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We finally understand Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy's feud on the set of Mad Max

Back in 1979, the first Mad Max exploded onto the low-budget indie film landscape and ignited an adrenaline-filled, action-packed franchise. With a sequel, Mad Max 2 (a.k.a. The Road Warrior), following just two years later, this Australian vision of a post-apocalyptic world ruled by roaming biker gangs and cruel tyrants found international success.

After the third entry, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, was released in 1985, the franchise seemingly came to an abrupt halt. In reality, visionary writer/director George Miller began planning a fourth installment as early as 1997, and the film was set to begin pre-production in 2001. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Miller explained that after the events of 9/11, "the American dollar collapsed against the Australian dollar, the budget ballooned, and it fell apart." Ultimately, the Mad Max of the new millennium was postponed and wouldn't resurface until 2015, with Mad Max: Fury Road.

But in the lead-up to Fury Road, rumors started swirling about disagreements and a possible feud between the two lead actors, Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy. Now, years after the film's release, the full story of that feud has come to light. What made these actors not see eye to eye? How did it affect filming? And what has their relationship been like since?

What is Mad Max: Fury Road?

Fury Road reintroduces audiences to Max Rockatansky. We're told very little about him, but as he wanders a desert wasteland, he is captured and imprisoned by the "War Boys" who serve a fascist warlord known as Immortan Joe. Just as Max arrives, Joe's trusted driver, Imperator Furiosa, goes rogue, determined to smuggle Joe's five enslaved wives to freedom. With Max in tow as a life support "blood bag" for diseased War Boy Nux, a war party is launched from Immortan Joe's citadel in pursuit of the refugees. Along the way, Max and Furiosa forge an unlikely friendship that leads to the warlord's downfall and the emancipation of his people.

The film was widely praised by critics and audiences alike and was nominated for ten Oscars, winning six. It was also a financial hit, earning nearly $380 million worldwide on a budget of just $150 million. To put it plainly, Mad Max: Fury Road was one of the most successful films of 2015. This success is in no small part due to work put in by the lead actors, Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. 

Tom Hardy as Max

In Mad Max: Fury Road, Tom Hardy plays Max Rockatansky, a lone wanderer trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic landscape. Despite being the fourth Mad Max film, Fury Road is Tom Hardy's first time playing the title role, played by Mel Gibson in the original trilogy.

When asked about why Gibson wasn't reprising his role, director George Miller told HuffPost, "By the time we were ready for Fury Road again, Mel had all those troubles. It also definitely got to the stage where it wasn't like Unforgiven, where it plays with an older guy. It was definitely the younger guy, the same guy." When principal photography for the film started in 2012, Mel Gibson was 56 years old. Miller's reference to "all those troubles," of course, presumably refers to the actor's pattern of headline-grabbing encounters and offensive remarks.

In the years before Fury Road, Tom Hardy had appeared in Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, and Locke, and was well prepared to take on the role of a young action hero. His career has continued down this path since he left the wasteland, with roles in The Revenant, Dunkirk, and Venom. In the near future, he'll be seen in the Al Capone biopic Fonzo, a BBC miniseries production of A Christmas Carol, and Venom 2

Charlize Theron as Furiosa

Charlize Theron plays the role of Imperator Furiosa, a lieutenant under the tyrannical Immortan Joe. Early in the film, Furiosa covertly smuggles away Joe's five wives and attempts to bring them to freedom. When considering the role of Furiosa, Theron was initially apprehensive. According to an interview with Elle, when the actress learned that the character was meant to be a lead on the same level as Max, she was skeptical, citing that the action genre hasn't always treated women with respect. However, Theron found herself pleasantly surprised, saying that she "personally was so touched by this character." 

Theron has had a long and successful career, having risen to particular prominence with her 2004 Oscar win for Monster. The actress has appeared in a variety of films, including Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Atomic Blonde. Currently, she is set to play Megyn Kelly in an as-yet untitled film about former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, and to take on the role of Morticia Addams in the upcoming animated Addams Family movie. It has also been announced that Theron will be reprising her role as Lorraine Broughton in Atomic Blonde 2.

Life imitated art for Theron and Hardy

Shortly after the release of Fury Road, rumors began to circulate regarding Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron's on-set relationship. The two didn't get along well while filming, as confirmed by Theron herself in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. She compared her relationship with Tom Hardy to the rocky on-screen relationship between Max and Furiosa, saying, "Maybe the movie is what it is because we struggled so much with each other, and those characters had to struggle so much with each other."

In the same interview, director George Miller further drew parallels between the actor's on-set feud and their characters. "I'm not saying that they were seething right through, but the trajectory of the characters can't help but seep into the work," he explained. "When they first meet each other, they're trying to kill each other. As the two characters come together out of necessity and rather reluctantly, they have to find a degree of trust. And to some extent, that was the trajectory of their relationship as well."

Their Mad Max costars noticed the feud

While both Theron and Miller confirmed that she and Hardy did have a feud when working on Mad Max, neither went into much detail regarding the costars' issues with one another. Luckily for Mad Max fans curious about the drama, more information dropped in early 2017. On an episode of Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, Zoe Kravitz (who played the escaped wife known as Toast the Knowing) commented on the feud between the lead actors, offering further insight on why the two struggled to get along. 

"They didn't get along. We were also in the desert for so long," Kravitz recalled. "I think everyone was tired, and confused, and homesick. We saw nothing but sand for six months." She further downplayed the notion of any personal animosity between Theron and Hardy, saying, "I just think it was like they weren't vibing. It's like summer camp, you know. At some point, everybody has issues with somebody because it's just the way people are."

Furious conditions on the Mad Max set

As Zoe Kravitz explained, the environment when working on Mad Max: Fury Road was ruthless. Production spanned two years in Africa's Namibian Desert. For cast and crew alike, the nature of working in the desert made the process not just unpleasant, but at times nearly impossible. According to Syfi, at one point the weather became so extreme that the set was almost completely shut down.

These severe filming conditions added extra stress for everyone involved, raising tensions even higher than the average big-budget spectacle. In an interview with Esquire, Theron explained of her time with Hardy, "We f**kin' went at it, yeah. And on other days, he and George [Miller] went at it. It was the isolation, and the fact that we were stuck in a rig for the entire shoot." 

While the desert made filming uncomfortable, it wasn't the only source of stress placed on Theron and Hardy. When discussing the film in an interview with io9, Theron explained that the film lacked a traditional script, with the action plotted out mainly in storyboards. Understandably, this was an occasional source of frustration for the actors as they tried to track their character arcs.

Regarding the feud, Theron told Esquire, "Tom and I are actors who take our jobs seriously. Both of us want to please the directors we work with, and when you don't know if you can deliver on that, it's a frightening place to be — and for Tom more than me, because he was stepping into big shoes."

Theron and Hardy move beyond Fury Road

Despite the rumors that Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy wound up hating each other, both of the actors insist that the entire thing was overblown. Hardy told The Daily Beast, "Yeah, I mean, there are these myths that are usually asininely circulated about things that go on on set that aren't nearly as dramatic as they're made out to be. There was no hatchet to bury, for me." 

Theron has been upfront regarding the feud, but she also insists that there is no longer any animosity between the two. "We drove each other crazy, but I think we have respect for each other, and that's the difference," the actress told Esquire. "This is the kind of stuff that nobody wants to understand — there's a real beauty to that kind of relationship." 

Clearly, Theron and Hardy didn't always see eye-to-eye on set, but it doesn't appear that their disagreements made a lasting impact on either person.

Could Theron and Hardy reunite?

Though Mad Max: Fury Road resulted in some conflict, there is a possibility that the actors will work together in future endeavors. When talking about his relationship with Theron, Hardy told The Daily Beast, "I think she's brilliant and I would love to work with her again." 

Hardy is currently attached to three more potential Mad Mad films, according to Collider. Some of the concepts discussed by the filmmakers reportedly involve the character of Furiosa, indicating that Theron is likely to return to the series. While development has been delayed (in part by a lawsuit regarding Fury Road's finances), Hardy has expressed a definite desire to return to the role. As he told The Daily Beast, "There are other Mad Max vehicles and Furiosa vehicles that are out there — as far as the characters' mythologies and stories… I'm waiting for the call to get back in the leathers and get cracking on that." 

In an article from Variety, Theron also expressed an interest in reprising the role of Furiosa, possibly in a prequel story. Further demonstrating how willing Theron and Hardy are to get to work, the actress said, "But at the end of the day, this thing lives and breathes with George [Miller]. I think Warner Bros. knows that. We are all waiting for him to show us the way."

With both actors looking forward to future Mad Max projects, the possibility remains open that both Theron and Hardy will work together and reprise their roles if the franchise moves forward.

The future of Mad Max

While we know that Tom Hardy is attached to other Mad Max projects, we don't know for sure if Charlize Theron will reprise her role as Furiosa if the series continues, despite her seeming willingness to do so. However, Theron revealed information regarding some of the other Mad Max scripts to Variety saying, "There were three scripts. They were written as back stories to Max's character and Furiosa's character." With this in mind, it seems likely that any future Mad Max films would include both Theron and Hardy. 

On the other hand, despite initial talks of more films, there has been little word regarding further Mad Max entries since Fury Road's 2015 release. Due to legal disputes between George Miller and Warner Bros., new Mad Max films are considered to be on hold. In short, the parties involved have disputed the end cost of Mad Max and the bonuses owed for bringing the movie in under budget.

However, in February of 2019, Fandango managing editor Erik Davis said in a tweet, "I'm hearing whispers of another sequel that's beginning to rev its engines…" attaching a picture from the opening moments of Fury Road under the text. Perhaps there may be progress on the new Mad Max film after all. Hopefully the filming process can go more smoothly this time around.