Furiosa’s Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth on Surviving in the Mad Max Universe

Exclusive: We sit down with the stars of Furiosa, Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth, to discuss if there’s really much difference at playing good and evil…. particularly in Mad Max’s sandbox.

Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth in Furiosa
Photo: Jasin Boland/Warner Bros. Pictures

Filmmaker George Miller has made no bones about classic cinema’s influence on the Mad Max saga over the years. Iconic physical comedians like Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd are cited often as inspirations for the queasy death-defying stunts that Max Rockatansky or Imperator Furiosa get up to, including when we spoke with the writer-director. He even muses to us, “Buster Keaton would survive very well, actually” in the fabled Wasteland.

Perhaps so too then would the stars he selected to bring his most epic adventure yet on the Fury Road to life. Anya Taylor-Joy and Chris Hemsworth are actors that most moviegoers will be familiar with when Furiosa opens later this month—although never in roles like these. Cast as diametrically opposed nemeses forced to endure the harsh desert ruins of a post-apocalyptic Australia, Taylor-Joy’s Furiosa and Hemsworth’s Dr. Dementus are radical departures for the performers. Yet each has a certain classic quality that makes them ideal for Miller’s sandbox.

“I was very struck by her,” Miller says of the first time he saw Taylor-Joy in Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho. “There’s something very timeless about her. I just like the way she basically has a wonderful intensity… [and Wright] showed me an early cut of his film. I’d seen her just in clips before, but never seen her in a full film. I saw that she could sing and dance, which is a really good indicator of a physical ability. The precision of a dancer, particularly someone trained in ballet from a young age, means they can do all that physical stuff.”

According to Miller, Wright assured him Taylor-Joy really could do it all, and the same might apply to Hemsworth as well, especially after the latter’s unrecognizable turn in Furiosa, which sees him don prosthetics to become the Wasteland’s veritable Prof. Harold Hill. Where Furiosa is silent, Dementus is verbose and smiling, even as he slips behind you with a dagger. By contrast, Taylor-Joy has a sparse 30 lines of dialogue in the movie. But when we chat with both actors for a paired interview, each sees a strange symbiosis in the characters’ dynamic.

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“They’re both dealing with their traumas in very different ways,” Taylor-Joy says. “The beauty of the Wasteland is that everything is a question of survival… however they are behaving is in direct relationship to ‘is this going to get me killed or is this going to help me survive?’ So I think for Chris, being charismatic and bombastic keeps [him] at the top of the food chain, and that ensures his safety. For me it’s to disappear for as long as you can and then come back.”

To Hemsworth, the contrast between the characters is the appeal.

“I think the sort of polarity of the two is what was really interesting the first time I read the script,” Hemsworth says. “George wanted them to be polar opposites in their presentation… and I think there needed to be a certain amount of charisma and entertainment [to Dementus]. He was sort of the circus sideshow, a ‘step right up, step right up’ kind of guy that would’ve been able to amass a following or a large group of people who were suffering. He’d say, ‘I have an answer, I have the solution for your problems you’re suffering. Come this way.’ And it needs to be done with enthusiasm and confidence.”

What the stars are describing are essentially two diverging survival tactics, although one with a far more insidious duplicity at play. Dementus is, indeed, the nastiest character Hemsworth has inhabited to date, although he acknowledges that when he is in the character, it doesn’t play that differently from, say, a superhero.

“If you look at the world of extremists and the harsh reality they exist in, it’s kill or be killed, they’ll do anything to survive,” Hemsworth explains. “What I found interesting was how they both responded differently to that adversity. The sort of evil things Dementus does to [SPOILER REDACTED], from his point-of-view is, ‘Well, we’re out here starving and you have access to the Green Place and an abundance of water, and so on. Is it anymore harsh for you to do this and not give us access?’ … As the actor playing the character, you need to find a way in. It doesn’t mean I go home at night and go, ‘He’s a good person, and I would do what he did!’ But between the moment of action and cut, you have to believe it.”

Taylor-Joy can relate. While she plays the laconic hero whose name is on the poster in Furiosa, she’s had at least one role where a character left her desperate for a rinse.

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Says Taylor-Joy, “I had a really strange experience with a character where for the entirety of the shooting period, I defended her to another level. So when people said, ‘Ugh, she’s a terrible person.’ I’d go, ‘You don’t understand where she’s coming from.’ And then the second that we wrapped, I was like, ‘Get it off, get it off, get it off!’ But the whole way through filming, if you asked me if I thought she was a good person, I would’ve said, ‘Yes, she does some bad things but she’s a good person.’ And she was not.”

While Taylor-Joy did not reveal which character needed to be disposed of like irradiated waste, we might suggest readers who haven’t given Thoroughbreds a watch to seek out that trip into millennial noir despair.

Furiosa, meanwhile, will be in theaters on Friday, May 24. Stay tuned for more coverage of the film in the coming days.