'Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome' at 35: How a tragic death almost kept George Miller from completing his original trilogy

George Miller doesn’t generally get enough acknowledgment for how versatile he’s proven to be over the years, with directing credits that include Twilight Zone: The Movie, The Witches of Eastwick, Babe: Pig in the City and the animated Happy Feet movies.

Of course, Miller is most renowned for his gutsy and groundbreaking post-apocalyptic Mad Max movies, which he initially dropped in trilogy form between 1979-1985 before returning to glory with 2015’s sensational Mad Max: Fury Road.

As the Australian filmmaker told Yahoo Entertainment during a 2016 Director’s Reel interview, a close friend and collaborator’s tragic death almost kept him from making the final installment of his original trilogy, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, which turns 35 Friday (watch in full above, with Thunderdome talk starting at the 1:35 mark).

Miller’s producing partner Byron Kennedy was killed in a helicopter crash while scouting locations for Thunderdome in 1983.

Tina Turner in 'Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome' (Warner Bros.)
Tina Turner in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

“Byron was like my filmmaking brother,” Miller said. “We’d already committed to do the third Max Max [following 1979’s Mad Max and 1981’s Mad Max: Road Warrior] and all of that.

“I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t think I can do the third Mad Max. But luckily we got through it… Every film is tough, but I remember doing that, it was very, very hard.”

Miller enlisted George Ogilvie to co-direct the threequel, which famously introduces Tina Turner into the fold as Aunt Entity, the ruthless ruler of Bartertown who exiles Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson) into the desert.

The film is dedicated to Miller’s late friend with a title card at the end reading “…for Byron.”

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is currently streaming on Amazon.

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