George Miller - Director





Nationality: Australian. Born: Brisbane, Australia, 3 March 1945. Education: University of New South Wales, M.D. Family: Married Sandy Gore, 1985, one daughter. Career: Physician, St. Vincent's Hospital, Sydney; began collaboration with writer/producer Byron

George Miller with Babe
George Miller with Babe
Kennedy, 1971; directed first feature, Mad Max , 1979; producer/director of The Dismissal for TV, 1982. Awards: Best Director, Australian Film Institute, 1982; Best Foreign Film, Los Angeles Film Critics, 1983. Address: 30 Orwell Street, King's Cross, Sydney, New South Wales 2011, Australia.


Films as Director:

1971

Violence in the Cinema: Part I (short) (+ co-sc)

1973

Devil in Evening Dress (doc) (+ sc)

1979

Mad Max

1981

Mad Max II ( The Road Warrior )

1983

"Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" episode in Twilight Zone—The Movie

1985

Mad Max III: Beyond Thunderdome (co-d, + co-sc, pr)

1987

The Witches of Eastwick

1992

Lorenzo's Oil (+ co-sc, co-pr)

1996

40,000 Years of Dreaming (+ sc, co-pr, ro as narrator)

1998

Babe: Pig in the City (+ co-sc, co-pr)

Other Films:

1973

Frieze, an Underground Film (short) (ed)

1980

Chain Reaction (Barry) (assoc pr, collaborator on water-fall scenes)

1987

The Riddle of the Stinson (pr); The Clean Machine (pr); Fragments of War (pr)

1988

Dead Calm (exec pr); The Year My Voice Broke (exec pr)

1989

Flirting (exec pr)

1995

Babe (pr, co-sc)

1997

Heaven Before I Die (exec pr)

Publications


By MILLER: articles—

"Production Report Mad Max: George Miller, Director," an interview with P. Beilby and S. Murray, in Cinema Papers (Melbourne), May/June 1979; also September/October 1979.

"The Ayatollah of the Movies," an interview with D. Chute, in Film Comment (New York), July/August 1982.

Interview with P. Broeske, in Films in Review (New York), October 1982.

Interview with Tony Crawley, in Starburst (London), no. 51, 1983.

Interview with T. Ryan, in Cinema Papers (Melbourne), January 1988.

" Lorenzo's Oil ," an interview with S. Murray, in Cinema Papers , April 1993.

"Life Lessons: Babe the Gallant Sheep-Pig/Scoring Babe ," in Cinema Papers (Fitzroy), December 1995.

Dahan, Yannick, "George Miller: À la recherche de l'homme perdu," in Positif (Paris), April 1999.


On MILLER: book—

Mathews, Sue, 35mm Dreams , Ringwood, Victoria, 1984.

On MILLER: articles—

Samuels, B., "Dr. George Miller: Mephisto in a Polka-Dot Tie," in Cinema Canada (Toronto), February 1983.

George Miller Section of Positif (Paris), December 1985.

Rodman, H. A., "George Miller," in Millimeter , May 1989.

Griffin, N., "Tell Me Where It Hurts," in Premiere , December 1992.

Maslin, J., "Parents Fighting to Keep Their Child Alive," in New York Times , 30 December 1992.

O'Brien, G., "The Doctor and the 'Miracle'," in New York Times , 24 January 1993.


* * *


Along with contemporaries Peter Weir, Bruce Beresford, and Gillian Armstrong, George Miller helped to bring Australian film to the international forefront by the mid-1980s with his brilliant trilogy of Mad Max, Mad Max II ( The Road Warrior in the United States), and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. In a desolate Australian space, sometime in the future, the police have their hands full trying to keep the roads safe from suicidal, maniacal gangs. Cop Mel Gibson quits, but then seeks revenge when his wife and child are murdered. Mad Max was almost lost when it was released in the late 1970s, but with the success of the sequel, the style and bleak outlook were seen to represent a tour de force of genre filmmaking. We have little doubt what will happen; but the way the story unspools is what attracted audiences around the world. George Miller made Mad Max and made fellow countryman Mel Gibson an international star.

The greatness of the Mad Max films come from the images of burnt out men and women in a post-apocalyptic world of desolate highways. Characters are dressed in what was left after the "end of the world," including football uniform parts from American-style teams and other assorted bits and pieces of clothing. Miller seems to have patterned his hero after a Japanese samurai, but more insight can be gained by comparing these three films with the westerns of Sergio Leone, such as Once upon a Time in the West. The director's inventions make mundane stories into something altogether new and fresh.

For audiences the trilogy was Dirty Harry thrown into a desert of madness. Miller's style of directing has been called mathematical in nature, building a movie in the same manner prescribed by the early Sergei Eisenstein and utilized by the mature Hitchcock. Many argued that Miller, an Australian, outdid Steven Spielberg, the Hollywood wunderkind. And in the early 1980s Mad Max became a pop cult craze.

With the third installment Miller moved into mainstream Hollywood. Thus while it had the usual cast of unknown character actors and actresses placed in the sweeping, endless desert of the Australian outback, Tina Turner was cast as the ruler of Bartertown, a primitive community in the bleak futuristic post-Atomic world. Mel Gibson, again as Max, battled to the death in the Roman-style arena of Thunderdome. Miller proved he could continue the Mad Max appeal even though his partner of the first two, Byron Kennedy, died in 1983.

And although Miller was chosen by Spielberg for a segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie , he continued to work in Australia, on mini-series such as "The Dismissal." In the late 1980s Miller changed courses and directed the hit The Witches of Eastwick for Warner Bros. With Jack Nicholson and Cher, The Witches of East-wick offered a lively, colorful fantasy set in a New England town. This was a popular film, far from the visceral violence of Mad Max. Miller's segment for Twilight Zone: The Movie , "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," was the ultimate white-knucklers' airplane paranoid fantasy, with a computer technician staring out the window seeing a gremlin sabotaging the engines. John Lithgow turned in a bravura performance in a role originally played by William Shatner. The Miller segment, of the four, was the one most often praised in a movie now most associated with the grim tragedy of the filming of the John Landis episode.

In 1992 Miller directed the acclaimed film Lorenzo's Oil , a tear-jerker starring Susan Sarandon as a mother fighting to save her terminally ill son. Praised at the time, this film seemed tired and too formulaic a decade later. Then Miller did a course change again in 1998 with the comedic Babe: Pig in the City. This sequel was stunning visually but disappointing at the box office. It has become a cult favorite, but seemed only to indicate that the 50-something Miller may have lost his direction.

Miller took a strange path to directorial success, but once one sees and analyzes the Mad Max trilogy, it makes sense. After graduating with a degree in medicine from the University of New South Wales in 1970, this "self-confessed movie freak" spent eighteen months in the emergency room of a large city hospital dealing with auto accident victims. Perhaps this is where he developed his strange view of the world. It worked for Mad Max , but thereafter Miller seemed to drop into the "almost forgotten" category of promising movie makers who never could develop a unified, long term body of creative output. Finally, no essay should end without noting that this George Miller is not the same George Miller, also an Australian, who made a reputation as the director of The Man from Snowy River (1982).

—Douglas Gomery

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