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Credit: Warner Bros.

Mad Max legal battle may put the brakes on future movies

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Apr 16, 2018, 5:02 PM EDT

A dispute over money may do what the apocalypse and armies of barbaric and mutated humans couldn't — stop Mad Max in his tracks.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian filmmaker and Mad Max creator George Miller is fighting Warner Bros. Pictures in a "bitter" court battle that could sink plans to make two more movies starring Miller's legendary road warrior. While the dispute first came to light last year, it's now gone to court. 

The director and his production company, Kennedy Miller Mitchell, have claimed in documents filed with the Supreme Court of New South Wales in Australia that the studio acted in a "high-handed, insulting or reprehensible" manner by allegedly reneging on a deal to pay Miller a $7 million bonus for bringing the fourth film in the series — 2015's Mad Max: Fury Road — in under budget.

Fury Road was the first new Mad Max movie in 30 years, with Tom Hardy taking over for Mel Gibson as the title character and the film earning not just a healthy $400 million at the worldwide box office, but near-unanimous critical and audience acclaim. It was also nominated for 10 Oscars — including Best Picture and Best Director, astounding for a genre film, and won six.

But now, even though Miller has spoken about sequels and has apparently already penned the next two scripts, the future of the series could be in jeopardy.

The problem seems to be centered on the two parties having different final figures for the budget: Miller and his associates claim that they finished the movie for $154.6 million, or $2.4 million less than the approved budget of $157 million, while Warner Bros. maintains the movie's costs ballooned to $185.1 million.

The difficulties encountered in filming Mad Max: Fury Road were extensively chronicled during its making. The film was shot over a two-year period and faced extreme weather conditions on location in 2012 that threatened to shut the entire project down. A Warner Bros. representative was sent to the set in southern Africa at one point to make sure the filming stayed on track, and there were also reports of feuding between Hardy and co-star Charlize Theron. Reshoots were also ordered in 2013, forcing Miller to reassemble the cast and crew on location again.

All this apparently contributed to the budget overruns that Warner Bros. cites, but Miller claims that the approved budget for the reshoots, $31 million, was not supposed to be included in the official net cost of the movie. The studio, meanwhile, says that Miller did not hold up his end of the deal by delivering a two-hour, R-rated film instead of the 100-minute, PG-13 picture he was contractually mandated to make (although why the studio would argue in favor of the latter is beyond us after seeing the final results).

The two sides have also argued over scenes that were either supposed to be shot or left out of the movie, as well as changes made to the film after an extensive series of test screenings and even the issue of co-financing (Miller's company says it was supposed to get the first option to co-finance, but the studio instead brought in its former partner RatPac-Dune Entertainment).

The case is set to be heard in Australia, a decision that Warner Bros. is appealing, and for now it seems that the longer the fight drags on, the less likely the chances that we'll get to see Mad Max 5 and 6.