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The Marvel Star Who Was Almost In Mad Max: Fury Road

Visionary filmmaker George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road is indisputably a modern classic of action cinema. Charlize Theron's portrayal of the renegade Imperator Furiosa and Tom Hardy's stoic Max Rockatansky have become so iconic that it's almost hard to imagine Miller considered any other actors for the roles. But consider he did.

Just try picturing a bizzaro world Mad Max in which Jeremy Renner plays the titular Max with Uma Thurman as his ass-kicking partner-in-revolution, Furiosa. Actually, don't picture it — why mess with perfection? Obviously, the casting process ended up in the right place with Theron and Hardy, both of whom delivered stirring, understated performances as the film's dynamic duo. That said, it's interesting to take a look under the hood at Miller's process, and understand all the critical details that went into assembling a meticulous film like Fury Road.

Some of the creatives behind the latest Mad Max entry recently sat down with the New York Times to discuss the path to Fury Road, and they spilled the beans about all the casting dead ends that ultimately helped them find the finished product we all know and love today.

Miller and company explored many different potential stars for Mad Max

To understand Fury Road's casting process, you have to understand what a long and furious road it was to the screen. By the time the movie roared into theaters in 2015, it had been a full 30 years since the previous entry in the series, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. In 2001, the original Mad Max, Mel Gibson, was slated to reprise the role he made famous. The story of that early attempt's conception and ultimate dissolution is worthy of its own journalistic treatment; suffice to say, by the time Miller finally got around to revisiting his post-apocalyptic world, Gibson was simply too old to return as Max Rockatansky. Producer Doug Mitchell acknowledges that Gibson has made himself persona non grata in certain sectors of Hollywood, but he insists it was the age issue that ultimately excluded him from Fury Road.

"Mel is obviously blighted by a number of things that everyone in the world knows about," Mitchell told the Times. "He's a highly gifted filmmaker and a brilliant actor and a lovely guy behind that demon that sometimes pops out. But he was too old at that point. It just didn't make sense."

Zoe Kravitz, who played Toast, one of Immortan Joe's (Hugh Keays-Byrne) escaped wives, also sat for the interview. She recalls doing a screen test opposite Jeremy Renner reading for Max. At that point, Hardy hadn't yet landed the role, and the team was seriously considering plucking the Hawkeye actor out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and dropping him in the gasoline wasteland of Fury Road.

Tom Hardy locked down the role of Mad Max pretty quickly

Apparently, Renner's consideration didn't last long. For Miller, Tom Hardy was Max at first sight. "I had the same feeling about Tom that I had when Mel Gibson first walked into the room," Miller said. "There was a kind of edgy charm, the charisma of animals. You don't know what's going on in their inner depths, and yet they're enormously attractive."

Hardy received the high praise with appealing modesty. He responded to the Times, "I hadn't done that much action at that time, certainly not with this level of involvement. The nature and sheer scale and volume of action set pieces was unlike anything I had experienced."

As for Furiosa, Miller apparently had his eye on Theron for the role since that ill-fated attempt to revive the franchise in 2001. At the time, Theron's agent told Miller that the South African actress wasn't interested. For what it's worth, Theron denies ever hearing about the request.

"I grew up on all the Mad Max movies," she said. "They're very popular in South Africa. I remember being 12 and my dad letting me watch it with him. So I was like, 'Oh yeah, I wanna be in a Mad Max movie. Are you kidding me?'"

Mitchell still recalls a time when they considered Kill Bill alum Uma Thurman for the role. "There were a number of names thrown out for the female lead back when we first started," he said.

It's a good thing Mitchell and Miller have such good eyes for talent, since we're pretty happy we ended up with the version that we did. Let's hope the next sequel doesn't take another 30 years to get off the ground.