Could George Miller lawsuit against Warner Bros. derail Mad Max sequel?

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Mar 26, 2021, 5:00 PM EDT (Updated)

A potential fifth Mad Max movie could be derailed by a legal battle between the filmmaker and the studio.

That's what appears to be happening with the Mad Max franchise, which was revived in 2015 -- after a 30-year slumber -- with the stunning Mad Max: Fury Road. The action movie rebooted the character in the form of Tom Hardy, introduced Charlize Theron's epically butt-kicking Imperator Furiosa, and ended up being a mix of incredibly kinetic action and female empowerment that won acclaim from audiences, critics, and even the Motion Picture Academy, which nominated it for Best Picture.

But now the man behind that masterpiece, director and co-writer George Miller, is suing the movie's distributor, Warner Bros. Pictures. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Miller and his Kennedy Miller Mitchell production company claim that per their deal with the studio, Warner Bros. owes them a $7 million bonus and has not paid up, despite Fury Road earning $378 million globally.

Miller's company issued a statement saying:

“Simply put, we are owed substantial earnings for diligent and painstaking work which spanned over 10 years in development of the script and preparation and three years in production of the movie. That hard work resulted in a picture which found wide acclaim globally.

“We would much prefer to be making movies with Warner Bros than litigating with them but, after trying for over a year, we were unable to reach a satisfactory resolution and have now had to resort to a lawsuit to sort things out.”

For its part, the studio contends that Miller and his team were only guaranteed a bonus if the film came in under budget, with WB claiming that the movie went over budget and over schedule. Miller's company, however, has responded that the budgetary issues were the result of decisions made by the studio, which led to delays and escalating costs and were not the fault of Miller and his team.

With the studio insisting that it will defend itself, it looks like this is going to end up in court. And the saddest part is that the collateral damage may be the franchise itself: while there was talk in the months after Fury Road came out about a sequel, little has been heard since, and the legal battle might just be part of the reason why it's stalled, and could also delay it even further. It's not clear whether the studio could make a new Mad Max movie with a different director, but a George Miller-less Mad Max film is something we don't even want to contemplate.

Should Warner Brothers just pay Miller and company their $7 million and let everyone get to work on a new story about Max and Furiosa? Or do you think the studio should stand its ground even at the risk of stopping the franchise in its tracks?

(via Slashfilm)