Despite 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road becoming an instant classic and fans clamoring for more, planned sequel Mad Max: The Wasteland is trapped in limbo. Following the release of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in 1985, series creator George Miller felt the series was done. It took fifteen years before he conceived of the idea that grew into Fury Road and, as is the way of life in Hollywood, it took another fifteen for the movie to be released.
Before the script was even written, Miller had Fury Road extensively storyboarded as he wanted the narrative to function almost without dialogue. The film was gearing up to shoot in 2003 with Mel Gibson returning, but this production was canceled following the outbreak of the Iraq war and resulting security concerns over its planned Namibian shoot. Undaunted, Miller spent the intervening years refining the script and working on more Mad Max projects, including an unproduced Furiosa prequel anime.
It may have been a long ride but Mad Max: Fury Road was met with universal acclaim when it arrived and is regarded by many as far and away the best of the franchise. The film was also a solid hit for an R-rated action movie - at the box office and, surprisingly, the Oscars - but despite this, studio politics have slammed the brakes on the series for now. Let’s examine the reasons why.
Fury Road's Director Wants To Make Mad Max: The Wasteland
George Miller had a long time to develop Mad Max: Fury Road, and during that time he completed two more scripts, including Mad Max: The Wasteland. One of these scripts is said to be a prequel that features the Vuvalini from Fury Road, suggesting it could be the Furiosa anime script. Furiosa became an iconic figure of her own, and both Miller and Charlize Theron have said they’d love to make a solo movie with the character.
Miller has stated Mad Max: The Wasteland wouldn’t be a direct sequel to the previous movie, so Furiosa won’t be involved. He’s also said the movie will be smaller scale, with a lower budget and fewer stunts. Following the release of Fury Road the filmmaker understandably expressed a desire to take a break from the series and recharge his batteries, but he’s repeatedly said he wants to return for The Wasteland.
Mad Max: The Wasteland Is Delayed By A Lawsuit
Sadly, this is where studio politics come into play. It turns out Miller’s production company and Warner Bros fell into a dispute over an unpaid bonus following the release of Mad Max: Fury Road. Miller’s company was set to receive a $9M bonus if the production budget came in under $157M. Miller says it did, but the studio insisted on expensive reshoots – that added back sequences that were previously cut due to costs – and this inflated the final budget to over $185M. The director says the studio is solely responsible for these additional costs and the bonus should have been paid.
The studio counters their contract was for a 100-minute, PG-13 film, while Miller turned in a 120-minute R-rated one, and the movie exceeded its budget because of unapproved costs and delays on the side of Miller's company. Both sides have locked horns over this issue and neither one is backing down. Even if an amicable settlement is reached its easy to imagine a scenario where Miller decides not to return than work with the studio again.
Will Mad Max 5 Happen?
The franchise will always be iconic, but realistically, the current prospects for Mad Max: The Wasteland look bleak. The script might be sitting in George Miller’s drawer but until this deadlock with the studio is finished, nothing will happen. In the interim, there's a chance Miller could adapt one of the scripts for an anime or novel, and he’s expressed an interest in the past of working on a Mad Max game, but the lawsuit probably affects that side of things also.
In the end, Miller wants to make it, Tom Hardy wants to make it and even Warner Bros wants it to happen, so the chances are good this mess will eventually be untangled. George Miller has proved he’s nothing if not patient, and it just wouldn’t feel right to see Mad Max: The Wasteland move forward without him. Max will emerge from the desert someday – let’s just hope it won’t be in 2045.