‘Mad Max’ Post-Apocalyptic Stuntman to Retire

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Supervising stunt coordinator for Mad Max: Fury Road’s, Guy Norris had traveled across Australia with the original stunt shows of real life-threatening stunts, when he was a teenager. Each show would include a high falling clown with exploding toilets, according to Norris. The show had fight scenes between cowboys, and firewalls with motorcycle crossovers. If the locals paid enough, the drivers would crash the motorbikes and cars too.

Norris commented that, at that time, stuntmen thought they could swallow sharp objects and fall off 20 story buildings. We believed that we were invincible.

In 1980, at the age of 21, he was getting ready to do his first film, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, directed by George Miller. Norris says this movie took all the death-defying, take your breathe away show and put them on an overdose of testosterone. The barbaric-style, low-budget action, gripped science fiction by the throat and shook it out of the stratosphere.

Norris was Miller’s right-hand man, according to Norris. Norris did the stunt driving for Mel Gibson and intimidated as the pillager, Bearclaw Mohawk. Norris said that nearly every character diving onto the tanker was him. He would put on a costume, jump, change costumes and jump from another angle.

Once, Norris had the idea of performing one of his motorcycle launching stunts, which he had performed and practiced many times before. He would drive a racing motorcycle into a beat up dune buggy, flying high into a culvert that had been filled with a very large amount of empty cardboard boxes, what Norris calls the most advanced and reliable cushion yet to be created. However, Norris did not soar over the wrecked dune buggy. His knee hit the dune buggy and instead, he twirled around like a rag doll shot from a cannon. Even though the boxes broke his fall, he broke his femur. It did not stop Norris though. He was on the set a few days later and filmed the final fight scene. He simply propped his broken leg up outside of the camera frame.

That was 34 years ago. Action films have evolved and Norris with it. Norris said that when he first started as a stuntman, if he had the courage to do it, he did it. Norris has worked on many films including, Superman Returns, Moulin Rouge and now David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. Norris said they did things within the realm of what a well-toned person was capable of physically handling, real crashes, high falls without wires and getting dragged along dirt road behind speeding vehicles. However, audiences wanted faster, bigger and more exceptional action than the last movie. What audiences want from superheroes, is far above the physical capabilities of any mortal.

However, audiences love MMA fights, Jackass-type stunts and fights recorded on YouTube. Miller believed that audiences still wanted old-school stunt action especially from Mad Max.  Miller knew people did not really want CG, such as, the Charlie’s Angels, exploding on motorcycles that were upside down. Audiences wanted more reality-based action, that only Mad Max could truly offer.

Therefore, Miller decided that Fury Road would be done with those original old-school style stunts, but it would be produced with the over-the-top action audiences expected from the franchises. The film, although one of the most involved in history, experienced delays and a budget of $140 million, which was 1,000 times that of Mad Max 2. It uses the entire Norris team of performers, stunt drivers, and riggers.They spent months collaborating on visual effects, designing effects and special effects. The movie has 303 stunt sequences, including 70 highly dangerous stunts.

Norris believes that these days stuntmen do more stunts that only lend to the illusion of extreme danger, as the stunt profession is a combined effort of science, creativity and stunts now. Norris says it requires being clever, combining all the resources and tools available as a movie director, so an action scene can look spectacular but still be safe.

Norris is 54, and a father. His teenage sons both worked with him on the stunt crew for the new Mad Max movie. Norris calls it an awesome complete circle that started with The Road Warrior. Norris was the driving double, crashing an upgraded rendition of the Interceptor that he had driven 35 years ago in the opening scene. Norris made the most hazardous Mad Max: Fury Road stunt will be his last stunt as the driver.

There is a scene in which Norris is driving a 35,000 pound, 16 wheeler at 60 mph into a turned-over 16 wheeler, at full speed. The actual impact would kill someone due to where the cab is mounted. The Fury Road teams developed a different solution. They attached a steel driving cabin onto the side of the truck. It was also mounted on rails that would allow the pod to slide, and they had braking assemblies on the pod, specific for this stunt. The pod would be able to decelerate after the initial impact and reduce the g-force. This offered a high-tech solution to an old-school stunt issue, and Norris came through the crash just fine. That was Norris’ final stunt driving scene, and it was a spectacular crash, he said.

By Jeanette Smith

Wired: Mad Max: Fury Road’s Stunt Guy Went Out with an Epic Bang
LA Times: Review: ‘Mad Max’ Kicks Post-Apocalyptic Extravaganza Into Overdrive
Vanity Fair: 8 Reasons Why Mad Max is the Most Improbable Franchise of All Time
Photo courtesy of Laughlin Elkind’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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