BEVERLY HILLS, California — More than 30 years ago, a fresh-face newcomer and a virtually unknown director teamed to make a hyper-violent Australian movie about life after the apocalypse. [movieperson id="80723"]Mel Gibson[/movieperson] earned $15,000 and had his voice dubbed over for the film's American release, but nonetheless rode the "Mad Max" franchise to superstardom under the tutelage of filmmaker George Miller.
Now, after all the decades and sequels, it's finally time once again for "Mad" Max Rockatansky to return to the big screen. And the role is being filled by an actor who will probably earn more than 15 grand for the blockbuster — but who is nonetheless such a newcomer that even Mel himself isn't aware of the guy.
"Oh," remarked Gibson when we caught up with him recently, confirming that he will not be a part of the next Mad Max movie, "Fury Road," and knows nothing about Tom Hardy, the 32-year-old British actor who will be taking over the iconic role. "I don't even know who that is!"
Instead, Mel has moved on to "Edge of Darkness," a thriller that opens this weekend and co-stars Ray Winstone, who Gibson looked to for information on his successor.
"Do you [know who Hardy is?]" Gibson asked as we interviewed the duo.
"Oh, yeah, I've worked with Tom," said Winstone, who starred opposite Hardy in a production of "Sweeney Todd" for U.K. television. "He's done this Charlie Bronson [film called 'Bronson']. He plays this villain figure who changes his name to Charles Bronson, who is in prison for life. He started at four years [in prison], then they threw 'misbehaving' in there and he ended up doing life. Tom is a very, very good actor."
In addition to that 2008 acting breakthrough, Hardy also had a memorable role in Guy Ritchie's "Rocknrolla," but, although Hardy was handed the keys to the "Mad Max" kingdom months ago, Mel hasn't tracked down the film. "I haven't seen that," he said.
"Fury Road" is moving full-steam ahead under Miller's direction. Charlize Theron is onboard, and additional names were announced recently, including "Clash of the Titans" remake actor Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer ("Bedtime Stories") and Adelaide Clemens ("X-Men Origins: Wolverine"). But how does the original Road Warrior feel about the series that made him a star moving on without him?
"Great," Gibson said of someone else playing Max. "I think it's fantastic. I can't wait to see it.
"Look, whatever George does, I think George is a genius, and whatever he is going to do with that franchise, he's got good reason for doing it," said Gibson, who, at age 54, said it's time for him to move on. "I can't take the punishment for that sort of thing."
The movie will be set shortly after the events of Gibson's final turn in the role, in 1985's "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome." The plotline reportedly involves a convoy of people being chased by post-apocalyptic villains, with the Max character getting involved in some way.
"I'd like so see what he does," Gibson said of the upcoming flick. "I'd like to see someone else do it."
Check out everything we've got on "Fury Road."
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