In an Esquire interview, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley gave a few fairly amazing details about the band of escaped women traveling with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and Mad Max himself (Tom Hardy). The first: the girls made their own costumes out of bandages. The second: Eve Ensler flew out to spend a week letting the girls pick her brain for research.
We’re finally getting a handle on the plot of Mad Max: Fury Road. Huntington-Whitely plays Splendid, one of four “wives” of the white-faced bad guy, Immortan Joe. Splendid is pregnant and terrified, and she and the other women flee for their lives, throwing their lot in with Furiosa and Max.
It seems like giving these four a look not like the leather and metal of the rebels was a conscious decision of director George Miller, and was one that let the actresses create their characters out of whole cloth (pun intended):
When I signed on for [Mad Max], we didn’t know much about our characters. I had made the assumption that I was going to be in bad-ass leathers and jackets and studs and motorcycle boots and all of that. I turned up in the costume department and George said take your pick of all of these bandages and design yourself some kind of outfit, at which my mouth sort of hit the floor and said, “…okay.” A big part of my costume was the [pregnancy] belly, which was great, it kept me warm, but honestly, us girls got the raw end of the deal because it was freezing out there in the desert and most of us were scantily clad. The first scene, when you see the wives for the first time, we had to be wet down with hoses before each take for two weeks and it was freezing. Poor Riley [Keough] got pneumonia or hypothermia. All of us got colds and aches and pains. It was tough. It was physically tough, for sure.
As cold as they were, it certainly makes them distinctive. As frenetic as the trailers have been so far, Huntington-Whitely, Courtney Eaton, Zoe Kravitz, and Riley Keough all stand-out next to Theron and Hardy.
In order to give them background in the real-world inspiration for their plight — and, presumably, to give the empathy and emotional range — Miller also brought in Eve Ensler. Explained Huntington-Whitely:
We were so lucky that George arranged for Eve Ensler, who wrote the Vagina Monologues, to fly in and work with us girls for about a week. We did extensive research with her. Eve herself has had a very intense life. She’s spent time in the Congo working with rape victims and women who have had unthinkable things happen to them through the power of men’s hands. We were able to pick her brain for a week. She told us the most tragic stories I’ve ever heard in my life, which gave us so much background to our characters. We really wanted to kind of showcase that. It was a privilege to have her around to make these characters something more then just five beautiful girls.
Mad Max: Fury Road has looked awesome every time we’ve gotten new footage from it. But this hints at a deeper amount of world- and character-building than might be expected. Ensler’s participation also hints that Miller’s not just going for titillation but real pathos. And that he recognized that he was out of his depth and called in a real expert. Which makes us want to see how all these extra steps translate to the screen.
Plus, it looks like Theron’s badass rebel isn’t the form of strong woman this movie’s going to have. The trailers haven’t given the other women a lot to do yet, but it looks like they’ve got motivations to survive of their own, separate from the other characters.
Read more from the interview — including why Huntington-Whitely made sure her character was scarred — at Esquire.
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