The Story of Mad Max’s Interceptor

Max 01 (iMBD)
Credit: iMDB

Mad Max’s iconic black-on-black car has many in universe names: ‘Interceptor’, ‘the last of the V8s’ and ‘pursuit special’. It has appeared in some way in all four films, but the original car was only used in the first two. In the story line of the first movie, Mad Max (1979), the car was created to entice Max Rockatansky to stay with the police force. But after his wife and child are horrifically murdered by the Toecutter and his gang, Max steals the car to seek vengeance. The film Mad Max was part of the Australian New Wave cinema movement—a resurgence in popularity of Aussie movies across the world in the late 1970s—and was the brainchild of director George Miller and producer Byron Kennedy. These days the car is regarded as a famous and integral piece of Australian cinema history.

Kennedy Miller and Roger Savage (Mad Max Movies)
From Right: Kennedy, Miller and composer Roger Savage Credit: Mad Max Movies

Miller and Kennedy met during a short film course and the two became inseparable almost right away. They complimented each other perfectly: Miller the quiet, creative-type director and Kennedy as the opinionated, financially-minded producer. They collaborated on a short film, Violence in the Cinema, Part 1 (1971), together that was met with acclaim and controversy. After a couple of other small projects, the duo become more ambitious and wanted to tackle a feature film. Inspired by his years as an emergency room doctor, Miller came up with the rough idea that would become Mad Max. Miller, Kennedy and a handful of close others worked on a few drafts of the script before they shopped it around. In the end, the story decided on was set in a dystopian future, after a nuclear war, and featured a highway patrolman trying to survive. While the world and society were breaking down, fuel (‘guzzolene’) had become a rare commodity and road gangs were doing whatever it took to control it. The film entered pre-production in 1976.

Mad Max Poster
Original Mad Max (1979) Poster Credit: iMDB

Mad Max had a $350,000 budget, most of it raised by Miller and Kennedy (no figures in this article have been adjusted for inflation). It was the highest grossing film with the lowest budget of all time until it was surpassed by The Blair Witch Project (1999). $20,000 of the budget went to purchasing vehicles for the movie and an additional $5,000 to modifying them. The production crew attended a car auction in Frankston, Victoria, where they bought two ex-Police Ford Falcons and a repossessed 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT hardtop coupe. Destined to become the all-black Interceptor, the GT coupe’s original colour was polar white. Only six cars in the colour were produced in Australia. Originally a Ford Mustang was proposed for Max’s car. But when Murray Smith (the film’s mechanic) pointed out that parts wouldn’t be easy to come by, Miller and Kennedy decided to go with a locally manufactured car instead.

The GT coupe was sent to Graf-X to be spray painted and modified. Based on concepts by art director Jon Dowding, the company was told to make the car look evil. Some of the modifications included a custom-made front end, cut-down flares from a Holden A9X Torana and a fitted super charger. Miller wanted the super charger seen, so it was mounted a foot higher than usual. The modification work took three months to complete.

Max 02 (iMBD)
Mel Gibson played Mad Max Credit: iMDB

Mad Max opened on April 12 and was an instant success. It did surprisingly well all over the world and talk of a sequel began. As a token of good faith and acknowledgement of his hard work, Smith was given the Interceptor. He drove it around as his every day car until realising how expensive it was to run. Smith decided to sell it but no one was interested. When Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) was officially greenlit, Smith sold the Interceptor back to Miller and Kennedy for $7,500.

The car was again modified for the second film. Two large fuel tanks were installed in the boot, the lower section of the front was removed and the suspension was raised, making it easier to drive in an outback environment. The Interceptor was also made to look more weathered—the last couple of years in the Wasteland had been hell for Max. The producers bought a 1974 Ford Fairmont and made it into a duplicate. The Fairmont was used for wide shots while the original was used in close up and interior shots. The Fairmont was the car crashed and blown up in the film.

With the production of Mad Max 2 complete, the Interceptor was destined to be destroyed. Noting the significance of the car, the scrapper kept it. It changed owners a couple of times before ending up in the front of an Adelaide scrap yard. The Interceptor sat for three years, and was in bad shape, when Mad Max super fan Bob Fursenko discovered it. He bought the car and restored it for $25,000. He contacted Murray Smith to verify the car was genuine. Smith had engraved his initials under the interior door trim. It was the real thing.

Interceptor Scrap Yard 1-2 (The Mad Max Wiki)
The Interceptor rotting in a scrap yard Credit: The Mad Max Wiki

While at a German car expo in 1992, Cars of the Stars Motor Museum owner Peter Nelson heard that the Interceptor was for sale. It had been available for a while but had no buyers. Nelson purchased the car from Fursenko and it was shipped to him in the UK. In 2011, the Interceptor moved to the Miami Auto Museum in Florida. As of 2018, the car still resides there.

mad-max-v8-dezer-miami-1 (Deano in America)
The Interceptor on display at the Miami Auto Museum Credit: Deano in America

Miller spent many years contemplating a fourth Mad Max film. He wasn’t sure if it was right to continue the franchise after Kennedy was tragically killed in a helicopter accident in 1983. In the late 1990s, Miller came up with a premise that would eventually become Mad Max: Fury Road. The film was in ‘development hell’ for near fifteen years. Production was halted in 2004 after Broken Hill, NSW, experienced an abundance of rain. The location was too green to be used for the film’s desert setting. Miller moved between jobs—directing two Happy Feet films, among other projects—before Fury Road production began again in 2012. It was released in cinemas to critical acclaim in 2015.

Razor Cola (Fury Road Vehicles)
The Razor Cola Credit: iMDB

In the early 2000s, another Interceptor was built for Fury Road but stayed in storage for over a decade until it was needed. Miller always planned to have the car in the film, but never intended for it to be the same car. There are subtle differences between it and the original. The Fury Road Interceptor was destroyed early on in the story before being rebuilt, and stripped back to bare metal, by the film’s antagonists. It was rechristened as the Razor Cola. Four cars were made and used in the movie. A popular fan theory suggests that Max’s camel wagon, seen at the start of Beyond Thunderdome (1985), the franchise’s third film, is the Interceptor’s chassis reused after it was blown up. Miller is planning additional sequels, the first with the working title Mad Max: The Wasteland.

Max 04 (iMBD)
Interceptor and Max with the You Yangs granite ridges near Werribee, VIC Credit: iMDB

Sources:

Luke Buckmaster – Miller and Max (Book)

Ford Falcon XB GT Coupe 1973 “V8 Interceptor” (http://madmax.wikia.com/wiki/Ford_Falcon_XB_GT_Coupe_1973_%22V8_Interceptor%22)

Mad Max Interceptor, 30 years on… (https://www.motormag.com.au/features/0804/mad-max-interceptor-30-years-on)

The Real Story of the Mad Max XB GT Falcon (https://www.streetmachine.com.au/features/1505/the-real-story-of-the-mad-max-xb-gt)

There’s only one original Mad Max Interceptor and it’s not in Australia (https://www.hemmings.com/blog/2015/05/15/theres-only-one-original-mad-max-interceptor-and-its-not-in-australia/)

Louise Lovely: The First Australian to Make it in Hollywood

Lovely (Women Film Pioneers Project)
Credit: Women Film Pioneers Project

In the early 1900s, Australia had a well-established film industry while Hollywood was still in its infancy. Most early American silent films were made in New York by companies such as Biograph and Edison Productions. Hollywood began to be a popular production location in the early 1910s. It didn’t take long for it to become the world’s leading film capital. Australia had made the first feature-length film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, in 1906 but was soon lagging behind. Early Australian actors and actresses made the move across the ocean to try their luck in American movies. Louise Lovely was among the first to have a successful career. She appeared in a handful of films at home before gracing the silver screen alongside other big names of the silent era. She was frequently compared to Mary Pickford, the most famous and highest paid actress at the time. She was even considered a rival.

Lovely was born on the 28th February, 1895, in Paddington, a suburb close to Sydney’s CBD. Her parents were of Italian and Swiss descent. She was named Nellie Louise Carbasse. Lovely’s father is unknown; she was raised by her mother. Lovely was more fluent in French than English as a child. This helped her to get her first part, as Little Eva, in the stage play Uncle Tom’s Cabin at age nine. She was noticed by Nellie Stewart, a popular stage actress and singer of the era. In her teens, Lovely joined Stewart’s theatre company and travelled around Australia and New Zealand. The two became close and Stewart took Lovely under her wing. This is where she learnt about acting properly and honed her skills.

Lovely made her first films with the Australian Life Biograph Company. Between 1911 and 1912, she made a handful including One Hundred Years Ago, A Tale of the Australian Bush, A Daughter of Australia and The Ticket of Leave Man. By mid-1912, the Australian Life Biograph Company was bought by Universal Pictures Ltd. Universal was a local company and had no affiliation with the American production entity. Lovely made one film with them, The Wreck of the Dunbar. She was credited as Louise Carbasse on all her Australian movies.

Radio (National Portrait Gallery)
Lovely during a radio interview Credit: National Portrait Gallery

She moved to Hollywood with her husband, William Welch, in 1914. Welch was a comedian, writer and actor. Lovely was noticed by Carl Laemmle and he invited her to make a screen test. Laemmle was an influential producer during the silent era. On the strength of her screen test alone, Lovely was offered a contract with Universal Studios and she accepted. Laemmle was the one who coined her Hollywood screen name: Louise Lovely.

Lovely had a very successful career. She was one of Universal’s most popular stars. She appeared in films such as Father and the Boys (1915), Dolly’s Scoop (1916), Bobbie of the Ballet (1916), The Diamonds of Destiny (1917) and The Girl Who Wouldn’t Quit (1918).

Bobbie of the Ballet (iMDB)
Bobbie of the Ballet (1916) Poster Credit: iMDB

As her contract was coming to an end, Lovely received an offer to work in France by the production company Pathé Frères. She was excited by the idea and its increased pay. Universal wouldn’t match the price with Lovely’s new contract and threatened legal action if she used the name ‘Lovely’ in other productions. Apparently, they held the copyright. Lovely refused to sign the contract and was blacklisted. Over the next year, she acted in a handful of independent films until being picked up by Fox Film Corporation. She appeared in some well received movies—such as The Last of the Duanes and Wings of the Morning—but her career never recovered. Lovely and Welch returned to Australia in 1924.

Johnny-on-the-Spot (1919) (iMDB)
Lovely in Jonny-on-the-Spot (1919) Credit: iMDB

Lovely and her husband toured the country with their A Day at the Studio show. They travelled to small country towns and set up a make-shift film studio in the local theatre. The show included a real motion picture camera and professional lighting. They filmed people and then screened the footage the following week. In an entertaining way, the show explained to an audience how a film set operated. It relied heavily on the ‘magic of the movies’ craze and also doubled as a talent search.

While touring Hobart, Lovely was visited by author Marie Bjelke Petersen. She hoped Lovely would adapt her novel Jewelled Nights into a movie. Lovely was intrigued by the idea and bought the rights. She formed Louise Lovely Productions with Welch and raised most of the budget herself. Filming began six days before the company was legally allowed to operate. All outside locations for Jewelled Nights were filmed near Waratah, Tasmania. The area was hot and dangerous. Lovely killed five snakes during the four week schedule. The rest of the filming took place on sound stages in Melbourne. The production was supposed to last four months but took nine. It also ran over budget. Lovely was responsible for producing, acting, editing, co-directing and co-writing. Besides her star billing, she received no other credits.

Jewelled Nights debuted in Hobart. The event included the then Tasmanian Premier, Attorney General and Petersen as special guests. Audience reaction for the film was positive but the opposite with critics. It faded from Australian cinemas and didn’t recoup its budget. Rumours have it that Jewelled Nights was shown as far as New Zealand but never made it to America. In 1927, Lovely stressed to the Royal Commission that Australia needed a better distribution system for local content or the market would be dominated by import films. She blamed this as part of her film’s failure at the box office. They rejected Lovely’s suggestion.

Lovely and Dog in Jewlled Nights (National Portrait Gallery)
Lovely in Jewelled Nights (1925) Credit: National Portrait Gallery

Lovely left the film industry disillusioned by the experience. She had made near 50 films during her career. Her marriage with Welch also broke down and ended in divorce. She remarried and stayed in Tasmania. In 1946, Lovely and her second husband bought the Prince of Wales theatre in Hobart. She was manager until her death on the March 18th, 1980. Locals affectionately remember her as the little old lady who ran the theatre’s lolly shop. No footage exists of Jewelled Nights except two minutes of footage, which is believed to be out takes. In 2000, The Australian Film Institute named their equivalent of the Academy Awards after her.

Louise Lovely Autograph (Star Struck)
Lovely publicity photo with autograph Credit: Star Struck

This article was originally posted on The Sydney Feminists Blogspot on April 12th, 2018. (http://thesydneyfeminists.blogspot.com.au)

Sources:

Lovely, Louise Nellie (1895–1980) (http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lovely-louise-nellie-7248)

Louise Lovely: The silent film star who tried to bring Hollywood to Tasmania (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-10/remembering-louise-lovely-silent-film-star/8875284)

Louise Lovely – Women Film Pioneers Project (https://wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu/pioneer/ccp-louise-lovely/)

Louise Lovely – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0522593/)

The remarkable life and times, house and garden of Hollywood silent screen star, Louise Lovely. (http://www.abc.net.au/radio/hobart/programs/statewideweekends/lovely-final/8867522)

Jewelled Nights: ‘Can Good Movies Be Made in Australia?’ (http://sensesofcinema.com/2012/tasmania-and-the-cinema/jewelled-nights-can-good-movies-be-made-in-australia-1/)

Louise Lovely – Australian Silent Film Festival (http://www.ozsilentfilmfestival.com.au/fame/indexfda0.html?IntCatId=35&IntContId=58)