through the Cannes Film Festival premiere photos from 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, I was suddenly reminded of how awkward the promotion was. At that point, it had long been rumored that Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron had butted heads during the production, and while they managed to stand next to each other for all of the photocalls and premieres, there was a chill between them. That chill was backed up by Charlize, who spoke about their general dislike of each other during production, but she always emphasized that it was just a difficult shoot all around. Tom was later asked if he and Charlize had buried the hatchet, and he said “there was no hatchet to bury for me.” I’m reminded of all this because the New York Times did an excellent “oral history” of the film, and both Charlize and Tom were interviewed, and they spoke about the chilliness between them. Some highlights:

Tom on the focus on Furiosa: “Charlize arguably laid down the finest lead character in an action movie, and that credit is much deserved, in my opinion; both to her as a phenomenal talent and also to George for recognizing from the very start that it was time to pass Mel’s shoes onto Furiosa.

Charlize on the fear: “The biggest thing that was driving that entire production was fear. I was incredibly scared, because I’d never done anything like it. I think the hardest thing between me and George is that he had the movie in his head and I was so desperate to understand it.

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley: “There was a lot of tension, and a lot of different personalities and clashes at times. It was definitely interesting to sit in a truck for four months with Tom and Charlize, who have completely different approaches to their craft.

Zoe Kravitz on Tom: “Tom really had moments of frustration, of anger. Charlize did, too, but I feel like he’s the one who really took it out on George the most, and that was a bummer to see. But you know, in some ways, you also can’t blame him, because a lot was being asked of these actors and there were a lot of unanswered questions.

Charlize on Tom: “In retrospect, I didn’t have enough empathy to really, truly understand what he must have felt like to step into Mel Gibson’s shoes. That is frightening! And I think because of my own fear, we were putting up walls to protect ourselves instead of saying to each other, “This is scary for you, and it’s scary for me, too. Let’s be nice to each other.” In a weird way, we were functioning like our characters: Everything was about survival.

Tom on how he was over his head: “I would agree. I think in hindsight, I was in over my head in many ways. The pressure on both of us was overwhelming at times. 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.

[From The New York Times]

I find Charlize remarkably classy about all of this – I remember the stories about Tom being a complete a–hole to her, to George Miller, to everyone, and she was the one who had to talk about it endlessly while Tom largely got a pass on explaining himself. And now, years later, she’s like “in retrospect, it was hard on him.” I also think it was hard on Tom when he thought he was going to be the new Mel Gibson, only to find out during the production that the film actually revolved around Furiosa. There’s tons of other interesting stuff in that piece, like Miller recruiting Eve Ensler to come down to Namibia to work with the women on their characters, and how all of the actresses playing “the wives” looked to Charlize for help and… it’s pretty clear they all still hero-worship her. It’s a great piece!

68th Annual Cannes Film Festival

68th Annual Cannes Film Festival

Photos courtesy of Warner Bros, WENN and Avalon Red.

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17 Responses to “Charlize Theron & Tom Hardy talk beefs in the NYT’s ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ oral history”

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  1. Grant says:

    I enjoyed reading this. Whatever discord there was on set, it did not affect the film in a negative way. Mad Max: Fury Road is a masterpiece anchored by Charlize and Tom’s phenomenal lead performances.

    • whatWHAT? says:

      I SO agree. best Mad Max movie by far, even if Gibson hadn’t turned out to be a bigoted misogynistic turd.

      and how freakin’ tall is Nick Hoult?! I know Charlize is tall, and he’s taller than HER?

    • Prairiegirl says:

      Masterpiece is right – it’s a stunning piece of filmmaking.

  2. Valiantly Varnished says:

    I give them both credit for acknowledging their own bad behavior and having a bit of empathy for one another. Hindsight is 20/20.

  3. Lucy says:

    This was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. A true classic. They should all be proud of it. It’s nice that they can sit back and reflect on what it was like to work on such a film.

  4. Chaine says:

    It’s not like their characters were supposed to be buddy-buddy, so the tension probably enhanced their performances. It’s a little bit weird that there are already retrospectives on such a recent movie, but I love this movie, IMO it is a perfect film and the best I’ve seen in the last decade at least.

    • Grant says:

      I feel like Tom and Charlize should have been nominated for their peerless performances in Fury Road. I’m shocked they were not recognized given that Fury Road was nominated for, like, ten Oscars and won six (I believe).

      • Dee Kay says:

        Charlize especially deserved a Best Actress nom — and a WIN — for Furiosa. Tbh the fact that George Miller didn’t win for Best Director and the film didn’t win for Best Picture is a huge travesty. This is a film that will stand the test of time as a masterpiece.

  5. Veronica S. says:

    I also have to think – shooting in the desert? Has to be miserable to some extent. Everybody’s cranky after a long day in the heat. This being said, I do feel like he gets a MASSIVE amount of passes for what is historically ongoing bad behavior. Charlize has a reputation an ice queen, but she definitely comes across rather professionally here. I’ll give them credit for admitting it wasn’t the best environment due to their own choices.

    • FrenchGirl says:

      MAD Max ´s DP was clearly not a Hardy’s fan when he talked about this filming.

      I can understand that the filming was stressful .no script. a filming in middle of nowhere. a long long filming but apparently Hardy s behavior was one of the reasons why

  6. SM says:

    It is rare for actors especially male actors to admit their own faults and mistakes. And from what they say I would not put it past some filmmaker trying once again by putting them in a movie to see what comes off as a dynamic. And the reason Tom gets a pass every time is because he is perpetually good at what he does . That saves him.

    • Cinnamon says:

      I would classify professional conduct under being good at your job…

    • tcbc says:

      …And he’s a white man. Which honestly is the main reason he gets away with his behavior.

  7. bananapanda says:

    It sounds like both of them have grown up a bit and recognize filming for what is was. Shia LeBoeuf said (in a THR Roundtable) that Tom Hardy is a beast on set – like it’s his world and you’re all side players. Maybe Tom just needs to learn how to be #1 (or #2) on the call sheet and balance that out with some people skills. Not everyone knows how to do that innately. Charlize has been producing a lot so I think she has a wider view of production in general.

  8. AGreatDane says:

    I feel like George Miller could have stepped up to the plate and been the leader. It is his set after all. But maybe he decided the tension was making a better film.

    • Jenn says:

      I haven’t read the piece yet, but I’ve always felt that Fury Road has a tone that would be REALLY tough to explain on paper — Ozploitation seems to be deeply satirical, “cheeky” in a way that I find genuinely “foreign” — and I don’t think Hardy and Theron really understood, tonally, what kind of movie they were trapped in. That had to have been deeply, deeply frustrating for them; they must’ve constantly been second-guessing themselves. And since their performances were already perfect, I’ve always suspected that George Miller was reticent to answer any of their questions or offer any sort of clarity, because if they’d thought they were in something of a comedy or melodrama, it would’ve RUINED their performances. Better for every non-Australian actor to play their roles perfectly straight.

  9. Awkward symphony says:

    Alot of the friction was caused by misunderstandings pre-shooting. As you said Kaiser, Tom was coming into this expecting to reprise Mel Gibson’s part but the story shifted towards Charlize and the other characters which might have caused the tension with the director.