Thirty years after the original Road Warrior first put the pedal to the metal, George Miller’s post-apocalyptic, gear-head franchise Mad Max is set to return, with Tom Hardy, instead of Mel Gibson, as our motorhead hero (see it in cinemas from 14th May).
And it’s not just the cast that’s changed in Mad Max: Fury Road, this time around the backdrop will be Namibia instead of Australia. “The settings in Namibia are breathtaking,” explains Mad Max assistant cameraman Diogo Domingues. “From a visual aspect, what we saw out there and what we filmed out there could stand up on its own. It could be a nature documentary. It’s literally one of the most beautiful places on the planet.”
In Namibia’s raw, rough, arid environment, we’ll watch as huge rigs are ragged through the desert by a bunch of tribal, metal-loving, badasses with one sole purpose – survival. “The style of Mad Max has never really been a dialogue-driven movie,” explains Domingues. “It’s fully of crazy stunts and action scenes. The new version is very stylised.”
Against a sandy backdrop of bright yellows, reds and orange shades, stunt men drive and crash retro vehicles, flip motorbikes and wear freaky masks. “There’s some pretty radical stuff,” says Domingues, adding that the landscape made these high-octane scenes possible. “One of the remarkable things about shooting in Namibia is that the landscape changes every 40kms,” he recalls.
Here he reveals where visitors can relive those settings for themselves…
“We shot a lot of the night time stuff at this sand dune beach area,” explains Domingues. “In the movie we see Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa missioning it around in this area in the movie. This is where The War Rig (the main action vehicle) breaks down. In the area you can drive past a salt pan with one of the largest congregation of flamingos in the world – they’re not in the film but it’s a crazy tourist attraction.”
“This is where we shot the Armada scenes with all the action vehicles driving through the desert openness. The landscape is huge and flat,” says Domingues. People can hire a 4×4 or dirt buggy and do this very drive. “To view Namibia properly you do need a 4×4, because you can go off-road and explore on your own,” says Domingues. “You can go up dried river beds and find desert elephants (just look out for their tracks and fresh poo). There’s so much exploration to be done – from seeing amazing wildlife at Etosha National park to finding bushman paintings, camping under the dessert stars and skydiving over the dessert.”
“Motorbike stunt scenes took place here, when they are attacking The War Rig in the movie,” remembers Domingues. “It’s a normal dirt road, all the roads in Namibia are dirt roads, once you get out of Swakopmund (the main city in the area) it all becomes dirt roads. Oasis Road is near some canyons will little ramps, which the riders used to jump onto the road and make their attack. It’s good territory for the bad guys, who are throwing explosives onto the cars trying to explode them.”
“We found a random canyon, which we named after the unit director. We called it Guy’s canyon,” explains Domingues. Situated inside Namib-Naukluft National Park near the Welwitschia Route, the Mad Max crew shot a scene where The War Rig is driving through the road and there’s an explosion. “The War Rig manages just to pass through as these rocks collapse,” reveals Domingues. Aside from spectacular rock formations to see, there’s lots of hiking in the area. “Nearby you can find rare welwitschia desert cactuses,” says Domingues, “they are some of the oldest plants in the world (around 1,000 years old). They don’t feature in the movie, but I spent one day driving up there on the Welwitschia Route. You may also have the pleasure of meeting some of the Himba tribal people out there. The women’s traditional clothing is mind-blowing, they have hairstyles made from braids and clay – it looks awesome and is as close as you will get to seeing a real traditional tribal person in this modern age. It’s super exciting.”
“At this very iconic mountain we see some of the bad guys in the movie at their base camps, living in the mountain,” explains Domingues. In real life, there are lots of crystals at Spitzkoppe and as visitors get closer they will find local merchants selling a wide variety precious stones. “There are these huge mineral deposits and you get all sorts of beautiful crystals like aquamarines and quartz,” says Domingues. A real diamond in the rough, some might say.
The cast and crew stayed in this old German town with its colonial buildings and piers. It’s Namibia’s most popular holiday destination and there’s plenty to do, from surfing and fishing to German activities. “You can find great German food there and authentic beer,” explains Domingues. “[The cast and crew] all had decent accommodation, as there’s a whole bunch of holiday houses there, which can be hired. It’s the best place in Namibia to base yourself.”
Watch Mad Max: Fury Road in UK cinemas from 14th May. For tips on visiting Namibia see Rainbow Tours.