Mad Max fan Bill Williams travelled more than 16,000 kilometres from north-east Pennsylvania in the United States to visit the place where Mad Max was filmed.
For the long-time fan, the pilgrimage to central Victoria was the realisation of a lifelong dream.
“When the movie came to our country in 1979, I just simply fell in love with the country, the cars, the culture, so I just started reading about your country, fell in love with it and I said, ‘I have to go’,” he said.
Mr Williams was one of many fans who made the trip from abroad and interstate to meet other Mad Max enthusiasts and rub shoulders with the stars of the film, including Roger Ward who portrayed ‘Fifi Macaffee’, Vince Gil ‘the Nightrider’ and Hugh Keays-Byrne ‘the Toecutter’.
Actors, re-enactors and more than 1,500 fans, many clad in leather and animal fur, braved the heat and dust to gather at the Maryborough Harness Racing Track to celebrate the blockbuster’s 40th anniversary.
The celebrations began when a procession of replica vehicles and motorcycles set off from Clunes, where much of the film was shot, and made its way to Carisbrook for the day’s events, which included a replica Interceptor V8 ploughing through two caravans in a dramatic re-enactment from Mad Max.
Mad Max ‘uniquely Australian’
Australian actor Steve Bisley, who portrayed ill-fated Main Force Patrol pursuit officer Jim Goose, said shooting the low-budget dystopian action film while he was in his mid-20s was a confronting experience.
“I was straight out of drama school … it was effectively my first film, I’d done a little thing when I was in my second year at drama school, called Summer City, with Mel [Gibson] too, but [Mad Max] was all pretty ‘in your face’,” he said.
Mad Max told the story of a policeman as he sought vengeance against a violent outlaw motorcycle gang.
The film began Mel Gibson’s career, spawned three sequels and held the Guinness record for most profitable film.
Ben Wilkie, a researcher of Imperial Histories at the University of Glasgow, said part of what made the original film iconic was that it put the Australian experience on the big screen.
“Mad Max put something uniquely Australian, [the Outback], on the screen in really simple terms.”
Mr Wilkie said the film fitted into the Australian Gothic genre because of how it depicted the Australian landscape as an unforgiving and sometimes terrifying place.
“With Mad Max, all of the action takes place on this very hostile, very unhospitable, Australian landscape — a post-apocalyptic environment,” he said.
“That’s key to the story. What’s motivating the plot in these Mad Max films is this post-apocalyptic wasteland, where people are fighting over resources like fuel.”
A hero’s welcome, even for the villains
Jeff Aidie, a Mad Max fan who journeyed from Texas for the celebrations, said there was plenty to appreciate in the more diabolical characters like the Toecutter.
“I admire the Toecutter because he’s a non-standard villain, he’s a mean person and definitely an evil character, but at the same time he’s also strange and funny and very organic.
“You can feel that Hugh Keays-Bryne really created the character from the ground up and really made it into his own thing,” he said.
“It has been a dream of mine to meet Hugh Keays-Bryne for several years, particularly after Fury Road came out … it’s exciting, it’s different and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Interceptors en masse
It is not just the actors who have attracted fans to central Victoria — iconic vehicles, such as the Interceptor V8, are also a major drawcard.
Former panelbeater Geoff O’Loughlan worked tirelessly for two years to restore a 1976 Falcon 500, turning it into a replica of the Interceptor driven by the Main Force Patrol.
Along with installing a brand new 351 V8 engine, Mr O’Loughlan has painstakingly worked to customise the car, completing the bodywork and paintwork himself and installing a new steering wheel.
Mr O’Loughlan, from Mildura, said he worked hard to finish the car in time.
“Hearing of the gathering of all the vehicles, the actors and everything for this 40th anniversary event, I just pulled out all the stops to finish my car so I could come along.
“I basically got hooked on cars, I became an automotive panelbeater, so vehicles have been in my blood all this time,” he said.
Mr O’Loughlan’s Falcon was one of nearly 100 cars, trucks and motorcycles on display, including originals from the film, like the bubble trike.
Re-enactors treated fans to photo opportunities and performances as they drove replica Mad Max vehicles around the track.
It was a day Mr O’Loughlan won’t forget.
“It’s one of the best days of my life, today, for sure,” he said.
“I got to have Vernon Wells [‘Wez’ in Mad Max 2] in my car on the lead in Clunes and that was just awesome to have him in the car and talk,” he said.