Why Charlize Theron Was Recast for “Mad Max” Prequel “Furiosa” — and How Everyone Involved Feels About It

Director George Miller considered de-aging Charlize Theron for ‘Furiosa’ but cast Anya Taylor-Joy instead

<p>Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock; Warner Bros.</p> (Left-right:) Charlize Theron in

Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock; Warner Bros.

(Left-right:) Charlize Theron in 'Mad Max: Fury Road'; Anya Taylor-Joy in 'Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga'

Charlize Theron wanted to play the title role in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. But reprising her iconic character from 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road was not in the cards, with Anya Taylor-Joy instead carrying the torch.

Imperator Furiosa, a badass, one-armed oil rig driver introduced in Fury Road, ranks among the most beloved characters that Theron, 48, has brought to the big screen.

Director George Miller, the Australian filmmaking legend behind the film franchise that began with 1979’s Mel Gibson-led Mad Max, had a vision for how to introduce this new protagonist of his post-apocalyptic Wasteland: the action-packed Fury Road and a decades-spanning prequel explaining Furiosa’s origin story.

Both movies were conceived and scripted around the same time, Miller has recalled. Along with co-writers Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris, the 79-year-old director also planned — and, in fact, still plans — to make another Fury Road prequel, focused on a year in the life of Tom Hardy’s “Mad” Max.

Related: Anya Taylor-Joy 'Still' Doesn't Have a Driver's License Despite Doing Wild Mad Max Car Stunts for Furiosa

However, as is often the case with moviemaking, Warner Bros. approved the making of only one installment: Fury Road. Theron, Hardy and the cast and crew of that movie also had access to Miller’s script for Furiosa, with the hope that Fury Road would be a big enough audience hit to merit a greenlight for more. 

“We gave the script of Furiosa to everybody [on Fury Road] just because it's got it all,” Miller tells PEOPLE. “Not only the backstory of Furiosa, but of Immortan Joe and Gas Town and Bullet Farm and all that stuff in the story.”

<p>Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures</p> Anya Taylor-Joy in 'Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga'

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Anya Taylor-Joy in 'Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga'

Theron, he remembers, became fascinated by her character’s backstory. “I think about three months before the film, she said, ‘George, can we do Furiosa first, this story?’ And I said, ‘Charlize, we've been working on this for 10 years! We are ready to shoot this film.’ ”

Related: Charlize Theron Gets Candid About Motherhood and Finding Joy in Her ‘Two Nuggets’ When It ‘Gets Hard’ (Exclusive)

After Fury Road’s success, Furiosa was a go. But “time went on,” in Miller’s own words, and he shot Tilda Swinton and Idris Elba’s Three Thousand Years of Longing. “I really thought we’d do it with Charlize,” he says of the prequel, by using “maybe de-aging” visual effects on the actress. 

The technique available to make Theron appear in her early 20s, however, “wasn’t working,” per Miller. “All you're seeing is the technology.” (Variety reported that Miller found the de-aging in Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Ang Lee’s Gemini Man “never persuasive.”)

After seeing Taylor-Joy, 28, in Last Night in Soho, Miller tells PEOPLE he thought he’d found a worthy replacement. “I thought, ‘She's got that presence. She may be able, [although] they're big shoes to fill with Charlize.’ There was something that was timeless about her, something regal almost, and something fierce.”

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<p>George Pimentel/WireImage</p> (Left-right:) Tom Hardy, George Miller and Charlize Theron in 2015

George Pimentel/WireImage

(Left-right:) Tom Hardy, George Miller and Charlize Theron in 2015

Related: Inside Anya Taylor-Joy's Brutal Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga Role: 'I Put My Whole Body Into This' (Exclusive)

In a 2020 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Theron admitted she wished she could have reprised Furiosa. Miller is “a master, and I wish him nothing but the best,” added the Oscar winner. “It’s a little heartbreaking, for sure. I really love that character, and I’m so grateful that I had a small part in creating her.”

Adding that she looks forward to seeing the world of Fury Road continue on screen, Theron said, “If he feels like he has to go about it this way, then I trust him in that manner.”

Teasing Furiosa in a March interview with Empire, Miller indicated it was because Theron had reacted so strongly to wanting to film the prequel that he realized “there’s something really strong in this story.”

Taylor-Joy also told the outlet that Theron had given her blessing to take on the role. “She’s been so classy and kind in letting me go and do it,” the Queen’s Gambit star said. “I felt so fiercely protective over Furiosa and fiercely protective of her interests.”

Related: Charlize Theron Says Anya Taylor-Joy Didn't Contact Her About 'Furiosa' Role but 'I Totally Get' Why

After telling PEOPLE in 2022 that she and Theron “ended up in a situation where we were both so respectful of each other that we didn't want to reach out” before filming Furiosa, Taylor-Joy provided an update on the swapping “war stories” the two actresses had planned: as of the movie’s press tour this month, their dinner still has yet to happen.

But, Taylor-Joy tells PEOPLE, Theron “was really wonderful to my father and myself at the Oscars. And she's just glorious.”

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, also starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Burke and Lachy Hulme, is in theaters now.

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