The last time I spoke to filmmaker George Miller (“Lorenzo’s Oil”, “The Witches of Eastwick”, “Babe”, “Mad Max”) was right before the “Happy Feet” boom of 2008. At the time Miller, then best known as the director of three successful “Mad Max” movies, was on the verge of giving Australia one of it’s most successful local exports, the wholesome tale of a tot penguin who is out to find his, er, Happy Feet (dance). Miller had planned to, as soon as he’d wrapped up his promotional duties on “Happy Feet”, begin work on a fourth “Mad Max” movie following his march with the penguins. It never happened. Gas shortage. Instead, Miller found himself directing another cursed project, the abandoned “Justice League of America” movie and, not surprisingly, a “Happy Feet” sequel. It’s the latter that I caught up with Miller recently to speak about.
George, when did the idea of the ”Happy Feet” sequel come up? Was it always up there? Or…
No. No. It was in the last year of finishing the first one. I spent so long with the characters I just began to think of them like family and I had the story mapped out at the end of the first one. The first one did well enough, so we’ve done the second one. And it also was an opportunity, the technology’s come so much further than the first one and we’re able to do a lot more in this movie. And also in 3D. So that was huge.
The 3D looks terrific. Animation really lends itself beautifully to…
To 3D, yeah, yeah. We worked really hard on it… I mean, I love 3D. I hate taking off the glasses. And we worked really hard to make it really creamy and smooth, so that people who have trouble watching 3D, don’t have any trouble probably this stuff. It’s just very, very creamy.
I imagine it was quite the lengthy process for you putting it together.
It is long. That’s the one thing. It takes a long time to do them. Took about a year to write to get the screenplay right. And all the other stuff set up–the so-called pipeline–the actual complex series of computing sequences that goes on, takes a long time to set up. And we’re trying to, we’re pushing the technology to the bleeding edge on this one, just as we did the first where we and we just, so the detail of it, everything is much, much more. The crystals of ice, there’s these krill that are transparent, bioluminescent, the detail of the feathers. Everything has much more detail.
And, of course, you’ve Robin Williams playing two characters?
Yeah, well, it was, they were from the first movie. I mean, Robin, there’s one point where Robin… Because he sometimes plays the two characters simultaneously. In other words, he’ll play Ramon and Lovelace.
Robin’s “Good Will Hunting” co-star Matt Damon does a voice. Now, I imagine Robin and Matt didn’t actually work together in the same studio.
No, the krill story it happens, the penguins are the way of the krill. So there was a question of Matt with Brad Pitt in a room because they spend most of their time together. And yeah, for those two tiny characters we needed two actors who knew each other, were friends, worked together before and they were around at the time and again, put them in a room together and fire off each other. And it was nothing to do with Good Will Hunting.
And was it all done in Sydney?
Do you like working in Australia, obviously, or it just happened to be where the company is, obviously?
Yeah. It’s my home. And nowadays it’s a lot easier. It’s where my home and family is. And in their case, these guys were good enough to come down together. There were all of them. Hank, Elijah, Sofia, all the amigos, the wonderful comics. Latino comics we had there. Just so many people were all at the same room together. Big room. Lots of mics and very free. And you basically, Robin calls it like acting jazz. You set up the structure and then, there’s a structure underneath the jazz, but on top of that people are free to explore and that’s when you get this fabulous stuff.
Is there ”Happy Feet 3” out there?
I don’t have a story. The first one I had a story at this point but this one I don’t have a story.
It’s not there yet? C’mon!
Maybe when you walk out of the hotel? Doing interviews and you…
You never know when stories come. You, honestly, you never, never know. Yeah. You don’t try to force them. In a way, they sort of come. Yeah [Laughs]
The last time, we spoke about ”Happy Feet 1”, you were on to ”Mad Max” straight after it. Obviously ”Happy Feet 2” came up before, ”Mad Max” is now next, is that right?
Yeah. It’s Mad Max every time we try to get it. That’s something that happens. This time it was rain. And we were going to shoot out of Broken Hill. And what was once a flat wasteland, is now a flower garden virtually. And beautiful, beautiful by the way. Good for everybody, good for the country, not good for Mad Max.
No, no. You’d think it would be petrol that would be the shortage there. But… No.
So we’re heading out next year, middle of next year, to do it.
That’s great. Is there Aussies on board?
Oh yeah. All Aussie crew, you know, Australian actors, a bunch of people.
Great. I know at one stage you were talking… Actually we were talking about getting Magda [Szubanski] in there a few years ago.
And you were like, “Oh, I have to find a spot for an Magda.” Did you found a spot for an Magda yet?
No, I haven’t. No.
No? We were talking about her as Mad Max I think at one stage, before Tom Hardy came along. Who was a brilliant choice by the way. He’s a fantastic actor.
Yeah, he is quite something. He’s going to… It’s going to be interesting to see the sort of work he does, yeah.
- CLINT MORRIS